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January 5, 2015 – NEW YORK – The American Historical Association, a scholarly group, declined to put two resolutions critical of Israel to a vote at its annual meeting in New York over the weekend, one year after the American Studies Association joined an academic boycott of Israel.
The two motions were not submitted for consideration before a November deadline and supporters at the meeting demanded that normal procedural rules be suspended, according to the Legal Insurrection blog.
The motions were kept off the agenda by a vote of 144 to 54.
“The people originating the request for a discussion had not prepared properly in terms of meeting association regulations,” Sandi Cooper, a history professor at the City University of New York, told The Jerusalem Post.
However, she added, “I fear for the future of US academia if we are essentially prohibited, in ways a bit less subtle than McCarthy’s overt terrorism in the ‘50s – from discussing tendentious issues.”
The resolutions, which stopped short of calling for an academic boycott, censured Israel for preventing travel by Palestinian academics and students from Gaza and because the Jewish state “arbitrarily denies entry to foreign nationals, including US citizens, who seek to lecture, teach and attend conferences at Palestinian universities.”
They also called on Israel to cease “denying entry to foreign nationals seeking to promote educational development in the Occupied Palestinian Territories” and called on the United States government to contest such denials.
Israel, one of the motions claimed, engages in “violence and intimidation” against Palestinian academics and archives, damaging “Palestinians’ sense of historical identity as well as the historical record itself.”
Some opponents of the move, which has been termed anti-Israel by some critics, countered in an online response to the text of the proposed AHA censure prepared for the meeting that the entrance of foreign academics into the Palestinian Authority is governed by the rules laid down in the Oslo Accords and are subject to judicial review. Israel refuses entry to foreigners at a level comparable to that of other democratic states, they added.
Moreover, they countered, Hamas itself has barred Palestinians under its control in Gaza from studying abroad.
“I am sick of the bullying and public attacks that invariably accompany these actions,” Claire Potter, a professor at the New School, told the Post via Twitter.
“Some of the organizers were BDS,” she said, “but the boilerplate resolution did not meet the criteria for AHA action.”
“I would have voted no had the resolutions come to the floor. Aside from the vigorous assertions that the general charges were true, no facts were presented, no documentation” was provided, she continued, saying that such matters require “considered, not hasty, discussion.”
Daniel Pipes, a politically conservative Middle East scholar and a former AHA member, said that he was “particularly delighted to discern signs of political maturity among the ranks of historians,” stating that “the AHA’s nearly 3-to-1 rejection of the two anti-Israel resolutions confirms the surprisingly sensible and centrist voting on this issue at major academic associations.”
There was no mention of incitement on Palestinian campuses in the resolutions.
Last year, hundreds of masked protesters marched through Al-Quds University’s campus wearing black ski masks and carrying replicas of rockets, according to photos posted on the website of independent journalist Tom Gross and on the Facebook page of the Islamic Bloc of Al-Quds University student group, which is associated with Hamas.
A rally in support of Islamic Jihad on the Al-Quds campus in November 2013 led to the suspension of ties between Al-Quds University and Brandeis University.
A professor at the Palestinian university quit following a campaign of harassment and death threats after he took students to visit the Auschwitz death camp in Poland last year.
The AHA motions, said Emily of the Jewish Federations’ Israel Action Network, were “ factually inaccurate, one-sided, and biased against Israel.”
“Common sense prevailed, and AHA members elected to not overstep their organizational mandate, which prohibits addressing divisive foreign policy matters without the rigorous research and convincing evidence we all expect from professional historians,” she said.
Passing such resolutions, she added, “does nothing to promote peace.”
JTA contributed to this report.