AHA Council votes not to take action on petition requesting an investigation into violations of academic freedom in Israel and the West Bank

Historians in the News
tags: Israel, BDS, Palestinians



Rick Shenkman is the publisher of the History News Network and the author of Political Animals:  How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics (Basic Books, January 2016). You can follow him on Twitter. He blogs at stoneagebrain.

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Inside Higher Ed Account (cites Van Gosse reaction)

The leading organization of historians in the United States won't be joining other scholarly groups harshly critical of Israel.

 A year after the American Historical Association was roiled by a controversy over resolutions that slammed Israel the Council decided not to take action on a petition filed by the same group led by historian Van Gosse.

The petition filed by Van Gosse on behalf of Historians Against War (HAW) asked the "Council to investigate the charges that academic freedom is widely violated in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories." The Council made its decision this weekend during the annual meeting of the organization.

This was the third year in a row that Historians Against War attempted to put the AHA on record against Israel's treatment of Palestinians.  The first time the group's resolution was voted down on procedural grounds after historians complained they hadn't been given advance notice ahead of the meeting where the resolution was brought up.  Last year a resolution was considered by the Business Meeting of the AHA and rejected in a decisive vote, 111 to 51, after a bitter fight complete with dueling advertisements in the AHA's magazine, Perspectives.

This time HAW leaders decided to bypass the Business Meeting and take the matter directly to the Council via a petition, but they met with no better success than they had in the past. The AHA has traditionally been leery of taking part in political activities not directly related to the organization's scholarly mission.

HAW had a little better luck with a second petition filed at the same time as the other one. This petition called on the AHA to condemn blacklists publicizing the names of people who support Palestinian rights.  The Council approved a statement embracing the right of historians "to speak freely and to engage in nonviolent political action."  But the Council's statement makes no reference to the Palestinian cause.

This is the statement in full approved by the Council:

"The AHA upholds the rights of students, faculty, and other historians to speak freely and to engage in nonviolent political action expressing diverse perspectives on historical or contemporary issues.  We condemn all efforts to intimidate those expressing their views.  Specifically, we condemn in the strongest terms the creation, maintenance, and dissemination of blacklists and watchlists – through media (social and otherwise) - which identify specific individuals in ways that could lead to harassment and intimidation."

The reference to watch lists is apparently a direct response to the establishment this past year of the Professor Watchlist website, the creation of rightwing activists critical of alleged liberal bias at universities in the United States. As HNN noted in an article published this past week, 14 percent of the academics identified on the website are historians.






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