The Israeli governments have been fighting for years against the BDS movement. Out of deference to a most extreme form of academic freedom, the Israeli universities - where some of the BDS ideology has developed - have never been censored.
IAM has often reported on BDS activists operating from Israeli campuses. One prominent example is Omar Barghouti, the Qatari born Palestinian and a leading BDS activist, who studied for almost a decade at the TAU Philosophy Department. During this time, he co-founded the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). Dr. Anat Matar, Prof. Rachel Giora, Prof. Neve Gordon, and Dr. Kobi Snitz, among others, have all used their academic position to support BDS.
Prof. Ilan Pappe, another prominent BDS advocate who moved to the UK and trashed Israel on any available platform, has traveled in January to Kuala Lumpur to deliver a lecture at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, where he stated, “My suffering is nothing compared to Palestinians.” He has now moved back to living in Israel. In a recorded interview, he has used the Coronavirus lockdown to blame Israel for the suffering of the Palestinians. Israel has not barred his entry, nor sanctioned him for his longtime BDS activism.
Some of the Israeli universities protected those seeking to boycott them while waving the flag of freedom of speech and academic freedom, a state of affairs that continues even today. TAU Minerva Humanities Center (MHC), a bastion for radical activists, is a home to another BDS activist, Dr. Manar Makhoul, a post-doctorate Palestinian who has been working at the MHC in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. Makhoul is teaching a course, "To Be a Palestinian? Literature, History and the Question of Identity," at the Program of Judeo-Arabic Culture Studies at TAU.
However, as IAM reveals, Makhoul has been a BDS activist. In 2016, Makhoul was a signatory in a letter of protest to participants at the Norway annual urban development conference, known as Oslo Urban Arena (OUA), because it chose to invite Hila Oren from the Tel Aviv Foundation as a keynote speaker. The signatories asked conference participants to leave the conference hall while Oren talks. The signatories wrote they were "saddened" that OUA chose to profile Oren, a "prominent front figure for Israeli state policies," because, "Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a key site of continuous struggle, where the Palestinian population was ousted to make room for largely European colonizers of Jewish background." Oren, the letter continues, "has the active support of Israeli government... [with] continued occupation, ethnic cleansing and colonization of Palestinian lands." This is “in violation of our rights and the future of our people, who lived for centuries in peace." The letter is signed by people who work “for an end to the deplorable occupation."
Makhoul had also worked as a networking & advocacy officer at BADIL, the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, and has featured in BADIL's organ, al-Majdal, in a 2013 publication Eight Years of the BDS Movement: Where have we come since 2005? which he co-edited. Makhoul's chapter "Home and Away: a review of BDS discourse," is aimed to "contribute to the success and evolution" of the BDS movement. He boasted about how within three years alone from the launch of the BDS call in 2005, al-Majdal already published a journal with contributions by BDS activists based in Australia, the Basque country, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Catalonia, England and Wales, Ireland, Israel/Palestine, Italy, Norway, Scotland, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the USA. "The growth of the BDS movement within the first three years was no less than astounding," he wrote. In his chapter, he suggested that "the BDS movement must locate itself as an integral part of the Palestinian national emancipation movement." Makhoul wanted to see the BDS movement addressing the domestic affairs in Palestine and urged to "allocate time and energy for advocating for state sanctions against Israel." Because resistance to oppression is "multifaceted and complementary." For him, "the next challenge for Palestinian civil society is to build a strong BDS campaign inside Palestine and among Palestinian communities in exile." Interestingly, Makhoul also noted that the BDS movement’s Arabic webpage started to operate only in April 2010, that is, five years after the launch of the BDS Call. It means that the targeted audience was primarily
English speakers. He suggested adding more work on the local mobilization and awareness.
TAU did not bother to check whether Makhoul supports BDS, which is against the law since 2011. As centers of learning, the universities have to be models of law-abiding behavior. The flimsy excuse for academic freedom sounds hollow in this context.
Appeal to participants at Oslo Urban Arena 2016
The annual urban development conference Oslo Urban Arena has chosen to invite Hila Oren from the Tel Aviv Foundation as a keynote speaker at this year’s conference. The signatory planners and architects respectfully voice our surprise at this choice. We therefore also respectfully ask you leave the conference while Oren talks.
From 1995 we cooperated with Norwegian expert colleagues in the formation of the Palestinian Ministry of Planning, as a follow-up of the Oslo Accords. Under shifting circumstances this cooperation has continued for nearly 20 years. Our Norwegian colleagues are well acquainted with the situation we suffer, and which indeed touches upon what the OUA Conference is about.
We are saddened by the fact that the OUA has chosen to profile such a prominent front figure for Israeli state policies as Hila Oren, whose role it is to brand Tel Aviv on the international scene. To us, Tel Aviv-Jaffa is a key site of continuous struggle, where the Palestinian population was ousted to make room for largely European colonisers of Jewish background. This conflict is still very hot and anyone who wishes can read about it in digital media. Books have been written about the dark side of Tel Aviv, and Israeli organisations like Zochrot and De-Coloniser are working to “struggle against history’s oblivion and suppressed memories, to finally envision…[an] equal shared life and a peaceful cohabitation.” Forward 19.7.16 .
Irrespective of what Hila Oren chooses to tell you, she has the active support of Israeli government. She is an integral part of the on-going campaign to improve Israel’s standing internationally. This is whitewashing, and it comes in times where Israel faces growing criticism for the continued occupation, ethnic cleansing and colonisation of Palestinian lands. The Ministry of Planning that we built with our Norwegian friends and colleagues is closed down. -What do we need a Ministry of Planning for, when we have no country to plan any more?
Hila Oren’s work is indeed about planning. But this planning is in violation of our rights and the future of our people, who lived for centuries in peace, Jews, Christians and Muslims together. Our advice is to not pay heed to the planning she represents. We therefore respectfully ask you leave the conference while Oren talks. As your friends and colleagues we ask this, as a way of respecting the close ties that have existed and still exists between Norwegian and Palestinian urban and regional planners.
Please show us that Norwegian urban planners and developers do not support Israel’s occupation, colonisation and ethnic cleansing and that you do not consider such actions legitimate in the realm of our profession. We implore you, for this is very important to us and to everyone in Palestine and Israel who works for an end to the deplorable occupation.
Dr. Salem Thawaba- Associate professor – Director of the master program of urban planning and Landscape Architecture – Birzeit University, Palestine
Akram Ijla, PhD, Uppsala University
Nihad Al Moghany, Professor and Urban Planner, Director General of Gaza Municipality.
Ali Abdel Hamid, Professor and head of Department of Urban Planning at Al Najah National University, Nablus
Ziad Amra, Bank Manager, Minneappolis USA
Tayseer Mushtaha, Architect and Planner, Gaza
Said Jalala, Civil Engineer, Gaza
Initiated by Norwegian planners: Knut Felberg, Øystein Grønning, Rolf Skjelstad, Alf Haukeland, Lasse Bjerved, Marit Unstad, Karl Otto Ellefsen.
In addition, the appeal has been co-signed by 95 Palestinian academics and artists who live in Jaffa-Tel Aviv, or have been forcibly exiled and are refused re-entry in spite of being Israeli citizens.
Signatures on Oslo Urban Arena Conference call for boycott of Hila Oren
1. Jehad Abu Raya, Advocate and Social Activist, Director of Falesteeniat Organization.
2. Ibraheem Naserallah, Writer and Lecturer, Paris University.
3. Professor Shareef Kanaenah, Professor of Anthropology at Beir Zeit University .
4. Mohamed Hafez Yaqoub, Lecturer, Paris.
5. Samah Idrees, Chairman of auditors, Al Adab Journal.
6. Fathi Abu Al Redha, Activist for return to destructed Palestinian villages in Israel.
7. Rajah Ighbareia, Member of the Political council of Abna Al Balad Organization.
8. Abid Abeddy, Artist.
9. Ahmed Khanaan, Artist.
10. Fathi Fourani, Writer, Haifa.
11. Kholoud Masalhah, Media Centre, Haifa.
12. Waqim Waqim, Advocate and social activist.
13. Ayman Hajj, Vice president of Kefah Movement for Arab-Palestinian rights.
14. Waheeba Zeyad, Independent activist.
15. Loai Khatib, Member of the Political council of Abna Al Balad Organization.
16. Sami Mohana, Poet and the President of the Palestinian writers and journalists in Historic Palestine (48).
17. Amani Al Hindy Barakat, Al Awda Association, San Francisco.
18. Hanan Bakir, Writer and Journalist, Oslo.
19. Lobna Masaraw, Journalist in Middle East Media, Jerusalem.
20. Jamal Joma’a, The Popular Movement against the Israeli separation Wall and Israeli Settlements.
21. Professor Ronin Ben Ari, Tel Aviv University and Technion Institute, Haifa.
22. Professor Aytan Bronshtain, Decolonizer, Tel Aviv University.
23. Hezar Hejazi, Psychologist and Founder of Falesteeniat Organization, Acre.
24. Rola Qassem, Falesteeniat Member of Board, Al Ramah (North of Acre).
25. Mohamed Khalil, Physiotherapist, Sakhneen (East of Acre).
26. Yaqoub Hejazi, Writer and the director of Al Aswar Foundation, Acre.
27. Hanan Hejazi, Director of the Children Cultural Center, Acre.
28. Ghadir Al Shafe’, Women Coalition of Haifa.
29. Dr. Adib Jarrar, Organizational Development and Leadership Consultant.
30. Yousef Sharqawi, Political Activist.
31. Badee’ Al Dewiek, Human rights activist.
32. Somar Salem, Artist.
33. Greitta Berlin, Free Gaza Activist.
34. Hoda Salah Al Deen, Political Activist.
35. Lena Hejawi, Schools supervisor and educator.
36. Manal Abu Raya, Woman Empowerment Consultant, Jaffa.
37. Professor Mohamed Tarazan Al Aeq.
38. Sohad Haj Yehia, Business owner.
39. Mona Jouzin, Physiotherapist.
40. Inass Moreeh, Journalist, Tamrah, Hifa.
41. Saed Dabah, Artist.
42. Mohamed Abu Rayah, Advocate and Justice defender, Sakhneen.
43. Ahlam Abbasi-Ghanem, Engineer, Acre.
44. Said Al Nahry, Artist. Skhneen.
45. Jamal Haider, Social Activist.
46. Nadia Ismael; Events organizer.
47. Issam Mohamed Al Zober, Teacher.
48. Halah Araffat Al Taher, Teacher.
49. Lamees Al Douri, Political writer.
50. Nayef Quseny, Civil Engneer, Haifa.
51. Ahmed Khaleefah, Advocate, Human Rights Association, Nazareth.
52. Mazen Al Azah, Activist.
53. Ikhalss Zeibak, Falesteeniat Organization, Acre.
54. Sewar Abu Aqel, Student.
55. Alla’ Kayal, Advocate.
56. Sabreen Foqaha, Writer.
57. Jamal Haider, Workers Union.
58. Ahmed Ighbareiah, Activist.
59. Benan Qabalawi. Activist.
60. Samir Abid Rabo, Professor in International Law.
61. Nabil Awad Deiab, Activist.
62. Omar Shaa’the, Engineer.
63. Rami Sakher Al Bargouthy, Activist.
64. Jouhainah Hussein, Woman Empowerment Activist.
65. Akram Hessain, Political activist.
66. Qadri Abu Wassel, Detainees Specialist.
67. Helin Mahajneh, Activist.
68. Amani Khaleileh, Advocate.
69. Arabiah Mansour, Family Consultant.
70. Manar Makhoul, Researcher.
71. Sameeh Saleebi, Accountant.
72. Mazen Fares, Physician.
73. Ques Qaderi, Advocate.
74. Hamoudi Seuliman, Advocate.
75. Moaz Abu Rashid, Law student.
76. Sami Mea, university student.
77. Anaeieh Hussian, Activist.
78. Doa’ Sahli, Social Activist.
79. Ameer Abbas, Journalist.
80. Lateefah Younis, Artist.
81. Reemah Najjar, University Lecturer, Haifa.
82. Saleem Abu Jabal, Political Activist.
83. Belal Derbas, Social Activist, Haifa.
84. Hussam Arrar, Political Activist.
85. Samah Hayek, Journalist.
86. Najwah Mabareeki.
87. Rami Sayegh.
88. Zaheerah Sabbagh, Writer.
89. Issam Hejjawi, Speaker of expelled Palestinians in Skottland.
90. Ayman Shahid, writer.
91. Dr. Nadiah Habbash, Architect and Urban Planner, Beir Zeit University, Municipality of Rammallah, Member of Elected Board.
92. Kamal Al Deen Amourah, Activist.
93. Hania Harb, Activist.
94. Safa Abdo, Activist.
95. Israr Mussa, Activist.
al-Majdal (Issue No. 54)
Home and Away: a review of BDS discourse
by Manar Makhoul*
This 54th issue is the third al-Majdal to feature BDS as a theme. The first was issue no. 26 (Spring 2005) simultaneous with the launch of the BDS Call. On the third anniversary of the BDS Call, in Summer 2008 (issue no. 38), BADIL published a special extended issue featuring BDS. Within only three years from the launch of the BDS Call, al-Majdal 38 carried contributions from BDS activists based in Australia, the Basque country, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Catalonia, England and Wales, Ireland, Israel/Palestine, Italy, Norway, Scotland, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. The growth of the BDS movement within the first three years was no less than astounding. As a way to track these developments BADIL dedicated a section of al-Majdal for “BDS Updates” beginning in 2005. However, due to the proliferation of BDS activities and those who specialize in documenting them, the editors of al-Majdal decided to discontinue the “BDS Updates” section as of issue no. 52 (Spring 2013):
Today, the BDS movement has become a household term in the realm of social and political activism. Many campaigns and outlets such as the Electronic Intifada, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and the Boycott National Committee website have developed excellent coverage and documentation of BDS’s development. Beginning with al-Majdal no. 52, BADIL will no longer carry the BDS roundup, but it will continue to highlight the importance and use of the tool. (Editorial, al-Majdal no. 52)
The current issue of al-Majdal comes eight years after the launch of the BDS Call, and five years after issue no. 38. The discourse on the BDS movement has evolved considerably since 2005. This article will outline some of the transformations in the BDS discourse since 2005, and raise some points for consideration. The article aims to outline the achievements as well as point to areas that require further discussion. The main issues relate to placing the BDS movement within the Palestinian national movement of resistance stemming from a strategic and comprehensive synergy between all aspects of Palestinian political activism. Primarily, the BDS movement must locate itself as an integral part of the Palestinian national emancipation movement. Furthermore, the BDS movement needs to address domestic affairs in Palestine more closely and allocate time and energy for advocating for state sanctions against Israel.
Marketing, Branding and Public Relations
In addition to the enthusiasm and conviction that proponents of the BDS movement displayed in the early stages of the campaign, it is possible to identify some other elements. Articles in the 2005 al-Majdal issue featuring the BDS movement following its inception could be characterised, quite understandably, by caution and anticipation as to the future of the movement. Non-violence was the first justification, or marketing tool, to be used in the earliest issue of al-Majdal – featuring as the editorial’s first subtitle. The opening sentence states that: “Boycotts, divestment and sanctions provide a non-violent strategy towards a solution of the conflict based on universal principles set down in international law and in the UN Charter and resolutions,” (Editorial, al-Majdal 26, emphasis added).
Not exclusive to the editorial, al-Majdal referred to the BDS movement as non-violent in five of the six articles dedicated to BDS in 2005. It seems that those involved in BDS activities needed to ‘brand’ the movement as non-violent as a means to increase its legitimacy in the public opinion worldwide. In a critical commentary, republished in the current issue, Nimer Sultany refers both to the Palestinian Authority and the BDS movement when he explains that,
Given its apparent failure to achieve its declared objectives, armed struggle has given way to nonviolence, which has become more fashionable today since it resonates with Western perspectives. Given that stereotypes cast Palestinians as violent, aggressive, and irrational Arabs or Muslims, Palestinians are forced to declare their pacifism before being admitted to the world of legitimate discourse or given a hearing of their views (Nimer Sultany, page 15).
Such was the zeitgeist at the launch of the BDS campaign, and it is reflected in somewhat apologetic tones by some proponents of BDS. For example, the following is a quotation from a 2005 article focusing on academic boycott attempting to justify and explain that the boycott would eventually affect real people:
Boycotts and sanctions are not exact sciences. They affect real institutions providing jobs and services to real people, many of whom may not be directly implicated in the injustice that motivated the punitive measures. Any boycott, intended to redress injustice, will in the process harm some innocent people. That goes without saying. One must therefore resort to clear, morally consistent criteria of judgment to arbitrate whether the cause of the called-for boycott and its intended outcome justify that unintended harm. (Academic Freedom in Context, al-Majdal 26)
The above quotation reflects uncertainties that come with launching a new campaign and the attempts to foresee hardships, opposition and criticism, thus suggesting adapting to circumstances (because the campaign is not an exact science) by aiming to justify the ‘harmful’ consequences of the campaign in terms of its ultimate moral goal. Critical of such Palestinian apologetic approach, Nimer Sultany clarifies 6 that, “in order to choose non-violent means [of resistance], one need not necessarily be a pacifist. The choice of the means depends on historical and political circumstances” (Nimer Sultany, page 15).
In contrast to the 2005 issue of al-Majdal, the editorial in al-Majdal from 2008 (BDS and the Global Anti-Apartheid Movement, Summer 2008) did not address non-violence at all. Moreover, of the 22 contributions dedicated to the BDS movement, only four referred to BDS as a non-violent movement. The reason for the diminishing of the non-violence discourse can be attributed either to the increasing Western public awareness of the BDS movement, already exposed to its non-violent branding efforts of earlier years, or it could be attributed to internal debate among activists towards this issue, as explained above. Nonetheless, reducing the ‘non-violence’ discourse by BDS does not seem to have been a collective strategic decision, stemming from a holistic overview of resisting Israeli colonialism in Palestine. This is the case despite having this point made clear in an article published in the earlier al-Majdal, drawing from the rationale in the South African experience:
“Focusing only on boycott could be a mistake,” says Bengani Negeleza, whose family was actively involved in the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa. “From my experience, all tools were important in South Africa; the boycott was as important as the military struggle.
What is effective is the association of all those tools.” (Nathalie Bardou, al-Majdal 26)
Notwithstanding if the Palestinian case is comparable to the South African model or not, the point made in the above quotation is towards resistance to oppression that is multifaceted and complementary. It is important to raise this point for a discussion of its strategic value to the BDS movement as well as the Palestinian political levels. One of the first concerns that need to be addressed relates to the movement’s visibility in Palestine itself. Relatively speaking, and in contrast to its global appeal and successes, the BDS movement somewhat neglected the domestic arena in Palestine. Palestinian participation and awareness of the BDS campaign is of crucial importance. This point was clear since the early stages of the movement:
The key lesson of the South African struggle is that international isolation is expedited by effective internal mobilization and sustained people’s resistance. The challenge facing Palestinian civil society is to build a strong BDS campaign inside Palestine and among Palestinian communities in exile. (Editorial, al-Majdal 26)
Al-Majdal issue no. 38, published in July 2008, followed the establishment of the BDS National Committee (BNC). The Editorial implicitly identifies the insufficient involvement of the BDS campaign in Palestine, and clarifies that, “[t]he central aim of the BNC is to deepen the involvement of the Palestinian people in the campaign and provide Palestinian support and resources for campaigners worldwide,” (Editorial, Al-Majdal 38). One of the main achievements of the BNC, as described in al-Majdal no. 38 Editorial, was the launch of the www.BDSmovement.net
website. However, it seems that the main focus of the BNC’s work was to serve the global campaigns and to a lesser degree local public awareness and engagement. This is evident in the above quotation as well. Moreover, the BDS movement’s Arabic webpage, intended to appeal to Palestinians and Arabs alike, started to operate only in April 2010 (the earliest post on the page) – five years after the launch of the BDS Call. Nonetheless, there is considerable transformation on this front and the BNC is becoming more visible in the Palestinian local arena. One of the main, and recent, activities to address this issue was the Fourth BDS National Conference held in Bethlehem in June 2013. However, more work, local mobilization and awareness raising activities need to be done.
The BDS campaign has come a long way in the past eight years. In addition to a myriad of campaign achievements worldwide, BDS has also contributed to shifting the discourse away from “two ethnic groups squabbling over land” to one in which “one group dominates another and deprives it of basic rights – a clear moral issue,” (see Lessons from the Campaign for Sanctions on Apartheid South Africa page 10). If, in summer 2008, articles about BDS needed to elaborate on the term ‘apartheid’ (see Applicability of the Crime of Apartheid to Israel in al-Majdal 38), it is possible to say that in 2013 this is no longer necessary. In a few years, “[...] the analysis of Israel as an apartheid regime [...] has become widespread in the BDS movement,” (Editorial, al-Majdal 38). However, in addition to well-deserved congratulations, much work remains on outstanding issues that the movement needs to address.
This article pointed to some advancements as well as shortcomings of the BDS movement and BDS activism. The article stems from the ongoing debate in the BDS movement itself and aims to contribute to the success and evolution of the movement. The BDS movement is an organic movement, in the sense that it adapts to changing circumstances in different locations. However, it is important to try to strategize the BDS movement within a wider Palestinian national movement for resisting Israeli colonialism in Palestine. Such a national strategy will help address many of the domestic shortcomings of the movement mentioned above and would insure wider public participation. Another issue that needs to be raised, is the ‘S’ in the BDS acronym, referring to campaigning for Sanctions against Israel. Although issue no. 26 of al-Majdal included one article on the feasibility of sanctions on Israel, the BDS movement needs to pursue this matter in the future (see What happend to the ‘S’ in BDS? on page 8).
*Dr. Manar Makhoul is the Networing & Advocacy Officer at BADIL.