With anti-Israel vote, anthropologists support greatest hoax since the Piltdown man

Some 10,000 demonstrators march on the White House in Washington, D.C., to protest Israel’s offensive in Gaza known as “Operation Protective Edge,” Aug. 2, 2014. Credit: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock.

by Jason Shvili

(FLAME) — Anthropology, a field already long regarded — accurately or not — as a pseudoscience that produces graduates with scant job prospects, just took a major hit to its integrity and intellectual stature. The American Anthropological Association recently voted in favor of a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions, joining in the vilification and empirically false accusations against the Jewish state that defines the BDS movement.

Ironically, it’s likely the AAA and its members who will suffer most from the passage of this resolution, not Israel.

As with all pro-BDS resolutions, the AAA resolution unfairly singles out and demonizes Israel — a clear act of Jew-hatred according to the globally accepted IHRA definition of antisemitism. It falsely accuses Israel of oppressing the Palestinians, being an apartheid state and enlisting its academic institutions to persecute Palestinians.

The resolution was carried in a vote involving just 37 percent of AAA members — hardly a consensus. More importantly, the AAA action is counterproductive because it targets the very academic institutions in Israel that strive to promote cooperation and dialogue between Jews and Arabs.

It’s hard to imagine a serious, self-respecting anthropology professional supporting the embarrassing parade of falsehoods contained in AAA’s resolution to support BDS and demonize the Jewish state.

Like the anthropological hoax of last century’s Piltdown man, AAA’s pro-BDS resolution is based on lies. The resolution asserts that a) Israel violates the rights of the Palestinian people; b) Israel is a racist, apartheid state, and c) Israel’s academic institutions assist the Israeli military and are therefore complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Piltdown, you may recall, was touted as a hominid ancestor representing the missing link between humans and apes. It was based on alleged skeletal findings by several prominent anthropologists, and was only exposed as a hoax by other scientists some 40 years later.

The AAA’s anti-Israel representations are equally untrue and expose it to a similar scandal.

In fact, Israel respects the rights of Palestinians more than any country in the Middle East. Two million Israeli Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the same rights as Jewish citizens. There is simply no separation by race or ethnicity… and zero apartheid.

More than 90 percent of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) and the Gaza Strip — who are not Israeli citizens — have self-governance under the Oslo Accords. While Israel does not deny Palestinians basic, day-to-day civil liberties, their respective dictatorships treat them harshly. Their rulers deny them all basic civil liberties: Free speech, assembly and voting are not allowed, nor is rule of law respected. Corruption is rampant.

Yet the AAA resolution makes no mention of this cruel Palestinian-on-Palestinian oppression.

Moreover, Israel has multiple times tried to free itself of the need to control the territories where most Palestinians live — by offering the Palestinians statehood. On three separate occasions since 2000, Israel offered 95 percent of Judea and Samaria and a capital in Jerusalem in exchange for peace.

The AAA fails to mention these peace offers, or that Palestinian leaders refused every one.

Nor is Israel a racist state. In fact, it is the most racially diverse, multicultural and tolerant country in the region. Israeli Arabs participate equally in every facet of Israeli society, including all levels of government, and Arabs and Jews live side by side in many larger cities.

For good measure, women and sexual minorities also enjoy equal rights in Israel — unlike any other country in the Middle East.

Yet the AAA neglects to condemn any other state — not Egypt, not Yemen, not China, not Indonesia, not Saudi Arabia — for their persecution of racial, religious or sexual minorities.

Finally, Israel’s academic institutions are no more complicit in the activities of the Israeli military than American academic institutions are in the activities of the American military. Yet, the AAA resolution does not call for a boycott of academic institutions in the United States — or in Russia or Iran, whose academies are fully in the pockets of their rulers.

Rather than furthering peace, dialogue and honest debate within their discipline, the AAA’s boycott serves to suppress truth and academic freedom. Indeed, prior to the AAA vote on the pro-BDS resolution, the Anthropologists for Academic Freedom issued a statement saying, “A boycott means that the American Anthropological Association will be participating in an assault on fundamental principles of open discourse, exchange of ideas, and free argumentation — principles that lie at the very foundation of the academy.”

Another statement calling on AAA to “unequivocally reject” the resolution was issued by the Alliance for Academic Freedom and the Academic Engagement Network, who jointly represent nearly 1,000 U.S. faculty, including anthropologists and members of AAA. It was signed by more than 100 organizations, including major Jewish organizations and even left-leaning associations, such as Americans for Peace Now, J Street and Partners for a Progressive Israel.

By joining the BDS movement, AAA is also working against academic institutions trying to promote peace and dialogue between Jews and Arabs. That’s why Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, the former President of Al-Quds University, who once served as the PLO’s representative in eastern Jerusalem, said, “It is within the (Israeli) academic community that we’ve had the most progressive pro-peace views and views that have come out in favor of seeing us as equals… If you want to punish any sector, this is the last one to approach.”

In short, the AAA’s pro-BDS resolution is shameful — severely diminishing an already beleaguered profession and its members. Indeed, 107 organizations warned they would boycott AAA if the resolution passed. AAA also faces lawsuits for violating the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by Virginia, where the association is based, and for violating state laws prohibiting BDS activities.

Until AAA reverses its decision to support the antisemitic BDS movement, self-respecting professionals in anthropology and other academic fields should avoid cooperating with the association. Boycotts work both ways.

Jason Shvili is a contributing editor at Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.