Brandeis University joins universities that cut ties with MESA following passage of BDS resolution

The Middle East Student Association (MESA) recently passed a resolution that supported Palestinian calls for boycotting Israel. Brandeis is the latest university to cut long-standing ties with MESA.

Florida State University and the University of Arizona are among those that refused to show support for the resolution.

Gov. Ron Desantis released a statement condemning the actions taken by MESA and encouraged Florida institutions to support the anti-BDS movement.

During a voting period that lasted from Jan. 31 through March 22, an overwhelming 80% of member universities of the Middle East Student Association (MESA) voted in favor of ratifying a resolution in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. 

MESA announced the result of the vote on Mar. 23. The final turnout of the vote was 768 in favor and 167 against. 

The BDS Movement—run by a network of Palestinian civil society groups—aims to eliminate the Jewish state altogether by using various methods of economic leverage. The resolution endorses the Palestinian call for academic boycotts of Jewish institutions.

In response to the passage of the resolution, Brandeis University in Massachusetts announced in a March 24 statement that it would be dissociating from MESA and cutting long-standing ties with the organization on the grounds that the resolution is contradictory to the values clearly defined in MESA’s mission statement—which reads, “We create an inclusive and vibrant learning community where everyone is supported to achieve success.” 

“Brandeis University condemns MESA’s boycott of institutions of higher education in Israel," the statement reads.

“The resolution attacks the fundamental principles of academic freedom and association to which MESA specifically refers in its mission statement, and to which Brandeis is committed," it continues.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) showed its support for the University’s decision and tweeted on March 27, “All institutional members of @MESA_1966 should follow the lead of @BrandeisU and dissociate after it ratified a #BDS resolution boycotting Israeli academic institutions. This resolution is antithetical to academic freedom & discourages productive dialogue.” 

While Brandeis University is the latest institution to cut ties with the Middle East Student Association, it was not the first. The list also includes Florida State University and an academic center at the University of Arizona—which declined to renew membership to MESA for fear of violating state or university policies in early January of this year.

Gov. Ron Desantis of Florida encouraged Florida institutions to relinquish ties with MESA in a statement on Dec. 22, 2021, that said, “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).”

Florida is not the only state in the union to have passed “anti-BDS” laws. Arizona, too, has a law in place that is similar to that of Florida. In March of 2016, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed HB-2617 into law. The law prohibits Arizona from contracting companies that actively boycott and discriminate against the State of Israel. 

Gov. Ron Desantis, the Media Departments of both FSU and the University of Arizona, the Anti-Defamation League, and MESA were all contacted for comment. While only the ADL responded, they declined the opportunity to comment.