Susan Handelman to Executive Director on MLA Boycotting Israel

A friend and colleague, and member of the MLA (Modern Language Association) for decades, just received an email  letter sent to all  25,000 members of the Association  from the Executive Director of the MLA informing them about the three proposed resolutions  that will be discussed and voted on at the annual MLA conference meeting in January, all of which concern the Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians.”

Dear Colleague,

If you are attending the 2017 MLA Annual Convention

 in Philadelphia, I write to remind you that the Delegate Assembly meeting will be held on Saturday, 7 January 2017, starting at 11:00 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom Salon GH at the Philadelphia Marriott. The meeting is open to all current MLA members.

The Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee (DAOC) establishes the agenda for the assembly meeting each year. The DAOC has placed three regular resolutions, proposed by members, on the agenda for consideration at the 2017 assembly meeting.

  • One resolution calls on the MLA to refrain from endorsing a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
  • One resolution calls on the MLA to endorse Palestinian civil society’s call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. 
  • One resolution calls on the MLA to condemn attacks on academic freedom in Palestinian universities.

These three resolutions are now posted online with supporting materials from the proposers. Because the first two resolutions appear to conflict with each other, they will be discussed by the assembly in an order to be determined by lot.

We also expect one or more emergency resolutions to be proposed by members. An emergency resolution that has been circulated for signatures calls on the MLA to endorse the statement from the American Association of University Professors on “higher education after the 2016 election.”

The DAOC and the Executive Council have provided three key opportunities at the convention for members to discuss the issues surrounding the resolutions or the resolutions themselves:

1. On Thursday, 5 January, from 5:15 to 7:00 p.m., there will be a Town Hall Meeting on the question, Should the MLA endorse a boycott of Israeli academic institutions?  Members not attending the convention will have the opportunity to participate online and to listen to a live stream of the discussion.

2. On Friday, 6 January, from 10:15 to 11:30 a.m., there is an Open Hearing on Resolutions, where members and delegates may discuss the resolutions on the Delegate Assembly’s agenda and any emergency resolutions that are submitted. No votes will be taken at this session. 

3. On Saturday, 7 January, at 11:00 a.m., the Delegate Assembly meeting begins; votes will be taken on the resolutions that are on the assembly’s agenda.

Any resolution approved by the Delegate Assembly would need to be reviewed by the Executive Council and forwarded to the full membership for commenting and a vote. 

The council and DAOC are committed to providing opportunities for thoughtful and respectful discussion at the convention, and I hope that you will be able to participate. I look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia.

Rosemary G. Feal
Executive Director

Professor Handelman responded as follows:

Dear Ms Feal,
Thank you for all your hard work on behalf of the Modern Language Association.

I have been a member of MLA since 1977 and have, and have been a literature professor since 1979.

I received this message from you below about Delegate Assembly resolutions regarding the Israel- Palestinian conflict.

Aside from the complexities of that situation , I don’t need to tell you about what’s happening in Aleppo, or the million people in Mosul who are trapped in the fighting between ISIS and Iraqi forces. I read your message and I asked myself: “THIS is what the MLA is discussing and making resolutions about?”

I am sorry to say that I am ashamed and embarrassed as an MLA member.

Below is a three minute youtube video of an Israeli-Arab newscaster making a plea in English about the genocide in Syria .

Would that the MLA could be as eloquent and an honest and deeply moral as she is here, and fulfill its aspirations to be a serious ethical and cultural voice, instead of diminishing and reducing itself to discussions of boycotting other academics, and further lose credibility.

Please take two minutes to watch it.
Perhaps you can induce the MLA to make some kind of public stand about this, instead of wasting its time on inappropriate ideological combat.

See this article about Lucy Aharish and the few minutes she took to say these words in English on her news broadcast.

With best wishes for a successful convention,

Yours truly,
Prof. Susan Handelman

I was recently reminded of #IDD (Israel Derangement Disorder), when the NYT posted a wave of articles about Trump’s ambassadorial choice for Israel, even as civilians were slaughtered in Aleppo.

In this case, we find the MLA, in its BDS-induced obsession with Israel’s unacceptable violations of Palestinian “civil and academic rights”, while all around her exists a political environment where the power players – including the Palestinians – grant no rights or freedoms to their own people, much less to their minorities, and who readily treat their own people’s lives with contempt. And even as that happens a staggering scale before our eyes, in Aleppo, in Mosul, in Yemen, in Nigeria, in Sudan, progressives like the PoMoPoCos at the MLA keep their eye on that oh-so gratifying world of narratives about sovereign Jews behaving badly. Indeed, so strong is their obsession, that they endanger their 501C3 status just to pursue completely tangential issues.

Those whom the gods would destroy they first drive mad. And so it goes with the social justice warriors of the 21st century.

3 Responses to Susan Handelman to Executive Director on MLA Boycotting Israel

  1. Walter Sobchak says:

    “Below is a three minute youtube video”

    * * *

    “Please take two minutes to watch it.”

    Watch a three minute video in two minutes?

  2. […] would be bad enough, but silent as well? Why is it that members of the Modern Language Association can think of nothing better to do at this year’s meeting than condemn […]

  3. […] would be bad enough, but silent as well? Why is it that members of the Modern Language Association can think of nothing better to do at this year’s meeting than condemn […]

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