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Contact: Nicole Rosen

Santa Cruz, CA, May 30, 2023 – More than 100 education, civil rights and religious groups today urged more than 250 university leaders to publicly condemn a resolution “to boycott Israeli academic institutions” that will be voted on by the American Anthropological Association (AAA). The organizations, which include Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity (AEPi), Alliance for Academic Freedom, B’nai B’rith International, numerous university Hillels, including Harvard, MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights, Simon Wiesenthal Center and World Jewish Congress North America, also demand the universities, whose anthropology departments are fee-paying members of AAA, immediately sever all ties with AAA should the resolution pass.

In the strong statement, organized by AMCHA Initiative, the groups warn of the enormous significance and dangerous ramifications of this AAA vote. They point out that “unlike the few disciplines that have misguidedly endorsed an academic boycott of Israel, anthropology is a core discipline of the academy, and its abandonment of scholarship for the promotion of politically motivated and directed activism will have rippling effects for years to come.”

AAA, which is among the largest scholarly and professional organizations in the country, will vote on the boycott resolution from June 15-July 14. A similar effort failed by just 39 votes in 2016.

Specifically, the signatories urged the universities to immediately publicly condemn academic boycotts in general, and the AAA resolution specifically, and urge the AAA to reject the resolution; reaffirm their commitment to academic freedom and the well-being of students and faculty by cutting all ties with the AAA, should the resolution pass; and investigate and implement safeguards to ensure that an academic boycott can never be implemented at their universities.

The signatories noted that unlike an economic boycott, an academic boycott, as AAA is considering, directly threatens to:

  • Suppress the open exchange of ideas, collaboration, and scholarly discourse: By supporting an academic boycott, the AAA would be contradicting the fundamental principles of academic freedom, the pursuit of knowledge, and the open exchange of ideas. It also undermines the values of inclusivity and diversity that higher education institutions should provide.
  • Invoke irreversible harm on students and faculty: An academic boycott would restrict the academic freedom and educational opportunities of students and faculty by discouraging events and learning opportunities including study abroad programs and engagement with Israeli scholars who provide valuable insights and perspectives that contribute to a rich academic discourse and intellectual diversity.
  • Incite antisemitic activity: Studies have shown a clear correlation between academic boycotts and the rise of anti-Jewish hostility and antisemitism on campus.

The groups also warned that “continued association with the AAA, should they pass a discriminatory academic boycott of Israel, would tarnish the reputation of your institution. Several universities severed ties with the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), including most of the universities with prestigious federally-funded Middle East Studies programs, when that association endorsed an academic boycott of Israel last year.”

“As an institutional partner of AAA, you have a direct stake in ensuring that the AAA's actions do not harm your own students and faculty or erode the public's trust in your institution,” concluded the groups.

Earlier this month, more than 90 major Jewish and education organizations signed a blistering letter, organized by the Alliance for Academic Freedom (AAF) and the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), imploring members of AAA to reject the BDS resolution.

AMCHA Initiative is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to combating antisemitism at colleges and universities in the United States. The organization monitors more than 450 campuses for antisemitic activity, as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the U.S. government. AMCHA is not a pro-Israel advocacy organization, nor does it take a position on current or past Israeli government policies; criticism of Israel that does not meet the IHRA and U.S. government criteria is not considered antisemitic by the organization. AMCHA has recorded more than 5,000 antisemitic incidents on college campuses since 2015 which can be accessed through its Antisemitism Tracker.

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