Modern Language Association Overwhelmingly Passes Anti-BDS Motion
Edward Kunz Brandeis Blog
June 16, 2017


On June 14, 2017, the Modern Language Association (MLA) announced that a resolution against BDS had been ratified by their members, passing by a wide margin of 1,954 votes in favor to 885 against. Resolution 2017-1 states: “Whereas endorsing the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel contradicts the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature…be it resolved that the MLA refrain from endorsing the boycott.” The resolution also stated that such a boycott would curtail debates with faculty of Israeli universities, as well as block dialogue and scholarly exchange. Already, individuals aligned with MLA Members for Justice in Palestine have threatened to resign over the new anti-BDS vote.

The anti-BDS motion comes on the heels of an attempt to pass a pro-BDS motion at the MLA national conference in January of this year. The Louis D. Brandeis Center (LDB) penned a letter urging MLA to reject the then upcoming boycott vote in December of last year. LDB president Kenneth L. Marcus, speaking to the ultra vires nature of the potential resolution, stated that the MLA needed to know that “…these resolutions are unlawful and may subject the organization to liability, the MLA is chartered as a scholarly organization to promote the study of modern languages, not a political organization to engage in political affairs relating to Israel and the Middle East. It is unlawful for them to act outside their proper authority.”

Following LDB’s letter, and advocacy from other the organizations, the pro-BDS motion that was initially expected to pass in January was instead defeated by a vote of 113 to 79, by the MLA Delegate Assembly. On the same day, the MLA Delegate Assembly voted in favor of the anti-BDS resolution, proposed by MLA Members for Scholars Rights, by a vote of 101 in favor to 93 against. This resolution then went to the vote of full MLA membership, and passed this week.

The MLA has more than four times the membership of the American Studies Association (ASA), the largest academic group in the United States to have adopted an academic boycott resolution. The Brandeis Center, along with two other law firms, filed suit on behalf of four professors against the ASA for its unlawful boycott of Israel. Recently, a Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the ASA professors in four out of six claims, authorizing the case to move forward to discovery.

The anti-BDS vote, with a wide margin in favor, displays that individuals are growing tired of the relentless BDS votes that are being championed in organizations across the United States, many of which have nothing to do with Israel or politics. It also displays that the unrelenting nature of BDS activists is not leading to their eventual victories, but rather their own discrediting.

Original Article

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Lesley Klaff
Lesley Klaff is a senior lecturer in law at Sheffield Hallam University and an affiliate professor of law at Haifa University. She is expert in law and anti-Semitism, social and legal theory, and the English legal system.
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