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Anthropologists Vote Overwhelmingly in Favor of BDS

The academic group representing American anthropologists voted by an overwhelming 1,040-to-138 margin on Friday night to approve a proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

The measure, which bans collaborations between the association and Israeli universities, will now go on to the group’s full 10,000-strong membership for an electronic vote in coming months.

“By supporting the boycott, anthropologists are taking a stand for justice through action in solidarity with Palestinians,” the pro=BDS group Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions said in a statement after the vote.

A related measure to block the boycott vote was defeated by a similarly wide margin, with 1,173 voting against and 196 in favor.

Supporters of BDS predicted the full membership will enact the measure.

“We are confident that the membership as a whole will come to the same conclusion that those of us in the room did,” the group said in a statement.

If the full membership approves the measure, the group would be the largest academic association yet to boycott Israeli institutions. The vote took place at a business meeting at its annual conference in Denver on Friday evening.

A handful of prominent U.S. academic associations, including the American Studies Association and American Literature Association, have adopted boycott resolutions in recent years. The AAA, which has 11,000 members, voted down a similar resolution at its 2014 meeting.

Sponsored by academics from Columbia University and Tufts, among other schools, the resolution would bar the AAA from “formal collaborations or other relationships with Israeli academic institutions.” No such collaborations currently exist. Individual Israeli scholars would not be banned from collaboration with the AAA, but Israeli universities would not be allowed to purchase access to a database of anthropology journals maintained by the AAA.

A second resolution, which will also be voted on at the November 20 business meeting, opposes an academic boycott. That resolution includes language opposing “conflating the activities of academics with the policies and actions of their governments.” The resolution would direct funds to support scholarships and grants for anthropologists in Israel and Palestine.

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