DeSantis Office: Florida Opposes Middle East Studies Association Conducting BDS Anti-Israel Academic Boycott Through FSU

by William A. Jacobson
December 22, 2021
Read the original post on the Legal Insurrection website.

As we recently reported, on December 2, 2021, the business meeting of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) voted in favor of a resolution endorsing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The resolution will be forwarded to the full MESA membership in mid-to-late January 2022 for a ratification vote.

If ratified, MESA would be committed to widespread discrimination against Israelis and people interested in Israeli and Jewish Studies, and would violate the academic freedom of American students and faculty. MESA has 54 institutional members, including major public universities, such as Florida State University and the University of Arkansas, and likely operates at or through many additional universities and colleges. The operation of such a systematic academic boycott would violate anti-discrimination and academic freedom protections.

We wrote about the proposed MESA BDS boycott in the NY Post (with my colleague Johanna E. Markind, Esq.) and also at Legal Insurrection, emphasizing that MESA’s action was overtly political and could have consequences:

This isn’t the same political landscape as in 2013 when ASA [American Studies Association] passed BDS. The academic enemies of Israel now control the Socialist Democrats of America, which is a significant force in Democrat politics (see, e.g. Omar, Tlaib, etc.) At the same time, friends of Israel control numerous red states that have taken action against BDS discrimination. MESA chose to go political in 2017 [when it removed “non-political” from its bylaws] and again with the BDS resolution, now it will be subjected to the political process."

We have started reaching out for comment to various entities, much as we did in 2014 regarding the ASA BDS academic boycott of Israel.

One of the states that has been firm against BDS is Florida. We reached out for comment to Gov. DeSantis’ Office.

Christina Pushaw, Press Secretary, Executive Office of the Governor, provided us with a statement which reads in pertinent part (emphasis in original):

Florida has long had a strong relationship with the State of Israel. As a matter of law and principle, the State of Florida does not tolerate discrimination against the State of Israel or the Israeli people, including boycotts and divestments targeting Israel (the BDS movement).

Recently, this problem has arisen with corporations, such as Ben & Jerry’s earlier this year. Here’s the statute that applied in that case:

As you can see, the law is designed to ensure that the state of Florida is not doing business with companies participating in boycotts of Israel. It does not explicitly address public postsecondary institutions. Nevertheless, Governor DeSantis’ position has been clear: It is unacceptable for Florida taxpayer funds to subsidize BDS or any other anti-Israel activist movement.

It is our expectation that Florida State University will not permit MESA to operate a boycott of Israel through a public institution, will not accept the academic boycott of Israel, and will not allow university funds to be paid indirectly or directly to any organization that endorses BDS. The same goes for any other institution that receives state funding.

We will continue reaching out for comment and will report on the results.

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