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Sunday, January 11, 2009

MundiMuster! Renewed Calls for a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign of Israel

I haven't written here about Gaza. Eric and I hardly talk about it ourselves, even though we talk about anything and everything, we just throw up our hands and look like we're sick to our stomachs essentially when the issue comes up. Of course I know that this is not a matter of all angels on one side and all devils on the other side, but I do agree with Naomi Klein, who writes in The Nation that it is well past time for all progressives to engage in a boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement of Israel to turn this bloody hopeless tide.

For the whole piece, and for the links provided there for further examination, go to Klein's actual piece here. For the substance of the argument, here are her key argumentative moves as I see them:
The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa….

Support is even emerging among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel. It calls for "the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions" and draws a clear parallel with the antiapartheid struggle. "The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves.... This international backing must stop"...

The world has tried what used to be called "constructive engagement." It has failed utterly…. Since 2006 Israel has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade. Despite this escalation… Israel has enjoyed a dramatic improvement in its diplomatic, cultural and trade relations with a variety of other allies....

The relevance of the South African model is that it proves that B[oycott] D[ivestment and] S[anctions] tactics can be effective when weaker measures (protests, petitions, back-room lobbying) have failed. And there are indeed deeply distressing echoes: the color-coded IDs and travel permits, the bulldozed homes and forced displacement, the settler-only roads....

Why single out Israel when the United States, Britain and other Western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan? Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the BDS strategy should be tried against Israel is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work….

Building a movement requires endless communicating, as many in the antiapartheid struggle well recall. The argument that supporting boycotts will cut us off from one another is particularly specious given the array of cheap information technologies at our fingertips….

More information on the BDS Movement here.


Anonymous said...

What would you boycott, Dale? I can't imagine that you eat too many kosher chocolates or imported dates. The people who keep kosher are hardly going to boycott, since they are in the tank for Israel.

Dale Carrico said...

Did you support comparable campaigns against Apartheid South Africa? You may not have been old enough. I was and I did, although one could easily have snarked similarly of me then. (This is no condemnation of snark, by the way!)

The point is -- have you looked at the details of the campaign available at the BDS link? Do they seem to you effective or ineffective as measures to effect change here? If effective, do you support them? What else is there to say?

BDS worked in the Apartheid example. The analogy isn't perfect, and so neither might the strategy. But the analogy has its points, and so might the strategy.

The Obama State Department doesn't exactly seem pro-Palestine to me but after W. the US might be in a position to make another play at honest broker, especially since so many players want it to -- with developments like the pro-peace pro-Israel J Street project on one side and a reasonably broad and deep BDS movement on the other, this might be an opportune historical moment to shift the terms of the debate and make some headway in this tragedy.

That's how it looks to me, anyway. As I said, this isn't something I feel sufficiently well informed about to pontificate on usefully at any length, but BDS looks to me like a piece of the puzzle that gets us to a different picture here.