Will BDS Reversal Revive MLA?

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

The remarkable refusal, year after year, of the world’s largest, and arguably most progressive, association of professors to endorse the move to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS) is becoming even more so with each passing convention: This year they even issued a statement against boycotts. “Dozens of humanities scholars cancelled their membership with their field’s leading professional academic organization ahead of its annual convention, in retaliation for the group refusing to impose boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel,” Rachel Frommer wrote in Inside Higher Ed on January 7, 2018. “The defecting professors wrote to the Modern Language Association—published in the days leading up to the conference being held this week in New York City—that they will not be renewing their membership, due to the organization ‘disgracefully’ voting in June against BDS and in favor of a statement denouncing academic boycotts.”

This trend is even more remarkable to those of us who attend the MLA’s annual conclaves and still have BDS swag from recent conventions and programs showing that pro-BDS panels outnumber anti-BDS forums at the yearly meetings by about the ratio that Democrats outnumber Republicans on college campuses. Could this boycott of bocotts, to revive a phrase that might be used by the more traditional English professors who populated the MLA in days of old, lead to a a renaissance for the organization?