MLA Delegates Pass Motion Defending Pro-Palestine Speech

January 08, 2024 1 min read

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Ryan Quinn
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: The Modern Language Association’s Delegate Assembly passed an “emergency motion” Saturday defending college and university employees and students who are facing threats, harassment and violence for criticizing Israel’s violence against Palestinians.

The weekend-long MLA Annual Convention included multiple panels that discussed the war in Gaza. A Friday open hearing ahead of the Delegate Assembly featured heated debate on the motion that ultimately passed, along with a different one that would’ve broadly supported “academic freedom and free expression” without mentioning either Palestine or Israel.

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1 Response

Yael Halevi-Wise '97
Yael Halevi-Wise '97

January 11, 2024

In the interest of free and accurate speech, please note that the alternative motion proposed by Cary Nelson and Russell Berman, did indeed mention Israel and Palestine too, as you can see here:

EMERGENCY MOTION FOR MLA DELEGATE ASSEMBLY January 2024 (1/2/24)

BACKGROUND: The October 7, 2023, Hamas assault on Israeli towns and kibbutzim was followed by a major war in Gaza between Hamas and Israel. These events have produced a unique and extremely contentious series of North American campus debates, demonstrations, and bitter social media messages with highly stressful consequences for students of varying ethnicities and political beliefs. Controversy surrounding a congressional hearing featuring three university presidents’ campus responses spread worldwide
(https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/06/us/harvard-mit-penn-presidents-antisemitism.html). Students from a variety of backgrounds have testified to feeling unsafe on campus as a result of the hostile climate created
(https://www.cbsnews.com/news/college-campuses-rattled-israel-hamas-war-60-minutes/). Some have felt the right to express their political, cultural, or religious beliefs threatened.

Disagreements about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have a long history in English and foreign language departments. MLA’s Delegate Assembly itself has a long history of debating relevant motions and resolutions as well. Rather than press the DA to take sides in these debates, we are urging MLA’s Executive Council help preserve an educational environment where all feel free to voice their positions and concerns.

MOTION: The MLA DA moves that the MLA EC take immediate steps to urge university administrators to defend from threats, harassment, and violence all faculty members, students and staff, regardless of their position on the conflict in the Middle East. As part of that effort the DA asks the EC to write to all North American English and language departments to ask their aid in preserving their campuses as civil environments for academic freedom and free expression.

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