Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Choosing between boycotts
It’s a bit slow I admit, but I may as well provide notes on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) meeting organised by the Carter Center that I attended last month. The two presenters, Hazem Jamjoun and Hind Awwad, provided the context for the current BDS movement and its achievements and developments to date.

Hazem noted that the Oslo process and second intifada had caused confusion amongst a formerly united solidarity front, resulting in different types of actions and activities both within the oPt and outside. There was a change from around 2005 on when civil society became increasingly disconnected from the PLO and vocal in their demands. The Palestinian leadership soon followed with selective forms of boycott being promoted and initiated from 2007 on.

While Hazem acknowledge the impossibility of an absolute boycott on Israel he argued that Israeli and Palestinian societies have become so separated by the mid-2000s that selective forms of boycott are possible – most especially regarding food sold in Palestinian supermarkets. Hind echoed Hazem’s comments about the BDS movement being a selective rather than all-encompassing one. Its national committee is willing to accept solidarity organisations’ picking and choosing of certain types over others.

I have to admit to being more sceptical about this approach. I asked how there could be coordination and effectiveness if different organisations ‘cherry-picked’ their favoured form of boycott. My feeling was better articulated by Rosemary Hollis in her presentation yesterday, who noted that boycotts can be counter-productive, by punishing the wrong people (e.g. Israeli academics, who are arguably more sympathetic to Palestinian aspirations than wider society). Looking at my notes, I didn’t really get an answer to that question.

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