[News] National Women's Studies Association becomes the latest scholarly group to join BDS against Israel

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Dec 1 15:29:57 EST 2015

  Another Association Backs Israel Boycott

The National Women's Studies Association becomes the latest scholarly 
group to join the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

December 1, 2015

    ByElizabeth Redden


The National Women’s Studies Association is the newest scholarly group 
to back the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

In a vote that involved 35 percent of the association’s total 
membership, 88.4 percent, or 653 individuals, voted in favor of a 
boycott measure. Members of the NWSA’s executive committee then took 
their own vote on Friday to approve the membership’s recommendation that 
the association support BDS.

The NWSA measure does not limit itself to a boycott just of Israeli 
academic institutions, but rather affirms the association's endorsement 
of "the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment 
and sanctions (BDS) of economic, military and cultural entities and 
projects sponsored by the state of Israel."

Simona Sharoni, one of the co-founders of Feminists for Justice in/for 
Palestine, an ad-hoc group that sponsored the pro-boycott measure, 
described the NWSA vote in support of BDS as significant in positioning 
Palestinian solidarity as a “feminist issue.” The text of the 
recommendation <http://www.nwsa.org/content.asp?contentid=105> approved 
by the membership states, in part: “As feminist scholars, activists, 
teachers and public intellectuals we recognize the interconnectedness of 
systemic forms of oppression. In the spirit of this intersectional 
perspective, we cannot overlook the injustice and violence, including 
sexual and gender-based violence, perpetrated against Palestinians and 
other Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, within Israel and in the Golan 
Heights, as well as the colonial displacement of hundreds of thousands 
of Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba.” (“Nakba” is the term used by 
Palestinians to describe their displacement by the creation of the state 
of Israel.)

“We’re basically redefining feminism and putting solidarity with 
Palestine into that definition of what it means to be a feminist,” said 
Sharoni, a professor of gender and women’s studies at the State 
University of New York at Plattsburgh. “Or, to put it differently, the 
vote of almost 90 percent of the members of the National Women’s Studies 
Association in support of this resolution underscores the fact that 
boycott, divestment and sanctions can be or is seen by members of our 
association as an example of expressing feminist solidarity.”

BDS supporters within the NWSA described BDS as reflecting “a commitment 
to the indivisibility of justice” and used language that was notably 
more charged than that which was common in boycott-related discussions 
at last month’s American Anthropological Association meeting, where 
attendees voted overwhelmingly 
in favor of a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. (That 
resolution now goes to the full membership of the AAA for a vote.)

In a press release with quotes from BDS supporters, Rabab Abdulhadi, an 
associate professor of race and resistance studies at San Francisco 
State University, described the NWSA resolution as being “a long time in 
the making; it reflects broader changes within NWSA, especially the 
browning [and the radicalization] of the organization and the challenges 
it waged against white supremacy [and neoliberalism] which went hand in 
hand with Zionist influence in the women’s movement and women’s and 
feminist scholarship.” In an interview, Abdulhadi -- who amended the 
quote as written in the press release to include the phrases included in 
brackets -- said she was speaking of dominant, "hegemonic" voices within 
the women's movement that elevated Israel as a paragon for gender 
equality within the Middle East while erasing, or "invisibilizing," 

About half a dozen U.S.-based scholarly associations in the social 
sciences and humanities have endorsed 
the BDS movement since 2013, the largest of these being the American 
Studies Association 
Opponents of boycotts argue that they undercut core values of academic 
freedom and free exchange, and the American Association of University 
Professors is opposed to organized academic boycotts for this reason.

Janet Freedman, a resident scholar at Brandeis University’s Women’s 
Studies Research Center, spoke against the boycott at the recent NWSA 
conference in Milwaukee and penned a piece that appeared Monday 
in the /Jewish Daily Forward/. In that piece she writes among other 
things of “the egregious assault on academic freedom found in the 
explication in the FAQs of activities that would violate the boycott.” 
The FAQ includes the following question and answer sequence:

Q: “What are some examples of activities that would violate an 
academic/cultural boycott? For example, would an invitation to an 
Israeli colleague to give a seminar talk on my campus cross the line? 
What about calling her or him on the phone?”

A: “A seminar talk in partnership with or sponsored by an Israeli 
institution is subject to boycott. Free of complicit institutional 
sponsorship or funding, Israeli academic talks are not subject to 
boycott. By itself, a phone conversation with an Israeli academic does 
not constitute a violation of the boycott. However, institutional 
partnership is subject to boycott; therefore, we urge academics, in 
exercising their own academic freedoms, to refuse all collaboration with 
complicit institutions and their official representatives.”

In an interview, Freedman, who described herself as “pro-peace,” 
“pro-Israel,” “pro-Palestine” and as “progressive in my politics,” said 
she sees the BDS resolution as “inimical” to the peace process and a 
two-state solution. “I don’t want to be a pariah and seen as on the 
'evil' side of an issue that doesn’t have two sides,” she said. “It has 
1,000 different points of complexity.”

Samuel M. Edelman, the executive director of Academic Council for 
Israel, a new organization that Edelman said has faculty membership at 
more than 100 universities in the U.S., described the NWSA measure as a 
“one-sided indictment of Israel.”

“I feel like I’m in /Alice in Wonderland/ here,” he said. “One of the 
only places in the Middle East that embraces the feminist ideal, has 
embedded it within the very structures of the government and education 
and public policy, is attacked while the rest of the Middle East, which 
does none of that, is ignored.”

The boycott measure follows on a solidarity statement 
<http://www.nwsa.org/statements> the NWSA issued in January after a 
plenary at the 2014 conference “wherein there was a strong show of 
support by a majority of more than 1,000 plenary attendees” for BDS.

“NWSA, the organization, has been engaged in the issue for more than a 
year,” said Allison Kimmich, the association's executive director. She 
said the association has not yet resolved questions of how it will 
implement the boycott.

The association’s president, Vivian M. May, said in a statement that 
"the association's members are committed to an inclusive feminist 
vision, to contesting structural inequities on multiple fronts, and are 
deeply engaged in anticolonial, antiwar and anti-imperialist feminist 
scholarship, teaching and activism.”

May, who teaches at Syracuse University, added: “Given these 
commitments, next year's conference in Montreal shall be timely for the 
field, and for NWSA as it continues to grow, with 'Decoloniality' as the 
overarching conference theme.”

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