UPDATE (22 Jan): On top of the BDS victories I’ve mentioned below, I’ve just spotted a couple of items worth noting.

First, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) report that more than 200 Brazilian scholars and researchers have released a letter endorsing the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. You can read it here.

Also, this morning I saw a Jerusalem Post piece about Wednesday’s Knesset Science and Technology Committee discussion looking at funds to help stave off the overwhelming ‘tide’ of support for the boycott movement, which is described as a ‘national emergency’. Afterwards the chair of the Israeli Medical Association World Fellowship told the JP that a group of 71 British doctors have written to the World Medical Association asking it to revoke Israel’s membership.

(It goes without saying that demanding that their own government respect international law was not among the options for countering the boycott threatconsidered by these scientists and researchers. And need I mention that attendees were blissfully untroubled by the de facto boycott of their Palestinian colleagues, as well as academics, artists, footballers, etc thanks to Israel’s complete control over Palestinians’ movements?

Thanks to my good friend, the poet Nyla Matuk, I came across this compelling essay by David Lloyd of the University of California at Riverside which makes the case for the Modern Language Association to join a widening academic boycott of Israeli institutions. The MLA is the world’s largest organisation of humanities lecturers, and a vote in favour of the boycott resolution would put it in the company of the American Anthropological Association, the American Studies Association, the Asian American Studies Association, and the National Women’s Studies Association not to mention proponents of the Black Lives Matter movement and groups committed to advancing the rights of indigenous people.

Just last week these academics and activists were joined by the pension board of the United Methodist Church, one of America’s largest with 7-million members, which put five Israeli banks on its human rights blacklist. The news must have perplexed New York Times readers who’ve been weaned on a longstanding pro-Israel diet of denials, omissions and obfuscations and might now wonder what all the fuss is about. In fact, the Methodists were the second major US church to join the boycott movement: last summer, the United Church of Christ voted overwhelmingly at its synod to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and to boycott settlement goods.

All of this is set against a chorus of voices from the human rights world. First there was the resignation of Makarim Wibisono, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories who quit in early January saying he had not been granted permission to enter the Palestinian Territories even once since his mandate began in 2014. The Israeli government alleged bias on the part of Mr Wibisono. It failed to acknowledge that it hasn’t permitted entry to a single UN Special Rapporteur in close to a decade.

And just yesterday, Human Rights Watch published Occupation, Inc., a report detailing the relationship between Israeli settlement businesses and violations of Palestinian rights, and calling for sanctions against Israel. As Omar Barghouti wrote in Mondoweiss, that’s a far more coherent tactic than the one adopted by the European Union simply to label settlement goods.

In short, a growing number of people have started to think that Palestinian lives matter, too. And by turning those thoughts into deeds they inevitably spotlight the obscene pandering of self-styled leaders like Hillary Clinton, Justin Trudeau and Boris Johnson, who cling desperately to the wrong side of history. For as the abolitionist Theodore Parker said, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’

Besides his critique of Israeli universities over their complicity in denying Palestinian rights and their active participation in developing the high tech weapons and surveillance technologies deployed against Palestinian civilians living under colonial occupation and siege, in his piece Lloyd exposes the racism, cynicism and hypocrisy that underlie the position held by opponents of the the MLA’s boycott resolution. It’s pretty academic but well worth the read.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Zygmunt Baumann once referred to the dehumanization of German Jews prior to their deportation and extermination as requiring their reduction to moral or psychological invisibility. Opponents of the boycott, even as they proclaim their liberal credentials, consistently engage in the moral eviction of the Palestinians. Even Noam Chomsky, who should know better, will happily cite a slew of left-wing Israeli intellectuals while not mentioning a single Palestinian advocate of the boycott. As Saree Makdisi noted on one panel at the MLA, this is the oldest colonial maneuver in the book. And it was amplified by another opponent’s claim that “academic freedom is not a value universally shared” outside societies with liberal values, the implication being that Palestinians value neither academic freedom nor liberal values.

It is an astonishing claim. It is an astonishing denigration of the Palestinians, who enjoyed one of the richest cultural traditions of the Middle East, whose books and archives were stolen along with their lands, and whose campuses were being invaded even as the MLA convention met in the peace and security of Austin, Texas. Palestinian scholars are not fighting only for “academic freedom”, a right that is valued in any case in the advocacy of unpopular causes rather than in its hoarding as a private possession, but for the “right to education”. They know that the ongoing Israeli assault on their institutions and on the simple right to travel freely to those institutions, is a form of “scholasticide” that threatens to destroy their capacity to reproduce and disseminate their intellectual and cultural life. It is what Ngugi wa Thiong’o once described as colonialism’s “cultural bomb”, designed to obliterate not only the creative life but the social cohesion of a dominated population.”

You can read more here: Racism in the Defense of a Racist State: Some Reflections on BDS at the Modern Language Association

The MLA have also published a very useful ‘myths and facts‘ page about the boycott movement.

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