Tag Archives: BDS

Desmond Tutu calls for divestment; some thoughts

Deutsch: Desmond Tutu beim Evangelischen Kirch...

Desmond Tutu writes a passionate call for American divestment in Israel. He gives me some food for thought on BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), and on my role as an Israeli in the struggle for a just peace.

Justice requires action to stop subjugation of Palestinians

Desmond Tutu, TampaBay.com

A quarter-century ago I barnstormed around the United States encouraging Americans, particularly students, to press for divestment from South Africa. Today, regrettably, the time has come for similar action to force an end to Israel’s long-standing occupation of Palestinian territory and refusal to extend equal rights to Palestinian citizens who suffer from some 35 discriminatory laws.

I have reached this conclusion slowly and painfully. I am aware that many of our Jewish brothers and sisters who were so instrumental in the fight against South African apartheid are not yet ready to reckon with the apartheid nature of Israel and its current government. And I am enormously concerned that raising this issue will cause heartache to some in the Jewish community with whom I have worked closely and successfully for decades. But I cannot ignore the Palestinian suffering I have witnessed, nor the voices of those courageous Jews troubled by Israel’s discriminatory course.

 Continue reading on the Tampa Bay Times »

I’m not entirely sure what I think about the Palestinian BDS campaign.

Continue reading Desmond Tutu calls for divestment; some thoughts

Some more thoughts on exclusion, BDS and the housing protests

I got two comments on yesterday’s post via Twitter:

If @ & #j14 won't distinguish between Ariel & "Israel proper," why should anyone? Full #BDS now more than ever. http://t.co/e3Ft9IG
@MaxBlumenthal
Max Blumenthal
@ @ Let's get things straight in name of Social Justice: Settlers are criminals.

I have some more thoughts on this.

I

The strategy of exclusion, of which BDS is one example, is a tricky thing. It is effective when the excluder is (potentially) stronger than the excluded, on some dimension. International BDS is an effective strategy because it can actually hurt Israel: it can deprive Israel of services (such as a European-made tram system), entertainment, and a general feeling of legitimacy and business-as-usual. Boycotting products of the settlements within Israel is the same thing again on a smaller scale: if many in the Israeli market boycott settlement products, Israeli factories in the West Bank move back into Israel, and it’s no more business-as-usual. For a European boycott of the settlements to have an effect you would hardly need a couple percent of the European market to adhere to it. But would the EU care if the settlers decided to boycott all European products? Even if all 300-odd thousand of them strictly adhered to the boycott, it would hardly register, never mind causing some shift in EU policy.

II

Although the housing protests are the strongest thing we’ve ever seen in Israel, garnering more support than any political party could ever dream of, it would be foolish to assume that this strength is of the same kind as the EU or US’s economic and political power, which makes BDS effective. The housing protest is strong only because it has managed so far not to step on anyone’s toes too hard. In Israel, that is an astounding achievement. If a prominent part of the protest movement1 should pick a fight with the people of Ariel for the sake of total BDS, the movement’s strength may very well dwindle rapidly. The movement may even splinter. The movement boycotting Ariel would quickly become meaningless because not all tent cities would accept the boycott and it would suddenly just be a few isolated left-leaning groups going on about the settlements as usual.

III

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. BDS is an impressive and important tool, but it is not the only tool, certainly not the only tool available to Israelis who have the time and energy for political activity. The housing protests have to navigate the many illogical and contradictory conceptions prevailing in Israeli societies, and despite a majority opposing the settlements (in polls, at least), it is also a mainstream idea that Ariel is practically part of Israel and here to stay. (This stems from people not bothering to look at maps [PDF] or thinking these things through. Ariel has absolutely got to go in a two-state solution.)

Total inclusiveness, even of ideological settlers, drunks and lunatics, is probably the only way this movement can survive.2

IV

The fact that some so-called “leaders” of the movement fail to speak out against the occupation does not mean the movement ignores the issue or enables it. Actual discussions in the tent cities often turn to the occupation, and this movement has given the Israeli left more sympathy and more people willing to listen than anything else since at least the mid-nineties. But this too is different from one tent city to another, and it’s very hard to tell what the movement as a whole thinks. I doubt the movement as a whole agrees on anything except that the cost of living and the inequalities within Israeli society are unacceptable.

V

This movement is surprisingly open to criticism. Simply finding excuses to write it off and attack all those who support it will not get your issue addressed. If you think the movement should take a stand regarding the settlements, you have to either go to its assemblies or at least write something that actually tries to convince them. As Max probably knows, it takes a lot of explaining to get typical Israelis to even begin to understand BDS. Don’t take it for granted and just attack this whole decentralized thing for not following the methods you support. Engage the people involved in action and decision-making. You might even convince j14.org.il to list settlements separately from Israel proper if you actually try.

VI

I should note that despite my disagreement with Max, I’m sick of exclusion being the only kosher leftist tactic, and will continue to consider him an all-round good guy (as I consider other opponents of the West Bank apartheid). I will also continue to follow his blog and Twitter feed and list him on this site’s list of links. (I’m doing this as a favor to myself; I know nobody really cares who I like, follow or link to.)

Footnotes

  1. j14.org.il is just a part of the movement – it is a decentralized uprising with no real center, leadership, or hierarchy, despite what the press may say []
  2. As far as I know, the only thing excluded is exclusionary messages: when extreme racist settlers showed up on Rothschild, they were eventually kicked out for having shirts reading “Tel-Aviv for Jews [only]” and other exclusionary slogans. The only thing that’s not tolerated is open intolerance. []

BDS: Second thoughts? (Short)

So I’ve still been thinking a lot about BDS, trying to figure out if I should continue to support it… Still not sure. Roi Maor, with whom I generally tend to agree about many things, is skeptic of the whole venture.

More food for thought. Yum.

Still, the BDS campaign is a non-violent Palestinian initiative to fight for their rights, and it’s very hard not to support such a thing, even when it’s something that’s so hard to support.

Bah.

Israelis: Consider supporting BDS

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, and besides the exams I had last week this is the main reason I haven’t posted anything in a while. What I’ve been thinking about is the situation in Israel/Palestine and how it could ever be solved. I hope to be writing more about this soon.

One aspect of the Israel/Palestine problem which seems undeniable is that — whatever the reasons behind Israel’s policies, no matter how valid or invalid the reasoning is, and regardless of who is to blame for this — the current policies create a reality which is harsh towards the Palestinians, even unbearable, while the Israeli population can lead more or less normal lives and act as if everything is okay. In the long run, the occupation is not sustainable — morally or practically — especially with “stability” in the Middle East disappearing before our eyes. What’s more, there are strong forces within Israeli politics which strive to further skew the situation against the Palestinians, and the opposition towards them is clearly far from capturing mainstream consensus. (I am willing to bring up specific examples for this if asked, but I assume everyone knows what I am talking about.)

With random violence against non-Jews in the news every day now I am convinced Israel is on the way towards a situation which will rob the Zionist enterprise and the very existence of the Israeli state of any last remnant of moral high ground they may possess. This is not a desirable situation as far as I’m concerned, because Israel is a great many things, many of them beautiful and amazing, even if some cause a shudder and are easier to just not think about.

I know how hard it is to do anything about this as an Israeli, in Israel or abroad. In Israel, it’s scary to talk about these things. People are aggressive and extreme in their reactions. Increasingly, the settlement movement — born as a Labor party enterprise, one should note — is succeeding in selling its narrative in which the settlements and the occupation they require are integral and inseparable from our state. However, we all know that the occupation — in which certain roads are only open to Jews, in which the rights of a new-born baby are predetermined to be extremely limited and largely ignored if they are Palestinian, or many and protected with force if they are a Jew — is morally unacceptable to begin with (even if you think it’s necessary at the same time) and simply unsustainable in the long run, as increasingly Israel becomes a state of minority rule over millions with reduced rights.

So what can we do? Well, one thing we can do is support BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions. This is a series of measures taken by individuals, corporations, and governments (respectively) in order to isolate a rogue state, and it was used with great success to end the apartheid regime in South Africa. The right wing recognizes the power of BDS and is working on legislation to make it illegal for Israelis to speak out in support of it. The goal of BDS is to make the occupation unsustainable not only morally or in the long run but in immediate ways, as soon as possible. Its goal is to put international pressure on Israel to end the occupation, one way or another, by sending a clear message that a “temporary occupation” going on for decades without any exit strategy is not an acceptable thing for a member of the international community to engage in, and that Israel will only become more isolated if the occupation persists.

This is a tremendously difficult issue, and not the most straightforward approach for a citizen of a democratic state to influence their government’s policy. This is why, although I have read about BDS many times in the past months, I have not been sure what to think of it. This morning I read a very clear FAQ (Eng / Heb) targeted at residents of Israel and Israeli citizens abroad. If you fall into these categories, I urge you to read the FAQ and give this matter some thought.

Joining the statement is not much work, and certainly liberals, moderates and pragmatics in Israel have a lot of real work to do to change things from within. (Personally, I’m trying to figure out in what ways I could do that if I were to move back.) But with the rising waves of incitement and violent racism, with legislation brought in to Knesset every week to limit our rights and constrain political opposition to maintain the status quo, a little pressure from outside may go a long way to change the status quo and reign in the atrocities waiting to happen. The fact that Israelis support such measures is crucial to promoting them abroad. Moreover, if we are ever to normalize relations with the Palestinians, it is absolutely crucial to develop a sense of mutual solidarity in face of the current situation, which one day will be looked at as a period of history which people prefer not talk about too much.

I’m certain most Israelis disagree vehemently. I’d love to hear why in the comments — but please check the FAQ first so I don’t find myself copying and pasting from it in lieu of actual discussion. I can be convinced to change my mind and admit I was wrong, I promise!

And then it hit me

There I was again, thinking about how ridiculous the concept of a “delegitimization campaign” against Israel is. How I’ve never seen any talk of it amongst those who are allegedly involved. How it must be paranoid fear or some kind of conspiracy that causes hasbaraniks and politicians to keep going on about it.

And then it hit me. Could it be? Could it be that there actually is a delegitimization campaign? One that I’ve actually been involved in without realizing it, however marginal my role? Maybe they were right all along?

Of course there’s a delegitimization campaign going on. Continue reading And then it hit me