The Task Force Report: A Lose/Lose Proposition for American Anthropology

By: David Rosen, Professor of Anthropology and Law at Fairleigh Dickinson University

I am one of many anthropologists who oppose both the Israeli occupation of territories conquered by Israel in 1967 and the BDS boycott of Israel. While I usually teach at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a small university in New Jersey, this year I am a research fellow at the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. About a week ago, I went with my wife and a close friend who is one of the leaders of Machsom Watch – an organization of  Israeli women who monitor the conduct of soldiers and policemen at  checkpoints between Israel and Palestine — to a concert at the 19th century Austrian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem. The concert was sponsored by the Representative of the Czech Republic in Ramallah.

As we sat down and began to listen to the music, there were loud noises outside, and we soon learned that a Palestinian had just murdered two Israelis near the front steps of the Hospice and that he had also been shot to death by the police. Much later, when the police finally let us out of the Hospice, we emerged into the dark and deserted streets, still wet from having just been cleansed of the blood of the dead, and made our way out of the Old City via the Damascus Gate.

This and other experiences I have had in Jerusalem have made me realize that I am only interested in participating in processes that are at least calculated to resolve rather than to exacerbate conflict. Thus when the Task Force report came out a few days ago, I first had to ask myself in what way does this report contribute to the reduction of violence and to a fair and just resolution of the conflict? Sadly, I believe the Task Force Report fails.

To my mind, the report reads like legal brief or indictment rather than an explanation of the situation. As the readers’ responses show, it has served to add self-righteous passion to a situation in which there is already too much self-righteous passion. BDS supporters of anthropology are celebrating this report on their websites. I cannot ken how this is supposed to be helpful. Last night as I watched the television news here in Israel during this current wave of violence, I listened to Palestinians claiming that Israel wants to seize control of the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary. I saw cartoons created by Hamas showing how to stab Israeli civilians. I heard right wing Israelis claiming that giving Palestinians any hope of their own state only gives them the hope of destroying Israel. I heard another right wing politician say that the bodies of terrorists should all be thrown into the ocean like Bin Laden. The voices of radicalism are everywhere. And now we have forces in anthropology that want this association to throw itself into one side of this conflict. This might be victory for BDS, but it is a lose/lose proposition for American anthropology.


2 thoughts on “The Task Force Report: A Lose/Lose Proposition for American Anthropology

  1. In reading Ann Stahl’s article on the next AAA meeting in Denver ( P.16, September/October issue of “Anthropology News” ), something clicked in my mind when I read the words ” the Jewish question “.
    Possibly a Freudian slip of sorts? She might deny any negative or even Anti-Semitic intent here, but those three words helped lead the way towards the Holocaust in Europe. I think bringing this up at the next meeting this might make some people feel rather uncomfortable.
    ( For references, just type in the words ” the Jewish question” at Google.)


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