National Women’s Studies Association to consider BDS resolution at upcoming conference

The National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) will consider the following resolution, developed by Feminists for Justice in Palestine, at its upcoming convention, November 12-15 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which aims to bring the NWSA among the academic associations that have officially endorsed the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.

In the lead-up to the conference, resolution proponents Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi and Simona Sharoni have published an article highlighting a transnational feminist perspective on BDS:

Feminists for Justice in/for Palestine

Support An Indivisible Sense of Justice! Support BDS

A Resolution submitted to National Women”s Studies Association

As feminist scholars, activists, teachers, and public intellectuals we recognize the interconnectedness of systemic forms of oppression. In the spirit of this intersectional perspective, we cannot overlook the injustice and violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, perpetrated against Palestinians and other Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, within Israel and in the Golan Heights, as well as the colonial displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba. The discriminatory treatment, exclusion, military siege and apartheid imposed by Israel on its own Palestinian citizens as well as those residing in the occupied territories constitute flagrant breaches of international law, UN resolutions, and fundamental human rights.

In the present moment, our counterparts in Palestine face daily violations of their human rights, including their academic rights to free speech, assembly, association, and movement. At the same time, Israeli institutions of higher learning have not challenged, but instead legitimized, Israel”s oppressive policies and violations. These violations, which severely impact the daily lives and working conditions of Palestinian scholars, students, and the society at large, are also enabled by U.S. tax dollars and the tacit support of western powers, thus making any taxpayer in the West complicit in perpetuating these injustices.

As members of NWSA who are committed to justice, dignity, equality and peace, we affirm our opposition to the historical and current injustices in Palestine that we view as part and parcel of the multiple oppressions we study and teach about. We also affirm the commitment of NWSA to principles of human rights, justice and freedom for all, including academic freedom. At our 2014 national conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, nearly 800 participants signed a petition calling upon the organization to declare its support for the international movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. About 2500 members of the audience at the plenary on Palestine stood in unison in support of freedom and justice for/in Palestine.

Therefore, in keeping with these principles and the strong consensus of the majority of our 2014 conference participants, let be it resolved that the National Women”s Studies Association (NWSA) endorses the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of economic, military and cultural entities and projects sponsored by the state of Israel. In doing so, we join the growing grassroots international consensus and add our voices to other professional U.S. academic associations that adopted similar resolutions in recent years. These associations include the African Literature Association, American Studies Association, Association for Asian American Studies, Association for Humanist Sociology, Critical Ethnic Studies Association, National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, Peace and Justice Studies Association, University of Hawaii at Manoa-Ethnic Studies Department, United Auto Workers Local 2865, The University of California Student Workers Union, and over 1000 members of the American Anthropological Association.

Frequently Asked Questions*

1. Why support an economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel?
Boycott implicitly and explicitly represents a principled choice for the tactics of non-violence. The efforts to raise awareness about the issue are in response to the call by a wide coalition representing all sectors of Palestinian civil society-trades unions, professional organizations of academics, physicians, engineers, journalists, NGOs and cultural and women”s groups.

2. Does the boycott resolution unfairly single out Israel, after all there are many unjust states in the world?
The BDS campaign is a response to a specific broad and grassroots call from the Palestinian people. Because the U.S. is Israel”s principal international supporter, we are directly implicated in the destruction of Palestinian society. Thus, doing nothing implies complicity in the perpetuation of this grave injustice. NWSA will therefore call to conscience feminist activists, scholars and public intellectuals in support for justice in/for Palestine as an integral part of an indivisible sense of justice.

3. Isn”t a boycott of Israel discriminatory and even anti-Semitic?
The practices of discrimination, occupation, ethnic cleansing, illegal settlement and territorial expansion are not based on Judaism but are rather enshrined in the political philosophy of “Greater Israel” that has no basis in international law, history or Jewish religious or cultural tradition. Indeed, what is really anti-Semitic is the attempt to identify all Jews with a philosophy that many find abhorrent to the traditions of social justice and universality that Judaism enshrines.

4. Why is there no mention of Palestinian violence?
The resolution is a specific response to a nonviolent grassroots initiative by Palestinian civil society. History shows us that oppressed people will resist their oppression (and are legitimized by international law to defend themselves against the brutalities of colonialism and occupation). Palestinians have responded to the Israeli Occupation with a wide range of strategies, including violent and nonviolent means. Our support for BDS would pressure Israel to stop its violations of Palestinian rights and minimize the need of the Palestinian people to turn to violent resistance as a last resort against their colonization.

5. Why an academic boycott?
All major Israeli universities are governmental institutions that benefit directly and materially from a close relationship with the security-military establishment. Some institutions have been directly involved in providing the ideological justification and technical means for the continuation and maintenance of the occupation. Furthermore, not a single Israeli academic institution has petitioned the Israeli government to protect Palestinian rights to education or to cease interference with and destruction of Palestinian schools and colleges.

6. Won”t a boycott of Israel merely isolate and weaken those individuals and groups within Israel that promote peace and dialogue with Palestinians? Should we not rather give our positive support to them instead?
The boycott proposal aims specifically at institutions, not at individuals, even those most privileged by the Occupation. While some Israeli Jews genuinely oppose the occupation and endorse BDS, Israeli society as a whole has rejected the practical steps that could lead to a just and lasting solution to the conflict. Decades of refraining from pressuring Israel have resulted in the expansion of Israeli Jewish settlements on Palestinian land as well as deterioration of Palestinian living conditions. Endorsing BDS does not preclude supporting Israeli individuals and groups who advocate justice and peace. We embrace those individuals and groups and encourage exchanges and debates. While a successful boycott may directly impact the material conditions and facilities of Israeli academics, Jewish and Palestinian Arab, it does not seek to silence, censor, or deny rights of travel to any scholar, nor to dictate the beliefs or opinions they wish to express. BDS challenges the practice of institutions and their representatives, not individual scholars, students or artists.

7. What are some examples of activities that would violate an academic/cultural boycott? For example, would an invitation to an Israeli colleague to give a seminar talk on my campus cross the line? What about calling her or him on the phone?
A seminar talk in partnership with or sponsored by an Israeli institution is subject to boycott. Free of complicit institutional sponsorship or funding, Israeli academic talks are not subject to boycott. By itself, a phone conversation with an Israeli academic does not constitute a violation of the boycott. However, institutional partnership is subject to boycott; therefore, we urge academics, in exercising their own academic freedoms, to refuse all collaboration with complicit institutions and their official representatives.

* These FAQs are adopted from the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel ( and the American Studies Association (

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