A Message from Incoming MLA President Margaret W. Ferguson

In a new post on the From the President blog, Margaret W. Ferguson, 2014–15 MLA president, introduces herself and shares her thoughts on the association’s activities and goals. If you’re new to the association or want to catch up on some of its recent initiatives, we encourage you to visit the blog to learn more about today’s MLA. From ongoing advocacy and research to a reimagining of the MLA’s division and discussion group structure, the association is striving to work on behalf of its members and the fields it serves. We hope you’ll make use of the MLA’s many resources and join us in our efforts to advocate on behalf of humanities education.


jay l. halio

Congratulations on assuming the presidency of the MLA. I hope you will use your leadership position to oppose and ultimately reject the biased and despicable anti-Israel (really anti-Semitic) resolution that squeaked by the Delegate Assembly a few weeks ago. The resolution brings no honor to the MLA but quite the opposite.

Timothy J Reiss

When a scholar like Professor Halio finds it necessary to deploy the old canard reducing criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism (how is Israel’s treatment of Palestinians not anti-Semitic by that equation?), it is sadly clear why debates on any subject concerning Israel fall almost immediately into mutual abuse. Perhaps Halio could spend some time reading the historian Robin D. G. Kelley’s eloquent defense of the ASA’s (certainly not anti-Semitic) resolution and equally eloquent response to too many university administrators’ knee-jerk, and very often anti-First-Amendment, responses to it. Both of Kelley’s commentaries are readily available online.

Patricia Bizzell

Academic boycotts violate academic freedom and should be condemned, no matter what social evil they claim to censure. Moreover, in the case of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, it is troubling–to say the least–that Israelis’ human rights are not considered in the discussion, such as the right to live free of terrorist threat. My daughter takes the bus to work every morning in Tel Aviv. I certainly feel free to criticize Israel, and do not consider myself anti-Semitic, but I have to wonder why Israel is singled out for condemnation when human rights violations are happening on a much larger and more lethal scale around the world–one can easily point to North Korea, China, Iran.

Egonne Roth

As a new member to the MLA I was disappointed to see that a resolution to boycott Israel should even have come up for discussion – language is about communication, becoming acquainted with the other, discussion and debate. Boycott is often about rejection, non-communication, authoritarianism, totalitarianism – blocking the use of language.
If Israel should come under discussion for her treatment of the Palestinians then surely so should her neighbours – Syria for the torture of thousands of its citizens, Egypt for the random killing of opponents of the regime, etc etc Criticising Israel becomes anti-Semitic when it is not done in the context of the violence and violation of human rights that characterises the whole of the Middle East. In fact few countries would escape boycott if there internal affairs were honestly scrutinized. But is this the goal of the MLA? Is the MLA not supposedly involved in the issues of writing reading speaking listening communicating creating and teaching ways to further communication and understanding? As a student member of the organisation I am disappointed – I joined to learn about language and literature. I can turn to many other forums for political activism and I do.

Martha Cutter

I have to agree with Professor Bizzell and wonder “why Israel is singled out for condemnation when human rights violations are happening on a much larger and more lethal scale around the world.” At MLA I was told that it was because the U.S. already has economic sanctions on many such regimes and that it would be impossible for the U.S. to boycott such a large nation as China. But how does any of this relate to what ASA or MLA does? I personally think we should be fair and start a list of all countries that have human rights violations, and vote country-by-country as to whether some sort of boycott or divestiture by MLA is necessary or advisable. In a world where human rights violations of many types routinely go unprotested by academic organizations such as MLA, ASA, and AAAS, why is Israel singled out? None of this is to say that Israel does not have its own human rights violations–but it is to say that we need to be fair in what countries we vote to take action against.

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