Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)
Whereas Arab and Muslim, Asian, Black, Indigenous, Latin@, and LGBTQ communities, students, activists, and scholars have been subjected to profiling, surveillance, and state violence that have circumscribed their freedom of political expression, particularly in relation to the issue of human rights in Palestine and the state of Israel;
Whereas the Critical Ethnic Studies Association seeks to foster scholarship on colonialism, racism, heteropatriarchy, and the colonial gender binary, and that engages conditions of migration, the displacement, ethnic cleansing or transfer, and eradication of peoples, and of the lives of people in zones of war and occupation;
Whereas the Critical Ethnic Studies Association seeks to advance a critique of U.S. empire, opposing US military occupation in the Arab world and U.S. support for Israeli settler-colonialism, occupation and racism;
CESA BDS Proposed Resolution and Online Discussion (March and April 2014)
The Critical Ethnic Studies Association Working Group is excited to inform you that we are currently considering a resolution endorsing and honoring the call of Palestinian civil society to boycott Israeli academic institutions. We recognize that conditions of colonialism and apartheid in Israel/Palestine are not separate from our intellectual and political work inside and outside the academic industrial complex, and that the call for Boycott, Divsetment and Sanctions (BDS) is a call to organizations like ours.
Prior to our 2013 conference, Decolonizing Future Intellectual Legacies and Activist Practices in Chicago, we posted a statement on our website to initiate a period of discussion and information sharing among our members and constituents on this topic. During the 2013 conference CESA hosted workshops and discussions on this topic - to which a resolution was drafted. Our Working Group members now seek to circulate our current draft of the resolution to CESA’s constituents.
We invite you to join a discussion forum on this proposed resolution and consider how we respond to the BDS movement’s call as anti-colonial, racial and gender justice scholars and activists.
Members and Constituent Engagement in BDS
As a new organization with our membership now launching, most of our constituents are not yet members. We encourage you to sign up for membership right away, but we also want to ensure that those who have been part of our conferences and programs, regardless of whether or not you are yet members, would have an opportunity to provide feedback to the Working Group about this proposed resolution.
How to Engage
To participate in this process, you can email CESAResolutionFeedback_at_gmail.com directly with feedback about the proposal resolution or join our online discussion forum on Facebook here.
The feedback period will be from March 10 to April 10, 2014. After that time, CESA’s Working Group will review the feedback together, propose and discuss changes suggested through this process and proceed in determining whether CESA will pass a resolution.
For Facebook Participation
If you choose to participate in the Facebook discussion, you must have a Facebook account and be logged in. If you do not have Facebook, you can sign up for an account for the purposes of joining this discussion group, or send feedback directly to the CESA working group at, CESAResolutionFeedback_at_gmail.com. When logged in to Facebook, follow this link.
You can also find the page within Facebook by searching for "CESA BDS."
When you are on the CESA BDS page, click "Join Group." This will send a message to the page administrators to approve your request. This is a necessary measure to restrict participation to CESA’s members and constituents. We will do our best to move quickly with these requests.
After you have been added as a participant of this group, you can post materials and comment on posts. These posts will need to be approved as an added measure to avoid unsolicited posts by non-group participants, though we will do our best to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Our organization’s very purpose comes from a commitment to scholarship, activism, and base building and we hope that you will join us in these efforts!
(See Proposed Resolution Below)
• Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
• US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
• BDS Movement
• Palestinian Queers for BDS
• US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
• Students for Justice in Palestine
CESA Letter of Support to the American Studies Association (December 2013)
American Studies Association
1120 19th Street NW, Suite 301 Washington DC 20036
December 11, 2013
To the National Council of the American Studies Association:
We, the International Working Group of the Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA), write to express support for your recent actions to discuss and decide upon the Palestinian call for boycott of Israeli academic institutions. As our mission statement outlines,
Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA) has as its central goal the development of an approach to scholarship, institution building, and activism that is animated by the spirit of the decolonial, antiracist, and other global liberationist movements that enabled the creation of Ethnic Studies (Asian American Studies, Black Studies, Native American Studies, Arab-American Studies, Latino/a Studies, and Postcolonial Studies) and continues to inform its political and intellectual projects. CESA seeks to construct an open dialogue around white supremacy, settler colonialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy, as well as militarism, occupation, indigeneity, neocolonialism, anti-immigration, anti-Islam, etc. in order to expand the conceptual parameters and transformative capacities of ethnic studies.
Your recent actions model the principled approach to open dialogue on urgent matters of injustice that we seek to cultivate at our universities, in our communities, and within CESA.
Many of us were present at this year’s ASA meeting as members of the Association and as conference participants. We were impressed by the ways that the ASA created space for meaningful intellectual exchange regarding the relationship between the association and the call for boycott. The process was open, participatory, and educative, bringing into public discussion an urgent issue that is significant within and outside the academy. The ASA National Council’s statement on the proposed resolution was thoughtful, responsive, and respectful. We see your encouragement of critical dialogue on an otherwise silenced issue as serving the expansion of scholarly exchange.
The call for BDS is a challenging resolution that incites passionate responses across the political spectrum. However, the responsible and ethical work of academic organizations is to engage politically controversial topics through dialogue and deliberation, in order to decide on a collective position. The call for BDS is one of the most relevant challenges to academic organizations today, and all organizations and institutions ought to engage the call and allow members to come to a decision on whether and how to respond.
Thus, for scholars of American Studies and Ethnic Studies, the BDS call is something we cannot refuse to hear, to discuss, and to act upon. We are aware that aid provided by the US, Canada, and other governments to Israel directly harms Palestinian scholars and students. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu expressed, “Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.” Academic institutions are already complicit in the apartheid conditions facing Palestinians. For that reason, we know there is no neutral position from which to receive the call for BDS. We commend the ASA for connecting the critical work it has long cultivated on issues of racism, colonialism and militarism to its own institutional status by heeding the call for boycott.
CESA’s International Working Group is currently discussing a resolution for boycott that has been proposed within our organization. We urge scholars to participate in the ASA referendum, if applicable, and more broadly the discussions about BDS at our respective institutional locations.
We thank the ASA for engaging your membership on this important issue and taking a principled stand.
CESA and BDS (2012)
The Critical Ethnic Studies Association is a new organization, working to form our membership as we build towards our second conference in September of 2013 in Chicago. Members of the National Working Group have been in conversation about how we might respond to the call made by the Palestinian Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for academics, students and artists to participate in a boycott of Israeli institutions. As we build our membership, we hope to educate members about the BDS campaign so that we might consider, as an organization, a resolution in support of BDS once our membership is established.
The call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel is part of a larger boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. In 2005, over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations endorsed a call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel. The call asks that we honor the boycott until “Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law" by:
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
People all over the world are working in their own communities and institutions to heed this call. Many academics and artists, like Naomi Klein, Carlos Santana and Gill Scott Heron, have refused invitations to Israeli universities or other venues. Many are working to push their institutions to divest from Israeli companies. Recently, the University of Toronto grad students union passed a resolution endorsing BDS and asked their campus to divest from “any company that profits from the illegal occupation of Palestinian land, directly benefits from the construction of the Wall and Israeli settlements, is economically active in settlements, and profits from the collective punishment of Palestinians. . . . including BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Hewlett Packard.” Similar efforts are underway at universities around the globe. Since 2010, Jewish Voices for Peace has been working on a campaign to get financial services giant TIAA-CREF to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. Many teachers, non-profit workers, and university workers have TIAA-CREF retirement funds and have become leaders in their own workplaces to help build the campaign. In these various campaigns, many are drawing parallels to the use of a boycott strategy against apartheid in South Africa.
CESA asserts that our “central goal [is] the development of an approach to scholarship, institution building, and activism that is animated by the spirit of the decolonial, antiracist, and other global liberationist movements.” We have observed that, “critical ethnic studies, while building bridges beyond the academy, locates itself within the neoliberal university as a site of contestation and as part of the struggle over the political, economic, cultural, etc. structures of the world that we inhabit.” We recognize that conditions of colonialism and apartheid in Israel/Palestine are not separate from our intellectual and political work inside and outside the academic industrial complex, and that the call for BDS is a call to people like us. For this reason, as we build our membership we hope that our organization will become a space for discussion and engagement with the BDS call, and for our membership to consider how we might best respond to this call as anti-colonial and anti-racist scholars. Please take time to read about the BDS campaign by following the links below and look for more information coming soon at our September 2013 conference and in our forthcoming Journal of Critical Ethnic Studies.