Historians roundly reject resolution condemning Israel

At its annual conference Saturday, the American Historical Association (AHA) overwhelmingly rejected a resolution that would have injected the group into the Israeli-Palestinian political debate.

History News Network reports that the organization’s members voted 111-51 against the resolution, which critics described as a politically-motivated attack on Israel reliant on disputed allegations that Israel has denied academic freedom to Palestinians.

The resolution lists several complaints against Israel, accusing the country’s government of systematically depriving Palestinian scholars of intercourse with the wider world, and of targeting educational institutions during conflicts with Palestinian terrorist groups.

A similar resolution had been proposed at last year’s conference, but failed to make it onto the official agenda, leading supporters to redouble their efforts this year, introducing the resolution months ahead of the meeting and running advertisements in the AHA newsletter.

Opponents stepped up their rhetoric, as well, however, countering not only with ads of their own, but also with a recent op-ed by University of Maryland history professor Jeffrey Herf urging AHA members to reject the resolution.

[RELATED: UMD history prof urges colleagues to reject resolution condemning Israel]

Noting that “AHA is a scholarly, not a political organization,” Herf argued that “as historians we have neither the knowledge nor expertise to evaluate conflicting factual assertions about events in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.”

As evidence of the uncertainty surrounding the allegations, Herf also provided a memo from the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. disputing each of the claims outlined in the resolution and highlighting the significant increase in hiring and enrollment at Palestinian universities in recent years.

The AHA’s rejection of the anti-Israel resolution puts it at odds with several other scholarly associations, such as the American Studies Association and the American Anthropological Association, both of which have passed resolutions in recent years calling for boycotts against Israel by their members.

Predictably, the American Jewish Committee praised the AHA vote in a press release for refusing to go along with the resolution.

“AHA members rebuffed the efforts of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) activists to exploit American academic groups to single out Israel for condemnation," said AJC CEO David Harris. "Israeli-Palestinian peace can only be achieved in bilateral talks between the parties, not by anti-Israel activists trying to win over scholarly groups in the U.S.”

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