By Ali Abunimah
The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) has declared its support for the Palestinian call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
This comes in the same week that members of the American Studies Association (ASA) overwhelmingly endorsed the boycott in a referendum.
“As the elected council of an international community of Indigenous and allied non-Indigenous scholars, students, and public intellectuals who have studied and resisted the colonization and domination of Indigenous lands via settler state structures throughout the world, we strongly protest the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and the legal structures of the Israeli state that systematically discriminate against Palestinians and other Indigenous peoples,” NAISA’s governing body announced in a “Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions.”
Affirming “that our efforts are directed specifically at the Israeli state, not at Israeli individuals,” the NAISA Council urged the organization’s “members to boycott Israeli academic institutions because they are imbricated with the Israeli state and we wish to place pressure on that state to change its policies.”
NAISA, officially founded in 2008, describes itself as “the premiere international and interdisciplinary professional organization for scholars, graduate students, independent researchers, and community members interested in all aspects of Indigenous Studies.”
Its most recent annual conference at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada was attended by more than 900 individuals.
NAISA’s founding president, Robert Warrior, an eminent scholar in the field, is Director of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is an enrolled member of the Osage Nation.
“I speak out publicly opposing the occupation whenever I get the chance,” Warrior wrote last year. “I have been to Palestine twice,” he added, “Opposing the occupation is among my most important causes.”
Deliberation and consensus
Current NAISA president Chadwick Allen, professor of English at Ohio State University, published a message to NAISA members on the group’s website explaining that the action was taken after the NAISA Council “received a member-generated petition asking that NAISA formally support the Boycott of Israeli Academic and Cultural Institutions that was initiated by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and taken up in the US by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.”
This led to “several months of deliberations” after which, Allen wrote, the council “reached consensus” on supporting the boycott and decided to issue its own declaration.
Allen invited members to engage in further discussions about the declaration and boycott at NAISA’s 2014 conference.
In April, the Association for Asian American Studies became the first major US academic association to endorse the boycott.
Boycott leads to engagement
Perhaps anticipating the kinds of claims made against the ASA, NAISA, like the ASA, went to lengths to stress that observing the academic boycott of Israeli institutions neither impinges on academic freedom nor closes off dialogue.
“We champion and defend intellectual and academic freedom, and we recognize that conversation and collaboration with individuals and organizations in Israel/Palestine can make an important contribution to the cause of justice,” the NAISA declaration states.
“In recognition of the profound social and political obstacles facing Palestinians in such dialogues, however, we urge our members and supporters to engage in such actions outside the aegis of Israeli educational institutions, honoring this boycott until such time as the rights of the Palestinian people are respected and discriminatory policies are ended,” the declaration concludes.
December 18, 2013