NWSA Palestine

Largest academic feminist organization in North America backs Israel boycott

“What is significant about this particular resolution is the rationale; the fact that the resolution makes it explicit that BDS is a feminist issue, that it is an expression of transnational feminist solidarity and that one cannot call themselves a feminist and address inequalities and injustices without taking a stand on what is happening in Palestine.” –Simona Sharoni, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at SUNY Plattsburgh

The National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) became the latest scholarly group to join the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel last week. Almost 90 percent of its voting members – 653 scholars – backed a resolution boycotting “economic, military and cultural entities and projects sponsored by the state of Israel.” In doing so, the NWSA joined a growing number of organizations supporting Palestinian liberation, that includes the African Literature Association, American Studies Association, Association for Asian American Studies, and over 1000 members of the American Anthropological Association.

This is such a welcome shift from the typical silence we hear — and have long heard — from feminist spaces in response to colonial, imperial, and anti-refugee violence. As Dana Olwan wrote over at Al Jazeera in the days leading up to the vote:

Where is the feminist outcry against such forms of violence, rooted as they are in colonial, sexualised and gendered registers of worth and worthlessness? When Palestinians are killed en masse for the crime of being Palestinian, as the latest Israeli war on Gaza so clearly made manifest, how do feminist academics bear witness and confront such forms of collective punishment? What feminist tools do they use to make their contestations of Israeli state practices legible to themselves, the students they teach, and to the worlds that they inhabit?

That the NWSA is the largest academic feminist organization in North America — with more than 2,000 individual and 350 institutional members — makes its strong response to these questions particularly significant. So too is the language it’s using to define what it means to be a feminist academic. NWSA writes:  

[We are] committed to an inclusive feminist vision that is in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and sovereignty rights globally, that challenges settler colonial practices, and that contests violations of civil rights and international human rights law, military occupation and militarization, including the criminalization of the U.S. borders, and myriad forms of dispossession.

These feminist scholars are actually acting on an indivisible commitment to justice and I’m so here for it.

Mahroh is a community organizer and law student who believes in building a world where black and brown women and our communities are able to live free of violence. Prior to law school, Mahroh was the Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization empowering students to end gender violence and a junior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research addresses the ways militarization, racism, and sexual violence impact communities of color transnationally.

Mahroh is currently at Harvard Law School, organizing against state and gender-based violence.

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