Historians gathering at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting in New York City voted on Sunday evening, Jan. 4, 2015 against adding to their agenda a vote on two anti-Israel resolutions with an overwhelming vote of 144 to 51, with three abstentions. The votes specifically dealt with suspending the association’s bylaws and putting the resolutions on the agenda to vote on them at the meeting even though they were submitted for consideration after the agenda’s deadline. The association’s opposition spoke more about upholding the association’s strict rules of conduct, rather than support for Israel.
The two resolutions were not submitted before the Nov. 1, 2014, deadline, which is required in putting any resolutions on the agenda and up for a vote at the annual meeting. Instead, Historians Against the War (HAW) submitted the resolutions on Dec. 22, not giving enough time for members to consider them and for members wishing to vote to prepare themselves to attend the conference. The AHA voted against “suspending” their “normal procedural rules” and including the two motions on the agenda. On Friday, Jan. 2, 2015 the conventions’ first day, the AHA Council decided not to put the resolutions on the “agenda.”
The members were more upset about the breach in protocol than the content of the resolutions. Very few members were actually at the business meeting for the vote, not representative of the association’s actual membership. Also the meeting began late, and the debate over the resolutions would have taken too long. Still, 30 minutes of the meeting were devoted to debating on the vote to bypass the bylaws. Council member David Bell suggested that the resolutions be put to an online vote as they in 2007 for the resolution to oppose the Iraq War.
Although there was a quorum, many at the meeting believed that younger pro-Israel scholars were not at the meeting, and it would not have been a fair vote. The voting was done by secret ballot as opposed to by raising hands, as is the usual custom.Inside Higher Education noted, however, that many of the members that voted against the resolutions voted against the breaching the bylaws and procedural protocols rather than the anti-Israel message of the resolutions themselves.
The two proposed resolutions according to Inside Higher Education concerned “alleged violations of academic freedom,” one concerning researching at Palestinian universities and the second about allowing “foreign nationals” to “teach and attend conferences at Palestinian universities.”According to the drafts of the resolutions, the first resolution condemned, “acts of violence and intimidation by the State of Israel against Palestinian researchers and their archival collections, acts which can destroy Palestinians’ sense of historical identity as well as the historical record itself.”
While the second resolution accused Israel of “arbitrarily limits the entry of foreign nationals who seek to lecture, teach and attend conferences at Palestinian universities, denying both faculty and students the rich experience enjoyed by their peers at Israeli universities and other universities around the world.” Continuing the resolution asked that the US State Department to “honor the academic freedom of U.S. citizens by contesting Israel’s denials of U.S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer or do research at Palestinian universities.”
Both resolutions came short of an actual call to boycott Israel or support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, that resolution failed to pass in November, because it went beyond “concern to the Association, to the profession of history, or to the academic profession.” At the time AHA executive director Jim Grossman explained that “the petition failed to meet two of the requirements stated in the bylaws. An insufficient number of AHA members in good standing had signed the petition, and the resolution as written went beyond matters of concern to the Association, to the profession of history, or to the academic profession.” Historians against the War already support BDS, and during the annual conference on Saturday, Jan. 3, the Mid-Atlantic Radical Historians’ Organization (MARHO) decided to support the resolutions in question.
The increase in anti-Israel sentiment on North American college campuses is affecting both the faculty and students, with BDS votes coming up among student associations and professional associations. Among the academic associations that have recently voted in favor are the American Studies Association, Modern Language, and the Asian American Studies Associations. Still, resolutions to support the BDS movement is even more prevalent among student groups than even faculty.
Both faculty and students are failing to realize that votes to boycott the actions of a democratic country protecting itself from terrorism are creating toxic, restrictive environments at universities where freedom of speech and ideas should prevail. Instead, they are supporting the Palestinians terrorist activities, behavior that would be condemned if happened in any country in the world. North American students and faculty are creating a witch-hunt for Jewish students and faculty supportive of Israel on campus. Academia is focusing more on Israel pinning them as violating human rights, while actually ignore countries that are violating rights, as AHA members asked during the business meeting debating the resolutions, what about Russia and Ukraine?
The resolution also failed to acknowledge hateful actions at Palestinian universities, by jihadist and extremists that curb academic freedom on those campuses. This is particularly the case with Al-Quds University, where in November 2013 there was a rally supporting the Islamic Jihad, and then this past year the university community harassed a tolerant professor, so much he had to resign after he took his students on a trip to Auschwitz death camp to teach them about the Holocaust. Yet those counterproductive behaviors that promote hate, and meant to support terrorism and deny the Holocaust.
The problem is the bastion of liberalism that is so prevalent on college campuses, professors and students that are tolerant and supportive of minorities groups no matter if they deserve support or not. In the case of the Palestinians, they are hardly a group unable to take care of themselves, their actions against Israel amount to terrorism pure and simple, and the only resurgence in global anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Israel sentiment could allow the Palestinians’ actions to be tolerated and accepted on such a wide scale.
A representative from the Jewish Federations’ Israel Action Network called the resolutions “factually inaccurate, one-sided, and biased against Israel.” The representative concluded that “Common sense prevailed, and AHA members elected to not overstep their organizational mandate, which prohibits addressing divisive foreign policy matters without the rigorous research and convincing evidence we all expect from professional historians.”
The AHA is not going to stop considering anti-Israel Israel resolutions; the vote was just a reprieve, the association is already planning sessions on the “Israel-Palestine conflict,” and “academic freedom” for the 2016 conference. The outgoing president Jan Goldstein announced at the business meeting that her successor Vicki Ruiz plans to schedule half her sessions to the conflict, showing the bias is alive and well among the AHA.
Within the next year or even before the next annual meeting there is a possibility the resolutions could pass. Historians that are Jewish, or those that support Israel regardless of their religion, or just those that believe that such resolutions do more to hamper academic freedom than promote it actively lobby against the resolutions. Otherwise, the AHA will become just another academic association restricting and policing the views of their members creating as hostile environment as university campus’s that support BDS have become. In the end, these resolutions will only counter the historical profession’s primary purpose to remain neutral to analyze the past without bias.