JUF News Express
Thursday, January 09, 2014Forward this message  Forward this message

In this Issue:

• Countering anti-Israel campaign at Chicago academic conference


Related articles:

The Israel Action Network press conference covered in the Chronicle of Higher Education and JTA

Opinion column in today’s Wall Street Journal by Cary Nelson, Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and immediate past president of the American Association of University Professors

An opinion column in the Times of Israel by Michael Kotzin


Countering anti-Israel campaign at Chicago academic conference

The annual 3-day convention of the Modern Language Association (MLA) began today in Chicago.  The convention has attracted much attention – in the Jewish community and beyond – for two reasons. 

1. Its program includes a one-sided panel discussion of academic boycotts of Israel while its Delegate Assembly will consider a resolution, based on flimsy evidence at best, that accuses Israel of engaging in “arbitrary” practices regarding entrance to the West Bank for American academics invited to universities there.

2. Those matters, troubling in themselves, have gained considerable attention in the wake of the recent American Studies Association vote calling for an academic boycott of Israeli universities.

Combatting the attempt by some campus-based faculty and students to advance the global campaign of denying Israel’s right to exist is a longstanding Jewish United Fund (JUF) priority. In the case of the MLA, JUF learned of the association’s plans at an early point and began forging -- nationally and locally – a strategy to address the challenge. 

Nationally, JUF has been a key participant in coordinated efforts spearheaded by the Israel Action Network (IAN), a project founded by the Jewish Federations of North America in conjunction with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, whose mandate is to confront efforts aimed at delegitimizing Israel.  IAN is chaired by David Sherman, a past chair of JUF and its Jewish Community Relations Council.  In this case, IAN has been playing a critical role as a resource for those MLA faculty members who are mobilizing a strong opposition to the resolution within a new structure of theirs, “MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights.” 

Locally, support for activist faculty members has been spearheaded by JCRC and by Michael Kotzin, JUF Senior Counselor to the President, who in an earlier career had been a member of the MLA and who is currently an emeritus member.

“The MLA, with some 30,000 members, about 4,000 of whom have registered for the conference, is larger and more distinguished than the American Studies Association, and though the resolution that the MLA Delegate Assembly will consider is less problematic than that which was passed by the ASA, this still is a valid area of concern for the community,” Kotzin said. 

The one-sided, official session on academic boycotts took place today, followed by an unofficial “alternative” panel discussion in which several distinguished scholars presented the arguments against academic boycotts of Israel.  Treatment of the proposed resolution will take place on Friday and Saturday. JUF will continue to monitor and report on these occurrences as they happen. 

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