August 7, 2014 at 8:07 pm

4 Michigan professors join Mideast scholars in call for Israeli academic boycott

Several Michigan professors are joining a group of more than 100 prominent Middle East scholars and librarians from across the country and abroad calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

The regional professionals backing the move in support of Palestinians, according to a statement released Wednesday, are: Barbara Aswad, a professor emeritus of anthropology at Wayne State University and past president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America; May Seikaly, associate professor of modern Middle East history at Wayne State; Anton Shammas, professor of Middle Eastern studies and comparative literature at the University of Michigan; and Kathryn Babayan, associate professor, director of the UM Center of Armenian Studies.

Citing Israel’s month-long seige of Gaza and “the occupation and dispossession in East Jerusalem, the Naqab (Negev), and the West Bank; the construction of walls and fences around the Palestinian population, the curtailment of Palestinian freedom of movement and education, and the house demolitions,” the group pledged “not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions, not to teach at or to attend conferences and other events at such institutions, and not to publish in academic journals based in Israel,” according to a statement Wednesday.

The academics, who also include scholars from Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and Stanford, said their request follows recent academic boycott resolutions by groups including the American Studies Association, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association and African Literature Association.

Meanwhile, others are seeking action against Israel after ongoing fighting that has killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians, wounded more than 9,000 and left some 250,000 people homeless, according to Palestinian medical officials and the United Nations. Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians.

A group of protesters in Ann Arbor has been calling for city leaders to boycott Israeli products because of the month-long bombing in Gaza.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights and advocacy organization, this week said its chapters nationwide have collected more than 26,000 letters signed by community members urging elected officials to demand an end to the attacks.

As the clock ticked down on a three-day truce between Israel and Hamas, which runs Gaza, Hamas on Thursday rejected Israeli demands it disarm and threatened to resume its rocket attacks if its demands for lifting a crippling blockade on Gaza were not met.