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Florida State Drops Middle East Studies Association Membership As Group Moves Towards Israel Boycott

Florida State Drops Middle East Studies Association Membership As Group Moves Towards Israel Boycott

“The FSU Middle East Center did not renew its annual membership in MESA for the 2022 calendar year. Membership expired Dec. 31, 2021.”

As previously reported, on December 2, 2021, the business meeting at the annual meeting passed a resolution endorsing the BDS boycott against Israel. The resolution now goes to a full membership vote expected to start in mid-to-late January 2022.

If MESA’s membership ratifies the academic boycott of Israel, it will have profound implications for the academic freedom of American students and scholars, not just Israelis, as I explored in an Op-Ed at The NY Post:

BDS represents a full-frontal assault on academic freedom at American universities and colleges, not just against Israeli institutions. BDS academic boycott guidelines bar almost all interactions with Israeli academic institutions and “representatives” of such institutions.

Prohibited activities include academic projects or activities, research and development projects, speeches (including debates), study-abroad programs in Israel, publishing in or refereeing articles for Israeli university journals and “normalization projects.” As the BDS guidelines make clear, the boycott covers individual Israelis who represent such institutions. MESA vows in the resolution “to give effect to the spirit and intent of this resolution” endorsing BDS.

The impact on Jewish and Israeli Studies in the United States will be profound. The Association for Israel Studies condemned the vote as “an effort to curtail and to suppress” academic “freedom for any scholar associated with Israel or with Israeli academic institutions.”

We explored the implications of the MESA boycott in related posts:

MESA has nearly 2,700 individual members and 54 institutional members, including major public universities, such as Florida State University and the University of Arkansas.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ office issued a statement rejecting the MESA boycott with the expectation that public universities in Florida would do the same, DeSantis Office: Florida Opposes Middle East Studies Association Conducting BDS Anti-Israel Academic Boycott Through FSU:

Florida has long had a strong relationship with the State of Israel. As a matter of law and principle, the State of Florida does not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the Israeli people, including boycotts and divestments targeting Israel (the BDS movement).

Recently, this problem has arisen with corporations, such as Ben & Jerry’s earlier this year. Here’s the statute that applied in that case:

As you can see, the law is designed to ensure that the state of Florida is not doing business with companies participating in boycotts of Israel. It does not explicitly address public postsecondary institutions. Nevertheless, Governor DeSantis’ position has been clear: It is unacceptable for Florida taxpayer funds to subsidize BDS or any other anti-Israel activist movement.

It is our expectation that Florida State University will not permit MESA to operate a boycott of Israel through a public institution, will not accept the academic boycott of Israel, and will not allow university funds to be paid indirectly or directly to any organization that endorses BDS. The same goes for any other institution that receives state funding.

Florida State University Middle East Center

We have reached out to MESA’s institutional members for comment on the proposed MESA boycott, and among other things, whether MESA institutional membership would be continued if it adpots the BDS boycott. We will be reporting on some of those responses in coming days.

But there was a very important response from Florida State University, whose Middle East Center was a MESA institutional member. A communications officer for FSU responded to our inquiry by indicating that FSU has not renewed its membership and no longer is a MESA member:

“The FSU Middle East Center did not renew its annual membership in MESA for the 2022 calendar year. Membership expired Dec. 31, 2021.”

No further explanation was provided, but the timing is pretty clear. MESA’s business meeting overwhelmingly adopted the BDS boycott, which reflects that the leadership of the organization supports and advocates BDS. FSU then chose not to renew its membership.

We will continue to follow these developments.

VIDEO – The Implications of MESA going BDS

On Friday, January 14, 2022, I discussed the implications of the MESA boycott on a webinar for the Middle East Forum

Partial Transcript – Auto-generated, may contain transcription errors. Time stamps approximate.

(02:51) … So, this is going to come up for a vote. And I think M.E.S.A. is very much aware that it could run into problems because they have worded the resolution very curiously. The way they’ve worded it is that, “Be it resolved,” and I’m doing this from memory, but I think accurately, “that the majority of the membership of M.E.S.A. endorses the boycott call.” And the second operative is that the directors of M.E.S.A. are directed to implement it “consistent with local and federal and state laws and academic freedom.” So, they know there’s going to be a storm coming if this passes, just like there was a storm several years ago. It was December 2013. The American Studies Association passed the boycott resolution. And that was a little stronger language than what M.E.S.A. used. There was a firestorm of controversy, and there has not been a major academic group since December of 2013 that has passed it.

* * *

(04:20) …. And I think you can make a very good argument that if the boycott is carried out on campus, and I emphasize that it is carried out. I don’t mean somebody having an opinion on it. I don’t mean somebody saying I support it. But if it’s actually implemented by M.E.S.A. through its members on a campus, it arguably is discrimination on the basis of national origin. And it arguably is discrimination on the basis of religion, because, let’s face it, this is the one majority Jewish state in the world.

Those campus provisions could come into play. I think they would come into play. Whether federal and state protections come into play, it would have to be very fact-specific, if you were able to prove that an Israeli was singled out for being in Israeli, if you were able to prove that a Jewish student who wanted to study in Israel was singled out because of that. And I think there have been instances. And the sort of things where that could come up is, for example, a professor is willing to write a recommendation for a student who attends the University of Amman but not the University of Tel Aviv.

That would be implementing a boycott. That would be not only potentially violating the school’s anti-discrimination laws, but academic freedom protections that apply to students and faculty. Faculty are where sometimes the line becomes blurry. But the distinction I always draw is you’re entitled to believe whatever you want to believe. And frankly, you’re entitled to say just about anything you want to say. But when you are on a campus, you have to abide by the campus’s rules and regulations. And that’s particularly important if you have an administrative role. If the school has a policy against the boycott of Israel, then you have to abide by that. Either that or get another job. You have to abide by your employer’s rules. I think it is really important to keep in mind. It’s the implementation of it that becomes important.

* * *

(14:44) …. That is the unique feature of academic BDS. It may be the only movement which claims the academic freedom to deprive others of academic freedom. That is the whole point. Depriving others of academic freedom is the entire point of academic BDS. There’s a bigger point of delegitimizing Israel, but that is their methodology. It’s a very curious thing because the first thing they scream, if anything is done to protect Americans’ academic freedom or Israelis, is, “Well, you’re infringing our academic freedom.” And of course, you’ll get faculty members around the country to form groups and sign petitions about how bad this is, but they want the academic freedom to deprive others of academic freedom. And I don’t know of any other instance where that’s the case.

* * *

(18:53) And I think it’s always very important to make distinctions between the speech of people and academic freedom. I’m against trying to purge professors. God knows I’ve been tried to be purged many times. I’m against that. But, that doesn’t mean that a professor can actively discriminate in the conduct of running a course. They can go off to a M.E.S.A. meeting and say whatever they want to say. But once they’re conducting a course, and once they’re conducting school business with school funds, they have to abide by school policies.

[Featured Image: MESA Twitter]


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Once again thank you Ron DeSantis

China can persecute and intern Muslims, but, the vile, morally stupid Dhimmi-crats couldn’t care less — they’re only obsessed with vilifying Israel and Israeli Jews.

    OldProf2 in reply to guyjones. | January 16, 2022 at 7:29 pm

    The reasons are simple: Leftists like China’s Socialist government and want ours to be more like it. So they hesitate to criticize China.

    But Israel is a democracy in an area where there are few democracies. So it’s important to tear down Israel to allow socialist dictatorships to take over.

    civisamericanus in reply to guyjones. | January 17, 2022 at 10:24 am

    PSC CUNY, the union that represents CUNY staff, is just fine with the Chinese Communists’ human rights violations as I understand, but they hate Israel.

    Danny in reply to guyjones. | January 17, 2022 at 2:30 pm

    Once again your a vile hateful stupid little bigot go away.

    Provide proof there is a cabal of Muslims controlling the Democratic Party, or that they back Islamic ideas you know like opposition to abortion or prayer or STFU.

    Danny in reply to guyjones. | January 19, 2022 at 3:36 pm

    If you could route for a genocide you are todays villain.

I remember when not one single faculty member of Vassar College supporting a boycott of Israel would accept your offer to debate. As I remember, you offered to debate the entire lot of them by yourself and had no takers. Quite a reflection on their confidence (lack thereof) in the righteousness of their cause. I’d say it seems to a layman like me they don’t really believe Israel is worse than any other country … their cause is just an “acceptable” form of anti-Semitism presented as anti-Israeli policies.

I doubt any of the leadership at MESA would take you up on a similar challenge to debate.

Radical activist academics have an outsized negative influence on the world. They must be challenged and fought at all times. Thank you to Professor Jacobson for leading the charge!

Three issues I hold dear:
1) pro-life
2) pro-Israel
3) pro-gun

Not surprised if someone stands opposite of one of those, they tend to be opposite with all three.

Lol – caught a thumbs down. Wonder which of the three hurt their feelings.

civisamericanus | January 17, 2022 at 10:22 am

I’m looking for a valid reason to file a Form 13909 against MESA to get its 501(c)(3) tax exemption revoked. Ultra vires was apparently tried on the American Studies Association but was not successful. Two other 501(c)(3)s that joined the BDS movement, however, published statements against Donald Trump on their web sites prior to the 2020 election and those were reported. The IRS is behind in its work but my understanding is that participation in a political campaign gets a 501(c)(3) to the top of their “poo” list. A right-leaning church had its exemption revoked for saying Christians should not vote for a prominent Democrat.

Activities contrary to public policy (in this case, anti-boycott laws) could also be a reason to revoke a 501(c)(3) but I have yet to see this happen. Failure to adhere to state and Federal anti-discrimination laws (as Prof. Jacobson pointed out) could be problematic and I will look into this further to see if a credible Form 13909 can be filed against MESA.

AHHH, YES FIRST IMBECILC statement of our NOT POTUS of the day. A FOOL in charge of these SO-CALLED UNITED STATES!

Why would any rational person or entity want to bar interaction with the inventively prolific Israelis in deference to the Arabs whose last innovation was the suicide vest?