Why boycott Israel?
A founding member of the campaign for the academic and cultural boycott outlines the motivation behind the movement.
Author and history professor Mark LeVine speaks with sociologist Lisa Taraki, a co-founder of the Palestinian campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
Mark LeVine: What is the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement and how is it related to the academic and cultural boycott movement? How have both evolved in the past few years in terms of their goals and methods?
Lisa Taraki: The BDS movement can be summed up as the struggle against Israeli colonisation, occupation and apartheid. BDS is a rights-based strategy to be pursued until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and complies with the requirements of international law.
Within this framework, the academic and cultural boycott of Israel has gained considerable ground in the seven years since the launching of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) in 2004. The goals of the academic and cultural boycott call, as the aims of the Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions issued in 2005, have remained consistent: to end the colonisation of Palestinian lands occupied in 1967; to ensure full equality of Palestinian citizens of Israel and end the system of racial discrimination; and to realise the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
The logic of the BDS movement has also remained consistent. The basic logic of BDS is the logic of pressure, not diplomacy, persuasion, or dialogue. Diplomacy as a strategy for achieving Palestinian rights has proven to be futile, due to the protection and immunity Israel enjoys from hegemonic world powers and those in their orbit.
Second, the logic of persuasion has also shown its bankruptcy, since no amount of “education” of Israelis about the horrors of occupation and other forms of oppression seems to have turned the tide. Dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis, which remains very popular among Israeli liberals and Western foundations and governments that fund the activities, has also failed miserably. Dialogue is often framed in terms of “two sides to the story”, in the sense that each side must understand the pain, anguish, and suffering of the other, and to accept the narrative of the other.
This presents the “two sides” as if they were equally culpable, and deliberately avoids acknowledgment of the basic coloniser-colonised relationship. Dialogue does not promote change, but rather reinforces the status quo, and in fact is mainly in the interest of the Israeli side of the dialogue, since it makes Israelis feel that they are doing something while in fact they are not. The logic of BDS is the logic of pressure. And that pressure has been amplifying.