NEW YORK – Following a long and often contentious process, the membership of the Modern Language Association announced today that the membership failed to ratify a resolution criticizing Israel for “denials of entry to the West Bank by U.S. academics” traveling to Palestinian universities. The Israel Action Network applauded the membership for “choosing to honor academic freedom and integrity by refusing to ratify this baseless and discriminatory resolution.”
The resolution, which singled out the state of Israel for discriminatory treatment based on distortions and bias, was initially passed by the MLA Delegate Assembly following a contentious debate and a narrow vote of 60-53. It was then forwarded to a full membership vote that was conducted over a six-week period.
Accusations made within the resolution, which called upon the United States Department of State to contest Israel’s alleged “denials of entry to the West Bank by United States academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities,” were not only problematic and divisive, but factually inaccurate. In response, over 450 MLA members from around the world signed a petition opposing it. The petition was organized by the MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights (MMFSR), a group of MLA members who came together to oppose this resolution and other efforts that undermine academic freedom.
IAN lauded the work of MMFSR and the MLA members who exercised their right to vote against the resolution.
“This troubling resolution was based on false information and misrepresented facts refuted by opponents, specifically regarding allegations that Israel prevents the freedom of movement of American academics,” IAN Managing Director Geri Palast said. “IAN commends the academic community for coming together to uphold principles of academic freedom and fairness, and for setting the record straight on this complex issue. Israel does not violate academic freedom, but rather, implements reasonable security measures expected of any country. The vote announced today was a validation of both principle and decision-making based on facts.”
She went on to add, “We strongly support the principle of unrestricted scholarly travel, however this resolution only served to divide and politicize the MLA, rather than empower the organization to address more urgent matters facing higher education. Peace and reconciliation for Israelis and Palestinians will come through a negotiated agreement and constructive engagement between the parties. Concerned Americans, including academics, can aid this process by encouraging this kind of discourse and engagement that recognizes both narratives.”