Middle East Scholars Group Moves to Delete "Nonpolitical" From Bylaws

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tags: Middle East, Israel, MESA



Members of the Middle East Studies Association voted in favor of advancing a resolution to remove the word “nonpolitical” from the group’s bylaws in what opponents see as a prelude to a future vote on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. The resolution to amend the bylaws, approved by a 247-57 majority of those present at the annual members’ meeting, will next go to the full membership for a vote. An amendment to the bylaws requires the support of two-thirds of voting members.

Joshua Stacher, an associate professor of political science at Kent State University who introduced the resolution at the members’ meeting in Boston, said the proposed bylaw change would bring the association’s governance documents into line with the day-to-day practices of MESA and its Committee on Academic Freedom, which regularly sends letters to foreign government officials protesting violations of students’ and scholars’ rights in countries across the Middle East. MESA's board also periodically issues letters and statements, including, on Saturday, a statement reiterating its alarm at the "rise in the stereotyping and vilification of people of Middle East or Muslim background" in the United States.

“The ‘nonpolitical’ clause didn’t seem to reflect all the sorts of daily practices that members experience in MESA,” Stacher said on Friday. “When members would raise, ‘Well, aren’t we doing politics here?’ we would be told that, ‘Well, we’re a nonpolitical organization.’ It’s a conversation stopper, or a debate stopper, so we thought if we lifted this word ‘nonpolitical’ that it would actually help facilitate debates and help resolve some of these contradictions of MESA’s daily practices and what MESA espouses to be in its bylaws.”




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