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Boycott Calls Against Israel
The BDS Movement: An Exercise in the Politics of Delegitmization
08.01.15

Editorial Note 

Ever since 1948, Palestinian academics compared Israel to a colonial state and, later, to apartheid state of South Africa deserving of boycott.  The theme was picked up by Uri Davis, a card-carrying member of Matzpen who immigrated to England in the 1970s.  

Yet as hard as the Palestinians tried to make the case for apartheid and BDS it did not stick.  The reason was simple: in the complex logic of academic discourse, Palestinian could not persuade the larger community that they were impartial analysts. Davis, the then virtually lone Jew, was considered too much of a political activist to make a credible argument. It probably did not help his credentials when he converted to Islam, married a Palestinian woman and joined the PLO.

Enter the post-Zionists.  On faculty of respectable Israeli universities, they recycled the old Palestinian charges under the guise of New History, New Sociology or New Whatever.

Ilan Pappe is a case in point.  Pappe, a member of the Communist party, has a history of radicalizing his own claims about the alleged Israeli atrocities committed by Israel in 1948.  Even a perfunctory look at his books illustrates the trend; from a rather tepid recall of the 1948 war in his doctoral dissertation, Pappe has graduated to ethnic cleansing and, most recently, to “incremental genocide,” quoted in the article below.

In spite of shoddy and highly politicized scholarship, Pappe is a fixture in the BDS circles, incessantly quoted and summarized.  It is hardly accidental that Omar Barghouti starts his review of the BDS achievements in 2014 with a reference to the “prominent Israeli historian Pappe.”

After more than a decade of such fawning references, Pappe is probably convinced that he is a “prominent” historian.  Here is a simple test that Pappe should take; he needs to ask himself whether he would be considered “prominent” and constantly paraded if he were an Arab.  The answer is a resounding No! After all, Pappe says the same things that many Palestinian and Arab scholars have said, but no one displays them all the time.  The case of Benny Morris, is also pertinent here; as long as Morris was writing books supporting ethnic cleansing, he, too, was a hero to the BDS crowd, reverentially referred to as a “prominent historian.” Once Morris had changed his political ideas and adjusted his texts accordingly, he was dropped like a hot potato by the BDS circles.

Pappe probably does not have enough humility to take the test.  But if he does, he would find out that he is a trophy of the BDS movement. 



2014: Shattering the Academic Boycott of Israel Taboo

2014 was simultaneously a terribly painful and remarkably hopeful year for the Palestinian people.

 
Israel’s massacre in Gaza during the summer was its worst to date against Palestinians under its occupation. Its barbaric siege and systematic denial of basic needs to the 1.8 million Palestinians in the world’s largest prison camp, the Gaza Strip, has been described as “incremental genocide” by the prominent Israeli historian Ilan Pappe and as collective punishment and a war crime by leading human rights organizations around the world
 
Israel’s ethnic cleansing and state-enabled fanatic settlers’ violence against the indigenous Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and the Naqab (Negev) have reached an unprecedented intensity and criminality.
 
Israel’s parliament has shed any mask of supposed democracy, revealing the true nature Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid like never before.
 
Yet, the BDS movement grew exponentially in 2014, and its growth in the academic field was no exception!
 
Here are some highlights of the academic boycott of Israel developments in 2014:
 
January: A BDS panel at the Modern Language Association was received by Israel and its lobby groups as another sign of the growth of BDS in mainstream academic circles in the U.S.
 
February: The New York Times Editorial Board condemned attempts in the New York Legislature to pass a bill that would bar state financing for academic groups that support the boycott of Israeli universities.
 
Dozens of leading Irish academics signed a pledge honoring the academic boycott of Israel until Palestinian rights are respected.
 
March: University of Massachusetts Boston faculty and staff sign a statement endorsing the academic boycott of Israel.
 
People’s Books Co-op votes to join the BDS movement against Israel, instituting a consumer, cultural and academic boycott of the Israeli state.
 
Dundee University students adopt BDS-related motions by an overwhelming majority--72.6 percent of those who participated in the vote supported the motion.
 
A motion calling on the Students’ Union of the National University of Galway (Ireland) to actively participate in the BDS movement passes by an almost 2 to 1 margin (1,954 to 1,054 votes) during a student referendum.
 
April: the student senate at the University of California at Riverside vote to support a resolution sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine calling on the university to pull its investments from US companies profiting from Israel’s occupation.
 
Graduate students at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque pass a resolution which calls for the divestment from companies profiting from human rights violations in occupied Palestine and at the US-Mexico border.
 
May: Philosopher and activist Grace Lee Boggs and actor and activist Danny Glover sign a statement supporting the Palestinian call for the cultural and academic boycott of Israel.  
 
In the UK, the National Union of Students (NUS) Black Students' Conference adopts a motion in support of BDS. The Black Students campaign “represents the largest constituency of Black students in Europe and students of African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean descent, at a local and national level on all issues affecting Black students."
 
In the autonomous region of Catalonia in the Spanish State, a campaign for academic boycott attracts the backing of over 800 academics, students and university staff.  In addition, activists forced the Secretariat for Universities and Research in Catalonia to examine the campaigner’s proposals aimed at ensuring the new deals for academic collaboration with Israel do not benefit institutions and companies that participate in Israel’s occupation.
 
In California, the student government of the University of California at Santa Cruz passes a divestment resolution against companies involved in the Israeli occupation, the fifth of nine campuses of the UC system to do so.   
 
In Chicago, students at DePaul University, the largest Catholic university in the US, pass a divestment resolution despite conditions of fear and intimidation from Zionist groups.  Students voted (54% to 46%) in favor of a referendum calling for divestment from companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Caterpillar for their complicity in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.
 
In Connecticut, Wesleyan University students vote to support divestment from companies profiting from Israeli military occupation in Palestine.  
 
In Florida, the University of South Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine gathers an unprecedented 10,000 signatures for a petition calling for divestment.  The petition is the largest student petition in Florida history.
 
June: An Israeli government-sponsored conference in occupied Jerusalem prioritizes fighting BDS as a strategic threat and threatens academics that are critical of Israel with “professional humiliation.”
 
July: In what was hailed as a victory for the global boycott of Israel campaign, the Federal Court of Australia dismisses a case waged by an Israeli-based NGO to find Sydney academic Jake Lynch in breach of the country’s anti-racism laws.
 
The African Literature Association (ALA) “endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. It is also resolved that the ALA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.”
 
The Critical Ethnic Studies Association in the US endorses the academic boycott of Israel.
 
The Student Association (VCASA) of the Victorian College of the Arts (Melbourne University, Australia) unanimously votes to become part of the BDS movement.
 
US librarians, archivists and information workers, stressing their “ethical obligation to speak out in the face of injustice,” call on their peers “to boycott and divest from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestine.”
 
August: The national executive committee of the National Union of Students (UK), which represents 7 million students, adopts BDS.
 
1,200 University professors and researchers in Spain demand breaking academic ties with Israel.
 
letter, signed by 327 Jewish Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors, sponsored by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and published as an ad in the New York Times, condemned Israel’s “massacre” in Gaza and called for a full boycott of Israel, including of its academic institutions.
 
A large group of employees, faculty members, PhD students and researchers of the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), in The Hague, including 7 Prince Claus prize holders, call on the Dutch government to “officially implement boycott, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel.”
 
Institute of Women’s Studies at Birzeit University calls on “all scholars of the world, all women’s organizations, all who fight for freedom and justice to take a clear stand against this racist state’s continuous war crimes, genocidal acts, and violent rape culture. …Stand by resistance to the occupation, joining the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of these “academic institutions” ….
 
More than 250 philosophers and political theorists call for a boycott of Israel.
 
Over 100 Middle East Studies scholars and librarians call for the academic boycott of Israel.
 
September: African National Congress (ANC) members and leaders should not travel to Israel as the party is in solidarity with the people of Palestine, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe states, calling for a “cultural, academic and education boycott of Israel, including travel bans for members and leaders of the ANC, the alliance, members of Cabinet, Members of Parliament and government officials." 
 
October: More than 1,000 anthropologists from around the world call for an academic boycott of Israel.
 
Several dozen Jewish Studies professors from universities and colleges in the United States and Canada condemnright-wing Zionist group’s program of spying on students and academics that are critical of Israel.
 
The Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI) campaign to cut ties of the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi with Israel.
 
New York Times best-selling author Junot Díaz, who received a Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and won the prestigious MacArthur “Genius Grant,” endorses the United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).
 
November: A high profile delegation of South African academics, former anti-apartheid leaders, educators and activists after a visit to the occupied Palestinian territory call for BDS against Israel.
 
The Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA), a bi-national professional association, including peace and justice scholars, activists, and educators in the United States and Canada, joins the BDS movement.
 
A huge win for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) annual conference in Washington: Participating members vote overwhelmingly, by a majority of 265 against 79, to adopt a draft resolution defending their right to boycott Israeli academic institutions.
 
December: Despite a costly anti-BDS campaign, divestment organizers at UCLA celebrate a milestone victory for social justice with the passage of "A Resolution to Divest from Corporations Engaged in Violence against Palestinians." The resolution passed by an 8-2-2 margin. It was sponsored by 15 student organizations and endorsed by an additional 17, making for 32 total student groups in support of divestment. UCLA's vote marks the 6th student government out of 9 at the University of California campuses to have taken a majority vote in support of divestment from corporations that violate Palestinian human rights.
 
University of California graduate student-workers ratify UAW 2865’s resolution to join the Palestinian-led BDS movement, setting a historic precedent. The landslide, 65%-35%, vote is the first time that the membership of any major union body in the US has taken a stand against more than six decades of complicity by U.S. governments, universities and top labor officials in Israeli apartheid.
 
Members of the American Anthropological Association overwhelmingly defeat a resolution opposing the academic boycott of Israel, proposed by Zionist groups. Out of 700 AAA members attending the session, only 52 supported the anti-BDS vote.


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