From the amount of energy and money the Israeli government and its supporters put into fighting the BDS movement one might conclude, despite Norman Finkelstein’s disparagement, that boycott is the most powerful tool in the campaign to make the Israeli state accept international law. Here, the Olympic Food Co-op wins its right to boycott Israeli goods in an appeal court, Washington.
The American Studies Association vote to boycott Israeli institutions has had extraordinary repercussions in American politics. The most recent state assembly to present a counter-law penalising any American institution which permits boycott is Maryland. Despite heavy pressure to label BDS as racist and ‘delegitimising’ the state delegates would only support a more anodyne motion.
Two pieces by Mike Marqusee explaining to a friend why there are campaigns in the USA, Europe and even Israel to impose boycotts and sanctions against Israel. To begin with, the Palestinians themselves have asked for it (unlike other oppressed people) and Israel is picked out for special favours by the USA and EU. Israelis feel betrayed because they are ‘people like us’ but our empathy is not with them.
This is a sombre and depressing account of what hopes Palestinians now have for achieving independence. As many have done recently, Norman Finkelstein marks the inertia of Palestinians themselves- the only ones who can shift the status quo. But they are isolated. Obama/Kerry have intervened because of ‘vainglory’ and BDS supporters are living in a fantasy world about their power.
It is a testament to the growth of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign (BDS) that – if we leave aside the claim that it is by nature antisemitic – the arguments about the aims of the campaign have become more precise. Here we post a critique by Ran Greenstein and speeches by 2 JfJfP signatories for and against academic boycott. Jonathan Rosenhead checks off the objections, Bob Fine introduces nationalism into the mix.
The ‘let’s pretend’ of the headline is the prevailing tone of the American debate on Israel/Palestine. The violence of dispossession is ignored, the significance of BDS – to resist is to exist – is grotesquely twisted into an antisemitic, delegitimisation campaign. The only arguments heard are those centred on Jewish, or American, interests. Noura Erekat analyses how it’s done.
“The PA can say anything it wants and no one will listen because it’s not providing an alternative” says a young Palestinian waiting in the dark for the bus to Sodastream. If the issue at the heart of this is the quest for personal dignity then earning a good wage in a decently-run factory in part sets off the humiliation imposed by the checkpoints and harassment. The same checkpoints and barriers make developing the West Bank economy impossible.
After Scarlett Johannson’s straw-sucking plug for Sodastream created mass free publicity for the opposition to illegal settlements, Sodastream’s share price plunged. Share-buyers may invest in all sorts of tacky enterprises as long as no-one makes a fuss. Its reputation may be a company’s most precious asset which is tarnished by a fuss. Targetting the shareholders may be the BDS’s movement most effective tactic.
‘It’s like drugs, this anti-Semitism stuff. You start with something small, like avoiding herbs from Gush Etzion, and before you know it you’re foaming at the mouth and mainlining Mein Kampf’. Jewish Israeli Roy Isacowitz discovers, to his surprise, that he’s an antisemite – according to his Leader (PM Netanyahu) that is. According to aforesaid PM, support for BDS is antisemitic. ‘The only democracy in the Middle East’ + proper home for all Jews, classifies all critics as antisemites.
This is the second piece in two weeks to claim that the BDS has a hidden agenda – to destroy Israel through letting it be overrun by Arabs. (How this would come about is in the mind of the fantasists, such as BDS supporter John Spritzler). After all, if BDS achieved its primary aim – of getting Israel to abide by international law – it would surely strengthen Israel and improve its own now very tarnished reputation for decent governance.
Roger Cohen’s article (above) will not have caused too much discomfiture to the Israeli government. Despite his ‘liberal’ stance he argues himself into condemning BDS for supporting the Palestinian right of return. What might upset Netanyahu et al is this flood of letters in response to the article and the NY TImes’ decision to publish 15 of these, almost all of which support BDS as a tactic to secure recognition of Palestinian rights.
Seriously alarmed by the growing strength of the European BDS movement, Israeli politicians and their American supporters are pulling out every argument to ‘delegitimise’ the movement. Here Yosef Kuperwasser is on a tour to insist the movement is not only antisemitic and trying to delegitimise Israel but, by depending on popular ignorance about Israel’s occupation, is deliberately misleading the public.
Two sharply-worded articles from Haaretz in which the writers, neither of them supporters of BDS, point to the strength of the BDS appeal and the feebleness of the opponents, who claim to support a 2-state solution but do nothing to bring it about. That would mean joining the argument that Israel must respect the law that settlements are illegal.
The publlicity about Scarlett Johansson and the bubble-maker has been a gift to the BDS movement, confirming it is a progressive and popular movement, even though its aims remain unclear to many. Richard Silverstein applies the model of the stages of grief to how the Israeli state is and its supporters are trying to fend off and falsify its aim (which is, uncontroversially, to make Israel comply with international law).
Gradually, the shields the Israeli right have surrounded themselves with are falling. When Netanyahu says Kerry supports boycotts which are immoral – while calling for stronger boycotts against Iran, when Bennett says Kerry is a mouthpiece for antisemitism, when anti-boycott Avraham Burg says the violent occupation will be over when such non-violent action becomes the Palestinian strategy, then, at last, there is change.
If Scarlett Johansson were not young, blonde and beautiful – No 2 in a list of the 100 sexiest women stars – and very rich, and if she had not made a point of her concern for the poor and excluded she would not have become the symbol of, at best naive, endorsement of a company whose very existence is built on the expropriation of Palestinian land. But her very beauty has shown how ugly the settlements are in world opinion.
“Why should Israel, a nuclear power with a strong economy, feel so vulnerable to a nonviolent human rights movement?” asks Omar Barghouti, one of the best-known spokesmen for the BDS campaign. The movement has reached a tipping point; more and more diaspora Jews support it as do intellectuals and trade unions, firms and pension funds which observe basic ethical criteria. And the fact that the NY Times, with its large Jewish readership, should give Barghouti a prominent Op-Ed position, marks the status the movement has now achieved.
Khaled Diab questions the value of BDS as a tool for dismantling the machinery of Israeli colonialism, or of any state oppression. It can have the result in making the target more innovative he argues. He does not, however, make a clear distinction between sanctions imposed by states (eg US against Cuba and Iran) and popular movements which encourage the oppressed people and their supporters – see the subversive wall graffiti.
It seems unlikely that celebrity Scarlett Johansson has done herself any favours by choosing the lucrative Sodastream contract over her role as global ambassador for Oxfam, whose business is human rights and emergency relief (see the many mocking cartoons). Whatever Ms. Johansson actually thinks, she will be known as a person who exchanged the promotion of human needs and rights for the large income from an illegal firm for promoting a bubble.
Responding to Kerry’s pressure, Netanyahu says settlers could stay under Palestinian rule in the West Bank. Bennett says unthinkable – all settlers would be exterminated. Meanwhile, Netanyahu finally takes the threat of BDS seriously and plans a government discussion on it – but the row with Bennett has forced that meeting to be postponed. There’s trouble at the top – and more leeway for the security junta.