Historians Against the War v. Opponents of Pro-Academic Freedom in Palestine Resolution

The American Historical Association will be considering a resolution tomorrow at its annual meeting that condemns the absence of academic freedom for professors and students in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. Some 126 historians signed the Historians Against the War (HAW) resolution.

There has been organised protest against the resolution from groups and individuals. One of the groups, Alliance for Academic Freedom, has protested this action which is available here. This is the HAW response to their litany of accusations:

“A SMALL GROUP OF ACTIVISTS” – We are hardly outsiders seeking to manipulate the AHA for our own purposes. A wide range of professional historians, including leaders in our profession, have signed our resolution (see over). Furthermore, the AHA has taken positions on issues relevant to our profession, on the veracity of the Armenian genocide or how the misuse of history facilitated the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Concern for the abridgement of academic freedom by a close military ally of the U.S. is certainly within the AHA’s purview.

“THE HAW RESOLUTION IS A VEHICLE FOR BDS” – This is a red herring. The text of the resolution is the resolution. It is no more and no less than a call to members of the AHA to “Protect the Right to Education in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” That is what we will discuss and that is what people will vote on. To suggest otherwise distorts the real issue: Israeli policies that impede or prevent the right of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories to education. The 126 signers of this resolution hold different views on BDS: some support it, some oppose it, and some support some aspects of it and reject others. What they–and we hope you—do agree on is that Palestinians have a right to education.

“MISSING INFORMATION” – As students of U.S. policy and Israeli politics, we are aware of the importance of access to a wide variety of sources, including those of Israeli journalists, academics and activists, many of whom are critical of the limited nature of U.S. coverage of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, we consulted this variety of sources to document Israel’s ongoing actions that impede the Palestinian right to education, including the free entry of qualified scholars and the freedom of Palestinian students to leave Gaza to pursue higher education, even in the West Bank, as evidenced by our extensive documentation (see QRL below). These punitive actions by the occupying authorities are based on policies often reaffirmed by the Knesset. When the policy restricting the movement of students out of Gaza was discussed in the Knesset in 2008, the then-chair of the education committee, Rabbi Michael Melchior noted: “This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews, who have been subjected to the deprivation of higher education in the past. Even in war, there are rules.” [New York Times, May 30, 2008]

“TROUBLING IMBALANCE” – The AAF’s underlying assumption of parity among equals is false. The West Bank and Gaza remain officially under Israeli occupation, which negates any claims of equality between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. U.S. political, military and financial assistance to Israel has sustained its international status as Occupying Power in the region. We have analyzed and explained the situation of Israel and its rights and duties in a pamphlet entitled International Human Rights Law: Violation by Israel and the Problem of Enforcement (see QRL below). As the internationally recognized Occupying Power, Israel controls all checkpoints to and from Palestinian territories and freedom of movement for all Palestinians. The limiting of educational opportunities for Palestinians has not been matched by any limitation on the educational opportunities for Israeli citizens; Israeli courts or governmental agencies have never revoked the right of an Israeli Jewish citizen to receive a Fulbright, to travel abroad or to Gaza, or to accept a scholarship or teaching position.

“DIVISIVE ISSUES” -The right to education should be neither controversial nor divisive, whether in the Occupied Palestinian Territories or anywhere else. The question is whether each of us, as a member of the American Historical Association, does or does not object to well-documented evidence of a close U.S. ally’s pervasive violations of academic freedom and the right to education. The suggestion that we cannot censure violations of human dignity in one country or place unless we simultaneously act against violations of a similar sort everywhere else reminds one of the classic attacks on abolitionists—or those who opposed the Vietnam War—or scholars who censured human rights abuses in the Soviet bloc. It is intellectually lazy, morally obfuscatory, and unworthy of historians.

SIGNERS OF THE 2016 RESOLUTION

Paul Adams, Shippensburg Univ
Kevan Aguilar, Univ of CA – SD
David R. Applebaum, Rowan Univ
Guy  Aronoff, Humboldt St Univ
Silvia Marina Arrom, Brandeis Univ
Jeanie Attie, Long Is Univ
Aaron Bae, Arizona St Univ
Marc Becker, Truman St Univ
Jonathan Beecher, Univ of CA-SC
Joel  Beinin, Stanford Univ
Saliha Belmessous, Univ of NSW
Norman Bennett, Boston Univ
Jade Bettine, Univ of IL – UC
Cyrus Bina, Univ of MN
Elizabeth  Bishop, Texas St Univ
Allison Blakely, Boston Univ
Renate Bridenthal, Brkln Coll, CUNY
Kaye Briegel, CA St Uni Long Beach
John  Buchanan, Cambridge Univ
Michelle Campos, Univ of Florida
Alejandro Cañeque, Univ of MD
Juan Carona Zabala, UCSD
Clayborne Carson, Stanford Univ
Erin D. Chapman, George Wash Univ
Amy Chazkel, Queens Coll, CUNY
Bruce Cohen, Worcester St Univ
Deborah  Cohen, Univ MO, St. Louis
Juan Cole, Univ of MI
Sandi Cooper, Coll of Staten Is, CUNY
Paul Croce, Stetson Univ
Kenneth Cuno, Univ of IL – UC
Daniel Czitrom, Mount Holyoke Coll
James  D’Emilo, Univ of South FL
Leena Dallasheh, Humboldt St Univ
Natalie Davis, Princeton Univ
Jennifer Derr, Univ of CA, Santa Cruz
Dennis Deslippe, F & Marshall Coll
Sandra Deutsch, Univ of TX, El Paso
Alan Dillingham, Spring Hills Coll
Justus Doenecke, New Coll of FL
Beshara  Doumani, Brown Univ
Thomas  Dublin, SUNY, Binghamton
Carolyn Eisenberg, Hofstra Univ
Geoff Eley, Univ of MI
Mark  Elliot, Univ of NC, Greensboro
Francis Feeley, The Univ of Grenoble
Marjorie Feld, Babson Coll
Thomas  Field, Embry-Riddle Univ
Eileen  Findlay, American Univ
Jerise Fogel, Montclair St Univ
Tami J. Friedman, Brock Univ
Nancy Gallagher, UCSB
S.M. Ghazanfar, Univ of Idaho
Warren  Goldstein, Univ of Hartford
Stephen S. Gosch, Univ WI-Eau Claire
Van Gosse, Franklin & Marshall Coll
Marc Goulding, Univ of Central OK
Karen Graubart, Univ of Notre Dame
Anthony Gronowicz, Borough of Manhattan Community Coll, CUNY
Lisbeth Haas, Univ of CA, Santa Cruz
Martin Halpern, Henderson St Univ
Gildas Hamel, Univ of CA-SC
Elizabeth  Heineman, Univ of Iowa
Kelly Herold, Univ of NE at Kearney
Luis Herran Avila, New Sch for Social Research
Gerald  Horne, Univ of Houston
David Hostetter, PHS
Paul Hyams, Cornell Univ
Pilar Iracheta, El Colegio Mexiquense, AC
Temma Kaplan, Rutgers Univ
Rebecca Karl, NY Univ
Mary Kelley, Univ of MI
Jeffrey Kerr-Ritchie, Howard Univ
Dina  Khoury, George Wash Univ
Peter Kirstein, St. Xavier Univ
Thomas  Klubock, Univ of Virginia
Troy Kokinis, Univ of CA, San Diego
Dennis Kortheuer, CA State Univ-LB
Scott Laderman,  Univ of MN, Duluth
Jesse Lemisch, John Jay Coll of Criminal Justice, CUNY
Deborah T.  Levenson, Boston Coll
Zachary Lockman, NY Univ
Henry  Maar, Univ of CA-SB
Andrae Marak, Governors St Univ
MJ  Maynes, Univ of MN
Teresa Meade, Union Coll
Stephen J. Miller, Uni AL, Birmingham
Shane Minkin, Univ of the South
Marissa J. Moorman, Governors St Univ
Regina Morantz-Sanchez, Univ of MI
Ruth Mostern, Univ of CA, Merced
John  Munro, St Mary’s Univ, Halifax
Pamela  Murray, Un AL, Birmingham
Melanie J.  Newton, Univ of Toronto
Mary  Nolan, NY Univ
Enrique Ochoa, CA State U – LA
Melina Pappademos, Univ of CT
Prasannan  Parthasarathi, Boston Coll
Roger Peace, Tallahassee Comm Coll
Samuel Pearson, Southern IL Univ at Edwardsville
Lewis  Perry, St. Louis Univ
Jeffrey B. Perry, Indep Scholar
Margaret  Power, IL Inst of Technol
Jean H.  Quataert, Binghamton Univ
Michael  Reagan, Univ of Wash
Thomas Ricks
Alfred Rieber, Central European Univ and Univ of PA
Shira Robinson, George Wash Univ
Sonya Rose, Univ of MI
Karin Rosemblatt, Univ of MD
Ellen  Ross, Ramapo Univ
Doug Rossinow, Metrop St Univ
Adam Sabra, UCSB
Sara Scalenghe, Loyola Univ MD
Johanna Schoen, Rutgers Univ
Ellen  Schrecker, Yeshiva Univ
Kirsten Schultz, Seton Hall Univ
Joan Scott, Inst for Advanced Study
Paul Seaver, Stanford Univ
Sherene  Seikaly, Univ of CA-SB
Robert  Shaffer, Shippensburg Univ
Martin J.  Sherwin, George Mason U
Daniel Sidorick, Rutgers Univ
Robyn Spencer, Lehman Coll
Paul Spickard, Uni of CA-SB
Ted  Steinberg, Case Western Univ
David  Suisman, Univ of Delaware
James Swarts, SUNY at Geneseo
Dennis Sweeney, Univ of Alberta
Carol Symes, Univ of IL
Lynn Thomas, Univ of Wash
Judith Tucker, Georgetown Univ
Daniel  Walkowitz, NY Univ
Frank A.  Warren, Queens Coll
Barbara  Weinstein, NY Univ
Robert Whealey, Ohio Univ
Leigh Ann  Wheeler, Binghamton U
Jon Wiener, Univ of CA, Irvine
Carol Williams, Univ of Lethbridge
Rhonda Y.  Williams, CWR Univ
Lawrence  Wittner, Univ of Albany
Marilyn B.  Young, NY Univ
James  Young, Montgomery Cty Comm Coll
Kim Young-Hyun, UCSD
Neici M. Zeller, Wm Patterson Univ
Andrew Zimmerman, George Wash Univ

For more information and documentation: http://historiansagainstwar.org/aha16/

Another source of protest is attorney Stephen M. Flatow whose daughter was tragically killed during the endless conflict between Israel and Palestine. He has used provocative language to denounce the signatories. In the Jewish Week, which erroneously headlines twenty-six instead of 126 signatories, he directs his ire toward me and a few others who chose to respond:

Peter Kirstein, of St. Xavier University, replied that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians “is one of the great crimes of the modern era.” He signed his email, “Salam Alaikum.” Norman Bennett (Boston University) snidely responded with four curt words: “So make a resolution…“Shall we look forward to a 500-year horror as the Irish experienced?” asked Prof. Sandi Cooper (College of Staten Island), as if their ill-informed anti-Israel resolution will help end the conflict. And as if adding a mention of the American victims in their resolution would cause hundreds of years of additional conflict.

Actually, while in agreement, I cited John Mearsheimer on “great crime” reference. A Palestinian-American professor emailed me his reaction to Mr Flatow’s critique of my email, which I believe was respectful and professional:

One gets tired of the red herrings. He never mentions why professors are protesting in the first place… Hundreds of Palestinian students have been murdered by Israel soldiers over the years and tens of thousands can’t get to schools because of the apartheid wall and check points.

He mentions Americans killed by Palestinians but fails to mention the little boy and his family who were burned to death by an American settler and that the most violent settlers happened to be American Zionists.

He should have replied with Alaykum Alsalam!

4 thoughts on “Historians Against the War v. Opponents of Pro-Academic Freedom in Palestine Resolution

  1. I am fascinated that the group opposing this resolution calls itself the “Alliance for Academic Freedom.” I can’t see any possible academic freedom objections to this resolution, so it’s interesting that they try to insinuate such a thing.

  2. Pingback: A Response to Emanuel Goldman’s Academe B.D.S. Article | ACADEME BLOG

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