Middle East Studies scholars overwhelmingly vote to endorse BDS

Michael Arria

Mondoweiss  /  March 24, 2022

80% of Middle East Studies Association scholars voted to endorse the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions of Israel.

The largest Middle East academic body in North America has officially endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). An overwhelming majority of Middle East Studies Association members (MESA) have voted to ratify a BDS resolution.

All full members of MESA were asked to electronically cast their votes between January 31-March 22. On March 23 it was announced that the measure had prevailed definitively, with a final tally of 768-167.

“Our members have cast a clear vote to answer the call for solidarity from Palestinian scholars and students experiencing violations of their right to education and other human rights,” said MESA President Eve Troutt Powell in a statement. “MESA’s Board will work to honor the will of its members and ensure that the call for an academic boycott is upheld without undermining our commitment to the free exchange of ideas and scholarship.”

“Since 2005, the BDS vote has been discussed among MESA members, who have organized various forums for conversations and debates regarding MESA’s participation in an academic boycott of Israeli institutions and other ways of standing in solidarity with Palestinian scholars at risk under Israel’s longstanding military occupation,” she continued. “We affirm our commitment to academic freedom for Palestinians, and for all scholars in all countries throughout the region.”

The resolution makes a point to assert that the BDS campaign targets institutions, as opposed to individuals. It also highlights MESA’s support for academic freedom and the right of scholars to decide whether or not to back the movement. In addition to endorsing the boycott call, it also directs MESA Board of Directors to work with the Committee on Academic Freedom “to give effect to the spirit and intent of this resolution.”

The resolution was originally introduced by author, activist, and human rights attorney Noura Erakat. In December 2021 the measure was advanced to a vote by a majority of the group’s members. “This reflects a tremendous amount of collective labor and a cultural-political shift,” said Erakat at the time. “There is no turning back regardless of how this plays out.”

“Power to all of the organizers, scholars, and activists that made this happen,” tweeted the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights after the results of the vote were announced. “This powerful work in revolutionizing the academy will go down in history and be built upon for generations to come.”

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss