The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP) joins other academic organizations and learned societies representing tens of thousands of scholars across the globe to voice its strong condemnation of the Middle East Studies Association’s (MESA) recent decision to endorse and implement a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) resolution against  Israel and its universities. By passing this resolution advocating the boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education, MESA disavows any pretext of being an authentic academic association. Those who wish to boycott Israeli universities undercut academic freedom and betray values that academic associations are meant to hold dear: freedom of expression, tolerance, equality, justice, and peace.
Academic freedom is the core principle that defines higher education and makes possible its search for truth. Academic freedom means supporting the freedom of faculty to teach and do research, as well as the student right to be admitted to institutions of their choice in programs of study they wish to pursue. Faculty can establish research relationships with colleagues worldwide. Institutions can establish research partnerships with universities abroad on behalf of their faculty and students. Universities establish study abroad programs. Academic freedom protects all such projects. By doing so, it protects rights and opportunities for all members of the higher education community. A boycott of another country’s institutions of higher learning entails cancelling all such programs and denying those opportunities to students and faculty.
MESA’s action is unjust because it casts collective responsibility over all Israeli academics and ignores the broad range of opinions and political stances articulated by members of the Israeli academic community, a community whose members often disagree with government policy.
The decision is undemocratic in nature because it is based on a small and vocal group of members who have made boycotting Israel their life’s mission. They exploit the indifference of the majority of association members to pass a resolution which likely does not represent the views of many members.
The decision is counter-productive because it undermines the objectives that committed members ostensibly seek to achieve: peace, justice, and antidiscrimination. The BDS movement does not seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict.  Indeed, their toxic ideology is deeply rooted in old biases, prejudices, and deep-seated antisemitism. With this resolution, MESA declares its disinterest in fostering, nurturing, and stimulating constructive dialogue. Today, we see a remarkable thawing of anti-Israel sentiment in the Middle East, creating new possibilities for academic partnerships and exchanges between Israel and its neighbors. MESA’s endorsement of an academic boycott undercuts the opportunities for collaboration and understanding across national, religious, and cultural divides so important for Israel today.
The decision of MESA appears to contravene anti-BDS legislation in many states in the US and is likely to create significant legal ramifications and damage to MESA. ISGAP finds it staggering that of all the countries in the Middle East, only Israel has been targeted by MESA with a boycott. It is intolerable to target Israel’s institutions of higher education when they are, in fact, models of diversity and coexistence, with Muslims, Christians, and Jews studying and doing research together.
Indeed, boycotting Israeli—and only Israeli—academic institutions judges Israel by standards not applied to other countries. The MESA vote is antisemitism thinly disguised as anti-Zionism. ISGAP believes that there is no place for political agendas that fan the flames of hatred and further divide our diverse communities. By passing this ill-thought resolution, MESA has only damaged its organisation’s reputation.
ISGAP fights all forms of racism and antisemitism. We are dedicated to scholarly research into the origins, processes, and manifestations of global antisemitism and other forms of prejudice, including various forms of racism, as they relate to policy in an age of globalization. We stand against MESA’s misguided resolution and will strive to see that the attempt to demonise and isolate Israeli academia will be widely condemned for what it is: a discriminatory resolution that shows MESA motivated not by principles of academic freedom, but age-old antisemitism.