Posted: 10/22/2009 4:21:00 AM
Author: Edited by Edward Beck
Source: This report was published by the SPME Faculty Forum on Oct. 22, 2009

SPME (Scholars for Peace in the Middle East) AND CAPME (Canadian Academics for Peace in the Middle East) MEMBERS DEVELOPING MULTIPLE STRATEGIES TO ADDRESS MLA (Modern Language Association) RESOLUTION 2008-1 AND DRAFT RESOLUTIONS FOR 2009 CONVENTION
Complied from Submissions and Reports, Edited by Edward Beck

In response to Resolution 2008-1, proposed by the Radical Caucus and passed by the Modern Language Association (MLA) Delegate Assembly in December 2008, MLA members now have the opportunity to respond on the MLA Web site and eventually to vote. There is a grassroots effort to reject this resolution, which reads:

Whereas Palestinian Literature and culture are legitimate subjects of study;

Whereas the conditions in the occupied territories have been critical in shaping modern Arabic literature generally;

Whereas those teaching and writing about the occupation and about Middle East culture have regularly come under fire from anti-Palestinian groups on extra-academic grounds;

Whereas education at all levels in the occupied territories is being stifled by the occupation;

Be it resolved that the MLA endorse teaching and scholarship about Palestinian culture, supports members who come under attack for pursuing such work, and express solidarity with scholars of Palestinian culture.

In addition to its 2008 resolution, the Radical Caucus has submitted a new draft resolution for the 2009 MLA Convention. Professor Evelyn Avery working with Professors Ann Shapiro and Carole Kessner has also submitted a draft resolution for the 2009 MLA Convention. If MLA approves these resolutions, they will be debated at the Executive Council public meeting on December 28, 2009 and voted on at the Delegate Assembly on the following day. Each 2009 resolution must be considered independent of the other; MLA no longer accepts substitute resolutions. It is essential that concerned MLA members be at both meetings to oppose “the new 2009 Radical Caucus anti-Israeli draft resolution and support The 2009 pro- Israeli scholarship draft resolution which reads:

Resolution for MLA Delegate Assembly 2009

Whereas Israeli culture, literature and scholarship support open inquiry and debate;

Whereas Israeli scholars and universities have been subjected on political grounds to boycotts and censorship at conferences, campuses and in print;

Whereas the MLA is committed to academic freedom;

Be it resolved that the MLA reject the radical attacks on Israel’s democratic institutions and support Israeli professors and scholars as well as others who pursue scholarship on Israeli and other Middle Eastern literature and culture..

Prof. Irving Rothman of the University of Houston, irothman@uh.edu who submitted a counter resolution last year advises. “I think the situation would be answered if the radical caucas resolution were to be soundly defeated, and the MLA executive board were to shift from its politicization of the organization to its original purpose, to support the writing and scholarship of its members.” Prof. Rothman asks MLA members to express their concern about the radical caucas resolution to: Carol Zuses by mail (MLA, 26 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10004-1789) or by e-mail (governance@mla.org ) ; phone: 646 576-5151; fax (646 576-5107).

Professor Edna Aizenberg from Marymount College, eaizenberg@mmm.edu

is proposing the following:

1) That MLA members post on the MLA members only blog that is available for comments on the 2008-1resolution. The executive director, Rosemary Feal and the MLA President Catherine Porter read it and have already commented.

2) That MLA members write to Feal and Porter asking that the resolutions process be changed and inquiring how to do this. Both of them agree that this needs to be done. This 2008-1 resolution should never been approved by the Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee (DAOC) to begin with. This point can also be posted on the blog.

3) That MLA members going to the MLA convention, go to the open executive council and delegate assembly meetings when resolutions will be discussed and make your presence felt in the open discussion.

4) The best tone for this is a non-emotional, dispassionate one that points out how bad this is for the MLA, that this is a purely political tactic that has allowed a small group to hijack the MLA for its agenda, etc. This is the argument most members who oppose the resolution are making on the blog. We are all passionate, but this isn't always the best tone.

Edward S. Beck, SPME President and Asaf Zohar, newly elected president of CAPME, are urging members of their respective networks who are members of MLA and especially those who are attending the December convention, to consider these efforts and to beginning sharing and coordinating with one another comprehensive strategies to address these resolutions in the with the hope of depolitizing this resolution and returning to the academic mission of the Association.

This report was compiled from submissions and reports from Edna Aisenberg,, Evelyn Avery, Edward Beck, Dylan Hanley, Yael Halevi-Wise, Ann Shapiro,Carole Kessner, Irving Rothman and Asaf Zohar. It was edited by Edward Beck. SPME and CAPME thank these professors for sharing their individual and collective strategy recommendations.