AAA Sections Statement on Gaza, Palestine (June 2024)

The undersigned sections of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), the largest professional association of anthropologists in the world, condemn Israel’s ongoing genocidal war against the Palestinian people, most visible in its unprecedented bombardment of Gaza since October 7, 2023. The International Court of Justice describes Israeli actions in Gaza as “capable of falling within the provisions of the [Genocide] Convention”. We join ever-growing calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. We feel a special obligation to stand with our sister organization, Insaniyyat, the Society of Palestinian Anthropologists, which is committed to “work[ing] against ongoing and various besiegements of occupation, corruption, and statelessness, to take a measure of responsibility for knowledge produced and disseminated about and in Palestine.” We stand with academics of Gaza, who call upon us to help them rebuild their universities and to resist scholasticide.

As of June 2024, the United Nations confirmed that Israel had killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, a number that keeps rising. About 10,000 more people are assumed dead under the rubble. The Israeli Army generates targets for killing, including by AI, without regard for civilian death. Wanton use of imprecise and massive munitions in densely populated areas, including 2000-pound bombs and chemical weapons, has led to the destruction of more than 70,000 homes. Recent horrors include bombing and setting fire to tents of Palestinians taking refuge in supposed “safe zones.” 1.7 million Palestinians out of Gaza’s pre-war population of 2.2 million people – the vast majority of whom are refugees who lost their homes in the 1948 Nakba and their descendants – have been internally displaced.

These horrors demand response from all educators. United Nations experts, building on the work of legal scholar Karma Nabulsi, have defined scholasticide as the “systemic obliteration of education through the arrest, detention or killing of teachers, students and staff, and the destruction of educational infrastructure.” Israel has destroyed all major universities in Gaza and devastated over 500 primary and secondary schools. Israel has killed more than 5,479 students, 261 teachers, and 95 university professors. It has wounded at least 7819 students and 765 teachers. All kinds of knowledge infrastructure are under attack. More than 100 journalists, frontline knowledge producers upon whom the world relies, have been killed.

As noted by the Brookings Institution, there is no safe place in Gaza. Endless siege, active destruction of aid, and intense military campaigns are matched by an escalating situation of “manufactured famine” at levels unseen “since the second world war.” Catastrophic levels of hunger now face more than one million Palestinians in Gaza. Meanwhile, 45% of Gaza’s agricultural land has been destroyed, making the restoration of food security difficult or even impossible. At the same time, Gaza’s health infrastructure has been destroyed: every hospital in Gaza has been impacted and close to 500 health workers have been killed by Israel.

Impacts of this war on Palestine extend far beyond Gaza. The forced displacement of Palestinians, especially in rural communities, has drastically accelerated since October 2023. This displacement is carried out through banal bureaucratic measures and coordinated settler/ military violence alike, in areas ranging from the West Bank to the Naqab/Negev. Carceral violence has intensified, stealing lives and destroying community safety. Queer people in Palestine struggle to be recognized and remembered in the context of annihilation, and women face massive reproductive violence. Palestinian scholars and students in Israel who are critical of the genocide have faced expulsion, censorship, and arrest. In all areas of historic Palestine, institutions of learning and scholarship, social infrastructure, and life itself are under attack.

With this statement, we join calls of the Middle East Studies Association (in November and March), the National Women’s Studies Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, and the American Sociological Association for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. As subsections of an association of largely US-based anthropologists, we have a special responsibility to speak out. This aggression would be impossible without US diplomatic, economic, and military support. As subsections of an association of largely US-based American anthropologists, we condemn the funding and sanction of this genocide by the United States government.

Our discipline is deeply entangled with colonialism. Given that history, we have ethical and political commitments to amplifying the demands for freedom voiced by the historically disenfranchised peoples we work and live with, learn and come from. This ethical responsibility has long been recognized by the American Anthropological Association and its membership, including in the AAA’s 2020 Statement on Anthropology & Human Rights. It disturbs us that we must still insist that Palestinians include those to whom human rights “should be applied equally.” We agree that anthropologists have a special obligation to “inform the public in matters of human rights via specific guidelines and procedures approved by the Association.” We acknowledge the 2015 Task Force on AAA Engagement on Israel-Palestine’s Report to the Executive Board that reaffirmed “a commitment to human rights” and “a critical awareness of US complicity in the region” (viii). We recognize that on July 24 2023, 71% of those who voted in an AAA election supported an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions because Israel “operates an apartheid regime from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including the internationally recognized state of Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank” and because Israeli academic institutions are complicit in Israel’s oppressive regime. This resolution built on reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Finally, we note that at the November 2023 AAA meetings in Toronto, attendees at the (non-quorum) AAA Business Meeting voted for this resolution calling for the AAA to explicitly support immediate ceasefire.

Across the United States and the world, our students have set up protest encampments to demand that their colleges and universities divest from Israeli companies as well as arms manufacturers who contribute directly and indirectly to the murder of civilians in Palestine. On several campuses, their demands for accountability from their own universities have been met with removal of financial aid, academic suspension, police brutality, and arrest. We note that Palestinian students and scholars in particular have faced surveillance, censorship, threats to employment, and violence. We support our students’ rights to speak up for these ethical demands that are in alignment with the values of our profession. We insist that their safety be ensured and their demands heard. As anthropologists and teachers, we note that a permanent ceasefire is a necessary first step towards a decolonized future that can be vibrant and safe for all.

Anthropologists have long documented the multifaceted violence and racism of settler colonialism in Palestine. As Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory said while presenting a report at the Human Rights Council in March of this year: “the genocide in Gaza is the most extreme stage of a long-standing settler colonial process of erasure of the native Palestinians.” Anthropologists have also shown how, over decades of dispossession and across geographies of steadfastness and dispersal, Palestinians support family and community members each day, uphold love and persistence each day, revitalize Palestinian lifeways and traditions each day, all on an unstoppable pathway towards liberation. A permanent ceasefire is a necessary first step towards a decolonized future that can be vibrant and safe for all.

Middle East Section Board

Association for Queer Anthropology Board

Society for Cultural Anthropology Board

Association of Indigenous Anthropologists Executive Board

Archaeology Division Executive Board

Association for the Anthropology of Policy Board

General Anthropology Division Board

Critical Urban Anthropology Association Board

Association of Black Anthropologists Executive Board

Society for the Anthropology of North America Executive Board

Association for Africanist Anthropology Board

Association for Political and Legal Anthropology, Board

Anthropology and Environment Society Board

This statement represents the view of the boards of the Sections listed above and should not be construed as representing the American Anthropological Association (AAA) as a whole. The AAA is a voluntary, non-profit, scholarly association with membership worldwide. It has diverse sections representing specialized interests within the field.

Resolution on Palestine at AAA Meeting 2023

Please bring the following resolution to the floor at your section meeting, and join us at the business meeting on Friday November 17, 6:15-7:30 pm at TMCC (Hall F) to call for the AAA to adopt it.

Resolution on Palestine

Whereas the people of Gaza have been subjected to widespread and indiscriminate bombardment and assault since October 7, 2023;

Whereas Israeli government and military leaders have expressed genocidal intent in Gaza and have engaged in direct and public incitement to commit genocide;

Whereas as of November 12, 2023, over 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, including over 5,000 children, and over 28,000 have been injured by Israeli attacks, while over 3,000 Palestinians remain missing under the rubble;

Whereas the Israeli bombardment of Gaza has destroyed over 185 educational facilities, including dozens of UNRWA schools and the three major universities in Gaza: the Islamic University, Al Azhar University, and Al-Aqsa University;

Whereas more than 80 Palestinian university faculty and staff and 2000 university students have been killed by the bombardment;

Whereas army and settler violence has also increased against Palestinians in the West Bank, resulting in over 170 deaths, including the deaths of 45 children, and displacement of entire communities;

Whereas academic freedom and personal safety is in dire risk for Palestinian and Jewish Israeli critics, students and faculty alike, in Israeli universities.

Whereas in institutions of higher education across North America there is increasing repression of speech and advocacy on Palestine, and Palestinian, Muslim, Arab and allied students and faculty are under threat;

Whereas the AAA’s resolution for the boycott of complicit Israeli institutions passed by the overwhelming majority of voting members in July 2023;

Whereas the AAA has made a statement calling for an end to violence and acknowledging anthropological literature that has addressed structural and everyday violence imposed by the Israeli government;

We call upon AAA to:

  1. Stand in solidarity with Palestinian university students, faculty and staff.
  1. Issue a strong statement of condemnation of Israel’s ongoing illegal assault on and siege of Gaza and join the international call for an immediate ceasefire. 
  1. Condemn the ongoing violence against and displacement of Palestinians across the Occupied Palestinian Territory and within Israel. 
  1. Issue a letter to presidents of universities, research centers, and other academic institutions across North America calling on university administrations to provide explicit support and protection of Palestinian students, faculty, and staff and their allies against harassment, anti-Palestinian racism, Islamophobia, demonization and silencing in line with the principles of academic freedom. 
  1. Issue a strong statement condemning the violation of the academic freedom of Palestinian and critical faculty, students and staff at Israeli universities, currently facing harassment and threats of violence, disciplinary hearings, and termination and expulsion for exercising their academic freedom.

Also posted on AnthroBoycott.

Upcoming events at the 2023 AAA Meeting


Middle East Section Business Meeting, Friday, Nov. 17, 8-9:30 pm, Metro Toronto Convention Center 501B, with refreshments ** In addition to usual MES business, we will have an open space for sharing experiences of how reaction to events since Oct. 7 has shaped our campuses and for sharing ideas on responding to this new chapter in Palestinian Nakba.

Two Decades On: Teaching the US Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Middle East Section Teaching Workshop
Saturday, Nov. 18 12:30 PM- 2:00 PM TMCC – 712


2-850 War in Sudan: An Anthropological Perspective
Thursday, Nov. 16, 8:00-9:45 PM TMCC – 801 B

2-730 Art Anthropology: how art shapes anthropologies of space, Time, crisis, economies, ecologies, multispecies relations, the unfinished, becomings, uprisings, and imaginations
Thursday, 4:15 PM – 6:00 PM TMCC – 715 B

3-580 The Boycott of Israeli Institutions, Academic Freedom, and the Question of Palestine
Friday, Nov. 17, 2-3:45 TMCC – 718 B

4-480 Pushing the transitional to reciprocal ends: creating and enlivening reciprocal spaces
Saturday, Nov. 18, 2:00 PM – 3:45 PM TMCC – 718 A


We are also coordinating actions directly related to Gaza and Palestine at the 2023 AAA Annual Meeting; please find more information on the AnthroBoycott website.

MES/AMEA Joint Statement on the Ongoing War Against Gaza (October 2023)

Jointly issued by the Middle East Section (MES) of the American Anthropological Association and the Association of Middle East Anthropology (AMEA) of the Middle East Studies Association (see here).

October 20, 2023

As anthropologists of the Middle East, we come together in grief and shock over Palestinian and Israeli lives lost. We bear witness to the destruction of homes, neighborhoods, and cities. We mourn the deaths that have occurred, and we fear for the death that is coming. We stand for justice, safety, and dignity for the more than two million Palestinians living in Gaza, and for all Palestinians and Israelis. We stand against the ongoing Israeli assault on Palestinians in Gaza that is being supported financially, militarily, and discursively by Western governments, and in particular the United States, where both of our organizations are based.

As we write, Israel has cemented a siege of Gaza that has existed in various forms for the past 16 years. This includes an unprecedented bombing campaign resulting in mass civilian casualties. Since Friday, October 13, Israel has ordered the forced displacement of half of the population of over two million to the already densely populated southern part of Gaza. More Palestinians are displaced today than became refugees during the Nakba of 1948. A large majority of Gazans are refugees whose families were dispossessed at that time.

Israel has cut off access to food, electricity, water and fuel, and a humanitarian catastrophe is well underway. These actions were preceded by the dehumanizing rhetoric of Israeli government officials, who have openly advocated for the collective punishment of the population—a war crime, according to international humanitarian law. Gaza’s already fragile health care system is at a breaking point, exacerbated by Israel’s bombing of multiple medical facilities. Prominent human rights groups, activist organizations, and scholars warn of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Racialized and militarized violence against Palestinians is escalating in multiple locations. Settlers and soldiers have killed dozens of Palestinians in the West Bank since October 7, building on a season of violence that had already seen the dispossession of four Palestinian Bedouin communities. Inside Israel’s 1948 territories, Palestinian citizens of Israel fear renewed violence similar to that they experienced in 2021. These violences all evince how Israel operates as what major human rights organizations have established to be an apartheid state.

In the United States and Europe, this is also a time of rising Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian bigotry, and of official warmongering and misinformation. We see the marginalization of Muslim journalists. The overwhelming framing of this event by US media organizations has been in terms of an Israeli narrative that started on October 7, despite the fact that Gaza has been under siege since 2007 and the occupation ongoing since 1967. We have already seen how European governments have banned or attempted to ban protests in support of Palestine, including in France, Germany, and the UK. Despite this, we have seen large marches in worldwide solidarity with Palestinians and against ethnic cleansing.

We recognize US college campuses as crucial yet vulnerable spaces for all students to process, grieve, and learn. We are deeply concerned that while college presidents and administrations have mobilized quickly to denounce and mourn violence against Israeli and Jewish communities, they have often done so at the expense of their Arab and Muslim communities. Once again, we see attacks on and calls for removal of critical professors; we see nuanced statements distorted. Arab and Muslim students are also threatened by outside organizations, as are others who speak about the violence that Palestinians face. Effectively, campus populations are being told that whatever they want to say, do, and organize must be vetted by donors and groups that see only one side of the issue. This mirrors longstanding practices of stifling criticism of the actions of the state of Israel.

As Middle East anthropologists, we reiterate calls made by leading scholarly organizations like MESA and BRISMES. We urge our colleagues to find ways to contribute to conversations on these crucial issues. We have the skills and knowledge to provide much-needed and sorely-lacking social and historical context and analysis, including perspectives on the tolls of militarism for its immediate victims, perpetrators, and non-human beings and the environment; the weight and richness of collective memory; the logics and violence of settler colonialism; the dangers of ethno-nationalism; the dynamic challenges and rewards of solidarity work; and dimensions of resistance across contexts. As anthropologists we can also teach about radical empathy and listening across difference. Finally, we must amplify the perspectives of our peers and peer institutions in the region. We can work together to promote academic freedom and spaces of learning, and we must stand against this ongoing, intensified Nabka and do all we can to support life and dignity.  

Suggested organizations for support:
Palestine Children’s Relief Fund
Medical Aid for Palestinians
Gaza Mental Health Foundation
UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)

Resources on understanding Palestine/Israel:
Decolonize Palestine Reading List