I’m at the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association (MLA) in Philadelphia. The MLA Delegate Assembly voted today on two resolutions, for and against, of an academic boycott of Israel. The resolution against the boycott was carried narrowly, the resolution in favor of the boycott was defeated by a wider margin.
There were several forums which addressed the pros and cons of the boycott at this meeting.
Speaking as someone who cut his political teeth as part of the group coordinating the boycott of apartheid South Africa at my UK university in the late 1960s and early 70s, the arguments and observations made by the anti-boycotters here were uncannily similar, indeed eerily so, to those I encountered from apartheid supporters and sympathizers decades ago.
Hence, it was said here that the boycott of Israel would hurt Palestinians more than Israelis, in exactly the way that apartheid supporters said the same on behalf of nameless and countless black South Africans.
Palestinian civil society launched the boycott movement (BDS) and called for international support, in just the way that the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa called for an international boycott of their country.
Both Palestinians and South African blacks said they were willing to make the concomitant sacrifices. Who are we to deny their request, unless we happen to be Zionists now or supporters of South African apartheid then?
The old canard of…