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Boycott Calls Against Israel
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel congatulates Neve Gordon and other Israeli Academics for their support

BRICUP is the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
PACBI is The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel


The PACBI Column (BRICUP newsletter Sept 2009)

BDS and the Israeli Left

The recent declaration by Neve Gordon, an
Israeli academic at Ben-Gurion University, in
support of BDS [1] has generated a great deal of
commentary and controversy, ranging from
demands that he be dismissed from the university
to a celebration of Israeli democracy and the
upholding of academic freedom.

Here, PACBI takes a sober look at Israeli support
for BDS and comments on its potentials and

Israeli support for BDS, and in particular
academic and cultural boycott of Israel, is to be
welcomed. Long before Gordon’s statement
supporting BDS, staunch Israeli supporters of
Palestinian rights such as Rachel Giora, Ilan
Pappe, Haim Bresheeth, Oren Ben-Dor and
Tanya Reinhart had embraced boycott and
defended it against Israeli critics, particularly
leftists in the academy [2]. Israeli artists’ and
academics’ endorsement of concrete boycott
actions called for by international academics and
artists in the past few years is well known. The
recent formation of the group Boycott!

Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within
[3] is particularly noteworthy, as it
unconditionally accepts BDS as defined and
guided by the Palestinian BDS National
Committee, BNC, unlike some “BDS supporters”
in Israel who are trying to set their own,
restrictive parameters for the campaign or
qualifying their support for it to serve their
political agendas.

PACBI believes that increasing Israeli support
for BDS or a recognition of its inevitability as a
strategy in the struggle against Israeli colonialism
and apartheid is an indicator of the growing
legitimacy, moral superiority and success of the
Palestinian-initiated and led BDS campaign. It
shows that persistent and effective pressure on
Israel, particularly in the form of BDS, has a real
potential for generating political change within
Israel, beginning with academics, artists, and
other public figures.

However, it is important to distinguish among
different variants of such support or recognition,
particularly insofar as they relate to the
Palestinian call for BDS, including the PACBI
call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

First, it should be noted that some Israeli
supporters of BDS studiously avoid the political
framework set by the Palestinian BDS movement
by casting their support for BDS as a strategy to
end only the 42-year military occupation of the
West Bank and Gaza Strip. For example, while
some Israelis do employ the term colonialism or
apartheid, they limit these terms’ application to
the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967, not to
historic Palestine which now encompasses the
state of Israel. Such a formulation sidesteps the
issue of the right of return of Palestinian
refugees, as well as that of the legalized and
institutionalized system of racism and
discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of
the Israel It thus not only fails to adhere to the
comprehensive rights-based approach adopted in
the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel,
but also ignores the UN-sanctioned rights of the
great majority of the indigenous people of
Palestine. The Palestinian call advocates nonviolent
punitive measures to be maintained until
Israel meets its obligation to recognize the
Palestinian people's inalienable right to selfdetermination
and fully complies with the
precepts of international law by ending its
occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and
dismantling the Wall; recognizing the
fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian
citizens of Israel to full equality; and respecting,
protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian
refugees to return to their homes and properties
as stipulated in UN resolution 194 [4].

This raises an important issue concerning the
leadership of the BDS movement. Palestinians
assert their right to set the parameters and overall
strategy of the BDS movement and to remain at
the forefront of the movement as its legitimate
frame of reference and its anchor. Some Israeli
attempts to restrict the scope of BDS, whether in
geopolitical or tactical terms, can only be seen as
an instance of the well-known Israeli “Zionistleft”
penchant for defining the terms of the
struggle and authorizing appropriate solidarity
actions to bring about an end to Israel’s
oppression of the Palestinian people, as they
define it, irrespective of the aspirations and needs
of the Palestinians themselves. We reiterate the
need to keep this a Palestinian-centered
movement in terms of basic principles and
overall strategy, supported by the international
BDS movement whose diverse, context-sensitive
and often creative actions and tactics are critical
to the success of the overall BDS strategy, as
well as being valued as a form of principled
solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Some of the Israeli discourse about BDS betrays
a related attribute of the Zionist left’s political
discourse, which is its Israel-centered rationale
for supporting BDS. In this view, the underlying
principle and main justification for calling for
BDS is to "save Israel from itself," out of a
concern for the country's future, including the
prospects of normalizing Israel’s presence in the
Arab world. Such an overriding concern for
guaranteeing Israel’s future, without questioning
its apartheid and racist character, reveals that not
all members of the Israeli left or “peace camp”
can be counted on as solid allies of the
Palestinian and international BDS movement.
However, we believe that the formulation of the
need for BDS in these terms vindicates one
aspect of the logic of the BDS movement, which
is to make Israelis realize that nothing short of
sustained pressure on Israel will bring about a
change in the political status quo. Whether out of
Israeli self-interest or based upon a principled
commitment to comprehensive Palestinian rights,
such Israeli support for BDS cannot be ignored
and is to be welcomed.

[1] http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-gordon20-2009aug20,0,1126906.story
[2] See, for example, Tanya Reinhart’s 2002 letter to Israeli academic Baruch Kimmerling at http://www.mediamonitors.net/tanya13.html
[3] http://www.boycottisrael.info
[4] http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52




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