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The Middle East Studies Association said Wednesday that its members voted 768 to 167 to join the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, “as a way to hold the government accountable for ongoing human rights violations.” The online vote began in January and ended this week. MESA’s Board of Directors will now work with the group’s Committee on Academic Freedom to enforce the resolution, which says that the boycott will not target individual students or scholars and that MESA members may choose whether or not to participate. The resolution accuses Israel of “restricting freedom of movement for Palestinians; isolating, undermining, or otherwise attacking Palestinian educational institutions; harassing Palestinian professors, teachers, and students; harassing Israeli professors and students criticizing Israeli policies; destroying, confiscating, or otherwise rendering Palestinian archival material inaccessible; and maintaining inequality in educational resources between Palestinians and Israelis.”

Eve Troutt Powell, MESA’s president and Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of History and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement, “Since 2005, the BDS vote has been discussed among MESA members, who have organized various forums for conversations and debates regarding 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. We affirm our commitment to academic freedom for Palestinians, and for all scholars in all countries throughout the region.”

The Academic Engagement Network, which opposes BDS, said in a statement that as an organization “committed to open intellectual exchange and inquiry, we find it deeply ironic that this resolution is being presented within the framework of MESA’s ‘commitment to academic freedom,’ when BDS is, in fact, antithetical to this very principle and core value that defines the academy.” AEN said that the endorsement of BDS “will inevitably—and inequitably—discriminate against, exclude, and isolate Israeli scholars by singling out the Israeli academy for boycott.”

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of the AMCHA Initiative, a nonprofit that fights anti-Semitism at colleges and universities, said in a separate statement, “What MESA did is morally reprehensible and incredibly dangerous. Although the academic boycott that MESA members voted to endorse seemingly targets only Israeli institutions and scholars, the biggest victims of academic BDS are students and faculty on U.S. campuses.”