Pushback for Anti-Israel Academics

tags: Israel, Palestine, BDS, AHA2016

Cary Nelson is an English professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an affiliated professor at the University of Haifa in Israel.

At their annual meeting in Atlanta earlier this month, members of the American Historical Association voted down a factually flawed resolution condemning Israel. It was a victory that may also point the way for academic fields in the humanities to regain their lost credibility and stature on campus.

The AHA consists of faculty and graduate students who teach and study history throughout the country. Up for debate and a vote at the January meeting was a resolution condemning Israel for its conduct affecting higher education in Gaza, Israel itself, and the West Bank. For instance, the resolution claimed that Israel refuses “to allow students from Gaza to travel in order to pursue higher education abroad.”

Opponents marshaled evidence to prove this was untrue. Egypt, not Israel, controls the “Rafah crossing” that Gaza students and faculty heading toward universities abroad have used for decades. Unlike the benighted English-department faculty members from Columbia and Wesleyan universities who proposed a similar resolution two years ago, AHA historians were interested in facts. They likely knew that after Egypt closed the Rafah crossing in October 2014, Israel increased the flow of students leaving Gaza through the Erez crossing into Israel to the north, and on to Jordan for flights abroad.

But Jordan, which once issued transit visas in 10 days, now takes several months or longer because of increased security concerns about students from Gaza. The Palestinian Authority doesn’t pass on requests for permits to Israel without the visa from Jordan. Fellowships and other opportunities expire as a result.

The resolution also condemned Israel for an air attack on the Islamic University of Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. But it failed to mention that the campus housed a weapons development and testing facility, a valid target under the laws of war. ...

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