Few trends in academia are more depressing than the continued domination of Middle Eastern studies departments by postcolonial professors whose shtick involves recycling cliched attacks on the United States as the "Great Satan" and Israel as the "Little Satan." The results of this trend are evident in faculty antipathy toward Israel, which is increasingly playing out in their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
This reached a new pinnacle in March 2022 when the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) voted to formally support an academic boycott of Israeli universities. "Our members have cast a clear vote to answer the call for solidarity from Palestinian scholars and students experiencing violations of their right to education and other human rights," MESA's president, Eve Troutt Powell, wrote of the resolution. "MESA's Board will work to honor the will of its members and ensure that the call for an academic boycott is upheld without undermining our commitment to the free exchange of ideas and scholarship."
MESA, which has more than 2,800 members and more than 50 institutional members, describes itself as a "private, non-profit learned society that brings together scholars, educators and those interested in the study of the region from all over the world." Academic Middle East studies departments are crucial in the development of American students'—and by extension the American public's—views of the Middle East. It is also the mechanism that informs and helps shape U.S. policymakers, from the State Department to the military and intelligence communities. MESA's vote to boycott Israeli academics and institutions puts scholars on notice that professional acceptance in the organization now demands that they discriminate against individuals on the basis of their national, ethnic, and religious origins.
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