We believe there are three key reasons why MESA’s members should not approve removing the word “non-political” from the organization’s bylaws:

  1. It would transform MESA from being an academic organization into an advocacy organization, thereby badly hurting MESA’s credibility.
  2. In particular, it would undermine the credibility and legitimacy of MESA’s most important committee, the Committee on Academic Freedom. If the resolution is passed, government officials who receive CAF letters can much more easily disregard them as coming from an advocacy organization.
  3. It would jeopardize funding for MESA and institutional affiliates linked to MESA. Anti-BDS legislation has already been introduced in both houses of the US Congress, and the Trump Administration is looking to cut expenditures to fund its military build-up and infrastructure programs. Should MESA pass the resolution—and subsequently pass a pro-BDS resolution as the backers of the removal of the term “non-political” from MESA’s bylaws have openly advocated—funding for Middle East studies programs, and for MESA itself could well be endangered.

 

Dr. Robert O. Freedman
Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Ilan Troen
Brandeis University