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Thursday, January 08, 2015

[haw-info] Report on HAW at the AHA

Members and supporters of HAW,

By now, many of you have read about HAW's very active presence at the AHA Annual Meeting in New York over the past weekend.  We have waited until the dust settled before reporting back to you in detail; at the bottom of this email are links to a range of coverage, from accurate reports in the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education to less reliable stories from several Israeli newspapers. 

We began with a Roundtable sponsored by MARHO: The Radical Historians Organization (an AHA affiliate) on January 3, discussing "What Is the Responsibility of Historians Regarding the Israel-Palestine Conflict." Speakers included Joel Beinin of Stanford, Barbara Weinstein and Linda Gordon of New York University, and Leena Dallasheh of Rice.  The moderator was Steering Committee member Carolyn Eisenberg of Hofstra.  HAW members present agreed it was very successful—from the large, engaged audience, which included former AHA President Natalie Zemon Davis, incoming President Vicki L. Ruiz, and other prominent historians, to the quality of the discourse. Carolyn led off by evoking the debates in AHA over Vietnam forty years ago, when she had just joined, followed by analysis of the "silencing" of Palestinian history (Leena), the many ways in which Palestinian scholarship and intellectual life have been attacked and undermined since the founding of Israel (Joel), how in Europe BDS has led to meaningful economic sanctions whereas here it focuses on cultural boycotts (Linda), and how those of us not teaching the Middle East can incorporate its history into our pedagogy (Barbara).  Even if you have discussed and read about Israel/Palestine for years, there were new and powerful insights, and we urge you to go to this HAW page with links to the various presentations:  http://historiansagainstwar.org/aha15

The Roundtable was also attended by a group calling itself "Historians Against Academic Boycotts" (or, sometimes, the Alliance for Academic Freedom), which put flyers on all the chairs objecting to the resolutions HAW had sent in on December 22, asking for consideration at the Business Meeting. More generally, these historians disagreed with the premise of the Roundtable that, as historians, we have a responsibility to discuss and, when necessary, criticize Israel, including its violations of academic freedom.  It was clear that they would mobilize heavily for the Business Meeting, to oppose a suspension of the rules allowing our resolutions to be debated. As it turned out, they were successful, and by a vote of 144 to 51 (with 3 voting "present"), the meeting on Sunday voted against permitting debate on our resolutions.

At the meeting itself, it was clear as soon as Executive Director James Grossman read the AHA Council's rationale for not adding our resolutions to the agenda (that they had arrived too late to permit full discussion, after people had already decided whether or not to attend) that we would lose.  A two-thirds vote would have been required, in any case, a very high bar.

Some observers have suggested that we made our resolutions in blithe ignorance of AHA rules.  This was hardly the case:  the idea of proposing these two resolutions first came up during a Palestine-Israel Working Group phone meeting in late November. A resolution (not ours) in favor of BDS had been circulating among some historians already, and the Working Group members who had seen it thought it was not likely to pass the AHA. The group all, however, agreed that a positive resolution, explaining the actual difficulties faced by Palestinian scholars and West Bank and Gazan universities because of the Israeli occupation, might be more able to open the discussion, and garner support even of AHA members who were wary of BDS.  We were well aware that the deadline to guarantee consideration (November 1) was past.  Acting on advice from persons familiar with AHA's past practice, that indeed such a suspension of the Business Meeting agenda was allowed in the rules and has happened before, we decided to go ahead.  At the least, we thought, we could guarantee some discussion, and prepare the ground for further action in the future.  And that is what has happened. Instead of waiting a full year, we have gained a great deal of publicity, stimulated ample debate, and (not the least) seen in detail the arguments against our work within the profession to criticize Israel's denial of Palestinian rights. On that front, it is clear that we need to produce detailed, well-sourced reports on how international standards of academic freedom are routinely violated in Israel/Palestine, to answer those colleagues who felt they were being asked to vote on unproven allegations.  So, no matter how much crowing there is about the actual vote, that was a temporary victory for the opponents of free discussion. Crucially, AHA President Vicki Ruiz has announced that she will devote half her presidential sessions at next year's Annual Meeting to historicizing the Israel/Palestine conflict. 

In descending order of importance and factual accuracy, here is the press coverage of what happened last weekend.  You will note in many cases the false assertion that our resolutions on academic freedom were linked to an earlier resolution proposing that AHA endorse BDS.










Van Gosse
Department of History
Franklin & Marshall College
Lancaster PA 17604-3003

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For all kinds of useful material, including Portside and the Radical History Review, go to the website of the Post-Capitalist Project:

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

[haw-info] HAW Notes 1/6/15: AHA links; links to recent articles of interest

Note: At the recent AHA convention the History News Network (HNN) videotaped presentations at the Jan. 3 roundtable entitled "What Is the Responsibility of Historians Regarding the Israel/Palestine Conflict?" Links are as follows: Carolyn Eisenberg; Leena Dallasheh; Joel Beinin; Linda Gordon; Barbara Weinstein. At the AHA's annual business meeting the next day, attendees voted not to add two late-submitted resolutions critical of Israeli practices bearing on academic freedom to the meeting's agenda. Links to a number of documents and stories regarding the convention are being posted on the HAW website.

Links to Recent Articles of Interest

By Andrew J. Bacevich, The Spectator (UK), posted January 3
The author, retired from teaching history at Boston University, is a fellow at Columbia University's School of Public and International Affairs.

By James Fallows, The Atlantic, posted December 31

By John Dickson, History News Network, posted December 22
The author is a former senior Foreign Service officer and a recent public history graduate from the University of Massachusetts.

By John Prados, History News Network, posted December 22
The author is a senior fellow of the National Security Archive at George Washington University and head of its CIA Documentation Project.

By John H. Coatsworth, History News Network, posted December 22
The author teaches history and Latin American Affairs at Columbia University.

By Alfred W. McCoy, History News Network, posted December 21
The author teaches history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has written two books on US torture policy.

By William R. Polk, History News Network, posted December 21
The author is a former State Department official and former University of Chicago historian.

By Greg Grandin, TomDispatch.com, posted December 21
The author teaches history at New York University.

By Nicolas J. S. Davies, Huffington Post, posted December 17
The author wrote Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

By Jon Wiener, The Nation blog, posted December 15
The author teaches history at the University of California, Irvine

The above list was edited by Steve Gosch and Jim O'Brien, with thanks to Rosalyn Baxandall, Mim Jackson, and an anonymous reader for suggesting articles that are included. Suggestions can be sent to jimobrien48@gmail.com.


Saturday, January 03, 2015

[haw-info] If you are at the AHA convention ...

The roundtable entitled "What Is the Responsibility of Historians Regarding the Israel/Palestine Conflict?", sponsored by MARHO: The Radical Historians Organization, will take place from 2:30 to 4:30 today (Saturday) in Concourse G of the New York Hilton. It will be chaired by Carolyn Eisenberg and panelists include Joel Beinin, Leena Dallasheh, Linda Gordon, and Barbara Weinstein.