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Modern Language Association Tag

In a severe blow to the anti-Israel academic boycott movement, the 18,000 member Modern Language Association has passed a Resolution explicitly rejecting the academic boycott of Israel. The academic boycott of Israel had been termed a grave threat to the academic freedom of everyone and the free exchange of ideas by over 250 university presidents and numerous prominent university organizations. Nonetheless, the academic boycott, which is part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, is a focal point of anti-Israel activist professors and graduate students. We have highlighted this MLA Resolution in prior votes, including a recent post, Tables turned: Modern Language Association in midst of voting on Anti-BDS Resolution:

We have previously covered the never-ending saga at the anti-Israel obsession of some members of Modern Language Association (MLA). Those members have engaged in a years-long attempt to get MLA, the largest academic society in the humanities, to boycott Israel and to officially join the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement. After the radicals’ massive defeat at the MLA business meeting at the annual convention in Philadelphia in January, they are on the defensive: not only was their resolution to boycott Israel (2017-2) defeated by the Delegate Assembly, but a counter-resolution (2017-1), calling on MLA to reject academic boycott, was approved and placed before the general membership.

You may recall how, on January 12, 2017, I was taken completely by surprise when Legal Insurrection's YouTube account was removed without notice based on copyright claims, YouTube has removed Legal Insurrection’s Channel:
YouTube took down Legal Insurrection’s Channel without any prior notice based on “multiple third-party claims of copyright infringement,” but we never received any claims of infringement.

I appeared on January 16, 2017, on The Dennis Prager Show to discuss the shutdown of Legal Insurrection's YouTube account, as detailed in these prior posts: We frequently run PragerU videos, which are excellent both as to topic and production quality. Scroll through the PragerU Videos tag to see the ones we have posted.

I appeared on the Lars Larson Show in the evening on January 16, 2017, to talk about the shutdown of Legal Insurection's YouTube account, as described in these prior posts: Hope you enjoy the interview, I should have more posted in the coming days.

I was going to write something profound and deep tonight about the takedown of Legal Insurrection's YouTube account after the Modern Language Association filed three (3) copyright claims with YouTube relating to my coverage of the arguments made at an MLA annual meeting town hall in favor and against the academic boycott of Israel. *Perhaps* it was total *coincidence* that three (3) claims were filed considering that YouTube has a well-known three strikes rule -- three claims and they may remove your channel and account. Which is what happened even before I knew there was a copyright claim by MLA (it never contacted us). *Eventually* we'll find out *why* three (3) claims were filed. I sure hope people are not deleting emails, that would look really bad.

UPDATE: As of approximately 7:30 p.m. on January 13, 2017, our YouTube Channel was restored, though there are still legal battles to come over the videos. ------------- YouTube took down Legal Insurrection's Channel without any prior notice based on "multiple third-party claims of copyright infringement," but we never received any claims of infringement. We have lost hundreds of videos, including a lot of original content on important news subjects. You now will see disabled videos in hundreds of our posts. I have no idea what the supposedly offending videos are. We are pretty careful when it comes to copyright, so I'm suspecting that someone about whom we posted a video made the claims. We've filed the appeal forms, but if anyone has a contact at YouTube, I'd appreciate the help. Please email me.

As reported extensively on this site, the Modern Language Association held its annual convention this weekend in Philadelphia. At the meeting a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions was defeated and a resolution opposing academic boycotts was passed and is now before the general membership. For coverage see here and here. I am an MLA member, and I was there. Unfortunately, for professional reasons, I am not able to write under my own name. Such is the nature of the BDS academic boycott. The under-the-radar boycott is for real, even as pro-BDS faculty push for a formal boycott such at that attempted at MLA. Here's what I observed, and what I think the implications are for the academic boycott movement - and the opposition.

We previously covered, in exhaustive detail, the upcoming vote on Saturday, January 7, on three resolutions at the Modern Language Association:
The Modern Language Association is at it again: at this year’s annual MLA meeting in Philadelphia, academic boycotts of Israel are on the agenda. Thus continues the Settler Colonial attempt by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) to hijack American faculty organizations. The 24,000 member organization, comprised of faculty in the fields English and other non-classical foreign languages, will be debating (again) whether to boycott their colleagues in Israel, and would extend to the Academy of the Hebrew Language.

The Modern Language Association is at it again: at this year’s annual MLA meeting in Philadelphia, academic boycotts of Israel are on the agenda. Thus continues the Settler Colonial attempt by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) to hijack American faculty organizations. The 24,000 member organization, comprised of faculty in the fields English and other non-classical foreign languages, will be debating (again) whether to boycott their colleagues in Israel, and would extend to the Academy of the Hebrew Language. The vote on January 7th involves the 297 members of the Delegate Assembly.

[WAJ Note: On January 10, 2015, we reported how Modern Language Assoc postpones anti-Israel boycott vote until 2017.  I asked Stanford Professor Russell Berman, a former President of MLA who attended the debate and vote, to provide us with a first-hand account and analysis.] ----------------------------------- At the recent Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention in Vancouver, proponents of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement made a concerted effort to score an electoral victory for their anti-Israel campaign. BDS and its supporters failed. I was present during the debate and votes at the Delegate Assembly, and the failure was clear. Nonetheless BDS supporters have rushed to claim success, asserting that straw polls taken at the Delegate Assembly supported both BDS and Professor Steven Salaita (who is in a dispute with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). To make such claims requires misrepresentation of the facts of what happened. But facts matter, and a reasonable examination of the series of votes in Vancouver leads to the conclusion that BDS lost.

Boycott Resolution Delayed Two Years

First some background: in the run-up to the convention, two resolutions were submitted to the MLA’s Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee (DAOC). One resolution called for a boycott of Israeli universities, while the other opposed academic boycotts. Because the two resolutions were in direct conflict with each other, the DAOC requested that both proposals be withdrawn during a two-year moratorium on any resolutions concerning Israel. Instead the DAOC proposed a series of discussions about the matter in order to inform the membership. Both sides agreed, and neither resolution was brought to the floor. However, when the Delegate Assembly convened in Vancouver, the DAOC had to bring its two-year moratorium proposal before the assembly for a vote. BDS supporters attacked it bitterly because they were eager to vote against Israel, and they correctly saw the moratorium as prohibiting such a vote until 2017 at the earliest. The voting showed that they were a distinct minority: the Delegate Assembly adopted the moratorium proposal 95 to 49. This was a victory for the DAOC and a dramatic 2 to 1 loss for BDS. That first vote was important not only because it rejected the BDS effort to accelerate its anti-Israel campaign but because it took place relatively early in the afternoon when attendance was still high.

In what only can be described as a serious setback for anti-Israel academic boycott activists, the Modern Language Association just voted at its Annual Conference to postpone a boycott resolution vote until 2017. At the 2014 annual meeting a resolution critical of Israel's alleged breach of Palestinian academic freedom barely passed the House of Delegates, but then failed when the resolution was sent to the full membership. There was no boycott resolution to be voted on this year.  Given that even a condemnation of Israel failed last year, hopes to advance the anti-Israel, anti-academic freedom agenda will have to wait for two years. The vote to confirm this delayed timetable was not a surprise. According to one person in the room during discussion of the delay, the boycotters came "off as silly. Especially after events like this weekend." [referring to attacks on Jews in Paris by Islamic terrorists] But pro-boycott faculty formed a working group, led by Stanford Professor David Palumbo-Liu (recently elected to the MLA Executive Board), David Lloyd of UC-Riverside (one of the co-founders of the U.S. boycott movement) and Rebecca Comay of the University of Toronto, who will be organizing for the next two years to push the boycott resolution in 2017.

The fight over the academic boycott of Israel in the United States mostly is confined to professional associations in the Humanities and Social Sciences, where anti-Israel activist faculty have some ability to rig the system in their favor through control of key committees and programs. Unlike in the real world at universities, the faculty who take control of professional organizations are not counterbalanced by the faculty as a whole, students, administrators, trustees, parents and alumni.  Professional organizations are the perfect vehicle for anti-Israel activists for this reason. The activists have the ability filter the debate and tailor the information provided to membership so as to provide a one-sided view. That's what happened at the American Studies Association, which passed a boycott resolution but refused to distribute to the membership materials requested by the pro-Israel side. The resolution passed with less than 20% of the total membership voting for it, because of low overall participation.  Since then the ASA has turned into a full-time boycott entity, with its executive board calling for a complete boycott of Israel in all aspects, and an entire day of boycott organizing scheduled alongside its Annual Meeting. At the Modern Language Association debate last January on a resolution critical of supposed Israeli travel restrictions on academics, the panel discussion at the annual meeting was limited to anti-Israel activists. At the house of delegates, pro-Israel faculty did get a chance to argue against the resolution, and with that the resolution -- which had been expected to pass easily -- barely passed, and only after the language was watered down. When put to the entire membership, the resolution failed to gain the needed votes, and failed. Rigging the debate appears to be happening now at American Anthropological Association for an upcoming debate, as Haaretz reports, U.S. academics bemoan 'rigged’ fight in battle against BDS:

We previously wrote about a partial victory at the Modern Language Association House of Delegates during the annual meeting in January.  An anti-Israel resolution regarding alleged travel restrictions on academics was significantly watered down, and another resolution defending the American Studies Association's academic boycott of Israel was rejected. The Executive Council of MLA decided to send the travel resolution to the membership for an online vote.  The final travel resolution read:

Resolution 2014-1

Whereas Israel has denied academics of Palestinian ethnicity entry into the West Bank; Whereas these restrictions violate international conventions on an occupying power’s obligation to protect the right to education; Whereas the United States Department of State acknowledges on its Web site that Israel restricts the movements of American citizens of Palestinian descent; Whereas the denials have disrupted instruction, research, and planning at Palestinian universities; Whereas the denials have restricted the academic freedom of scholars and teachers who are United States citizens; Be it resolved that the MLA urge the United States Department of State to contest Israel’s denials of entry to the West Bank by United States academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.
There were complaints that the MLA leadership was not evenhanded in distributing materials to the membership, to the prejudice of pro-Israel members. Also, an online chat forum was disclosed in which gross anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic statements were made by MLA members. The results of the vote were just posted, and it failed to pass because less than 10% of the 30,000+ members voted.   Any resolution must be ratified by a majority vote in which the number of those voting for ratification equals at least ten percent of the association’s membership, which was 2,390 votes this year. There were 1,560 votes in favor of ratification and 1,063 votes against ratification. This is, in many ways, even more devastating than a simple loss.  It shows that the anti-Israel agenda of some radical academics simply isn't of much interest to the broader academic community.  The lack of interest by the overall membership is most telling of all. Prof. Cary Nelson of the University of Illinois issued the following statement on behalf of MLA Members for Scholars' Rights, a group opposing the resolution:

The Modern Language Association House Delegates voted on two anti-Israel Resolutions today. (The Resolutions are at the bottom of this post.) The main resolution, asking for the State Department to contest Israeli denials of entry visas to traveling academics: "Be it resolved that the MLA urges the US Dept of State to contest Israel's denials of entry to the West Bank by US academics...." The language was amended at the last minute to take out the word "arbitrarily" and to delete reference to Gaza. A House of Delegates vote is NOT a binding resolution that commits the organization to action. A resolution, if it passes the House of Delegates, then goes to the Executive Committee, which can reject the resolution for a variety of reasons, including that the resolution would jeopardize tax-exempt status). I would be surprised if the Executive Committee rejected it, since the operative language is so weak. We will have a post later from someone who was in the room. For now, I will post some of the Tweets from those in the room. Notice that there was significant pushback, and that the supporters of the resolution basically said take our word for it, when challenged as to the proof. That apparently was enough. The actual operative language of the resolution is not particularly damaging, and was watered down. But the "wherefore" clauses were highly anti-Israel and pretty-much propaganda. Those "wherefore" clauses will be the main victory for the anti-Israel group. The second resolution was an "Emergency" Resolution asking the MLA to denounce supposed attacks on the supporters of the American Studies Association boycott resolution. That Emergency Motion, which actually was explicitly pro-boycott, was rejected.