The end of 2015 marks the completion of the 10 year anniversary of the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel. Launched to raise the level of international action against the violent and illegal Israeli colonization and occupation of Palestine in an effort to end it, BDS has won a steady stream of international victories, begun to make a significant material and financial impact on the occupation, and galvanized support for Palestinian freedom.
Since 2013, a wide range of U.S. and international academic professional organizations and trade unions have endorsed the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, and especially the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, a particularly important means by which academics, scholars and cultural workers can contribute to the Palestinian struggle for freedom. These include the Association of Asian American Studies; the American Studies Association; the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association; United Auto Workers Local 2865, the Connecticut AFL-CIO; and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers national union in the U.S. Beyond the U.S., the National Union of Teachers (U.K.) and the Teachers Union of Ireland have endorsed the boycott, alongside longtime labor supporters of BDS like the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Academic boycott resolutions have been under discussion in the American Anthropological Association, the Modern Literature Association, and the Middle East Studies Association, among others. Significantly, these boycott campaigns have challenged the lockdown on open discussion of Palestine in the U.S. academy and enlarged intellectual and political space across these fields.
At the same time, major internationally renowned academics and artists have expressed support for academic and cultural boycott, including Stephen Hawking, Junot Díaz, Angela Davis, Judith Butler, Partha Chatterjee, Edward S. Herman, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Robin D. G. Kelley, Chuck D, Boots Riley, and Cornel West.
The rapid growth of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid speaks to a growing international support for BDS as a critical tool in dismantling Israeli apartheid and challenging settler colonialism, and a recognition of the fundamental principles of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement:
USACBI is engaged in building BDS and the boycott movement as an expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people”s grassroots resistance and collective struggle for return, self-determination and liberation. The boycott is nothing new in the Palestinian movement or its call for international solidarity – indeed, boycott has historically been part of the Palestinian national struggle and is an important component of the repertoire of popular resistance, which has evolved over time.
The three principles of the Palestinian BDS call–the end of the occupation and dismantling of the Wall; full equality for Palestinians in Israel; and the right of return for Palestinian refugees–together constitute a decolonial paradigm that demands justice for all segments of the Palestinian nation. The situation in Palestine is a colonial condition; what is so often euphemistically referred to in U.S. media discussion as “the conflict” in the region is at core a struggle between the colonizer and the colonized, in the context of a vast power imbalance between the two.
We believe that justice in Palestine must mean full decolonization and a dismantling of the Zionist settler-colonial framework that has for over 67 years been erected on the dispossession of the Palestinian people and the theft of Palestinian land. The academic and cultural boycott of Israel is an active means by which scholars and cultural workers may put their anti-colonial principles into practice, as BDS principles embody a fundamentally decolonial framework. The demands for justice and racial equality on which the call for boycott is based would lead, by definition, to the transformation of the Zionist state.
We know that appeals to human rights law and international bodies are not enough; it is the movement and the action of people of conscience, of social movements, of grassroots organizations, labor movements, and anti-racist movements that is needed to stand with the Palestinian people and their call for decolonization. The three demands of BDS are a reflection of that call, and of the fundamental principles of national liberation – their implementation is indeed radical in effect, posing a distinctly anti-racist and anti-Zionist challenge to settler colonialism and Jewish and white supremacy in the Israeli state. This is why Israeli officials and the Zionist movement have gone to dramatic extents to attack BDS organizing all over the world – the growing international support for BDS has had a material impact on Israel and also reflects the mounting international recognition of the urgent necessity of bringing an end to colonialism, racism, apartheid, occupation and oppression throughout Palestine.
The BDS movement challenges the racism systematically practiced by the Israeli state; it is an anti-racist, progressive movement. Engaging in the academic and cultural boycott of Israel and building the BDS movement is, for us in the United States, a hinge between the radical politics of Palestinian liberation and radical anti-racist and anti-imperial movements within the U.S. and globally. We represent a powerful force that is flexible, grassroots, creative, and evolving.
The boycott is also an expression of support for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination in Palestine and in the diaspora. USACBI supports the efforts of Palestinian activists in the diaspora and of Palestinian refugees and communities to claim and reframe their own narrative of resistance and resist erasure and repression.
Ten years after the call for BDS was issued, Palestinian mass organizations and movements are still calling upon the people of the world to engage in the boycott, with perhaps more intensity than at any point in the past. There is a new generation of Palestinians “marching on the footsteps of previous generations, rising up against Israel”s brutal, decades-old regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.”
As Palestinians continue to struggle by all means despite the attempts of imperial and colonial states, international aid agencies and foreign donors to contain and redirect popular resistance in post-Oslo Palestine, amid a climate of fragmentation, siege and caging of the Palestinian people inside Palestine and in exile, we must escalate our efforts of solidarity and resistance. The Palestinian civil society groups that originated the call for BDS represent a broad section of popular, grassroots movements that continue today to urge us to put the BDS call into action.
At the same time as international support for the Palestinian people continues to grow, the Palestinian struggle for liberation faces new onslaughts and brutal campaigns of violence and terror. In October 2015 alone, 73 Palestinians were killed, many in execution-styles murders by Israeli soldiers or by lynch mobs of fanatical settlers; over 2,250 Palestinians were injured; and over 1200 arrested. Universities have been tear-gassed, and students have been attacked. Israel continues to erect new checkpoints that undermine freedom of movement and its policies pose a fundamental threat to the security of Palestinians. In fact, Zionist policies represent a form of sociocide as well as scholasticide, for they destroy Palestinian society as they degrade the Palestinian right to education.
The BDS movement is a global solidarity movement based outside Palestine and is not intended to be a replacement of the grassroots struggle of the Palestinian people, but a tactic of international pressure that has been applied on Israel to great global success. It is particularly important to build the boycott movement in the U.S. given the support given by the U.S. government to the settler colonial regime, its strategic partner, which receives billions of dollars annually in U.S. aid. Together, the policies of the U.S. and Israel wreak havoc in the region; this domination and imperial control is also exerted through the regimes of neoliberal Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
This situation requires us to re-double our efforts for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, in support of Palestinian resistance to occupation, apartheid, and settler colonialism. USACBI is committed to increase its academic and cultural boycott organizing in 2016 by: helping to develop new academic boycott resolutions, working closely with Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, engaging in cultural boycott campaigns to challenge Brand Israel, partnering with organizations to develop a national defense network for faculty and students under attack for Palestine solidarity work, and continuing to document and protest atrocities committed against Palestinians, including attacks on students, faculty and educational institutions.
We urge all members of the international Palestine solidarity community as well to join us in re-committing to struggle in 2016 for a free Palestine. We believe that the struggle to liberate Palestine is intertwined with the struggle for freedom here, that we fight for justice in Palestine as we challenge racism, militarization, and settler colonialism here. Our struggles for justice are not the same, but they are also indivisible.
So if you have not done so already, please sign our call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel: http://www.usacbi.org/about/ Please also keep in mind that USACBI is an independent organization and is entirely volunteer-run. You may also support our work at http://www.usacbi.org/donate/
Finally, we encourage you to form your own Palestine solidarity group or Faculty for Justice in Palestine chapter where you live, or to start your own Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign. Tools for doing so may be found at the USACBI website: http://www.usacbi.org/
USACBI Organizing Collective