FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why a Cultural Boycott of Israel is Needed

At what point does rhetoric stop and effective action begin? For Palestinians, decades of dialogue and supposed peace overtures have proved fruitless, only serving to protect the status quo: sixty years of continual dispossession, forty years of occupation, and a systematic repudiation of international and humanitarian law. The situation for Palestinians will not improve without constructive movement forward—which rejects collusion with the Israeli government by exercising boycott, divestment and sanctions (known as BDS).

During the 1980’s, BDS of South Africa included a cultural boycott whereby musicians and artists from around the world were prohibited from performing in the apartheid state.
In addition to internationally supporting the subjugated black population, this policy was instituted to express that no real dialogue—economic, academic, or cultural—could take place in concert with the atrocities of apartheid. With regard to Israel, the implementation of international BDS is but one necessary measure to shift the balance away from the oppressor and help place it in the hands of the oppressed.

It is imperative to note that a cultural boycott is not aimed at individuals, but rather institutions and a state. Frequently, Israelis travel the world and speak out against their nation’s policies, and many support a full cultural and academic boycott. A cultural boycott does not hinder the prospects for peace; rather it serves to empower conscientious Israelis and Palestinians, and provides the international community with a viable non-violent solution to the current impasse.

After traveling to the occupied Palestinian territories, a host of individuals have asserted that Israeli occupation is in fact worse than South African apartheid. Among these people are highly esteemed anti-apartheid advocate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jewish South African Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils. In an effort to pressure Israel to abort its destructive policies, both argue that the international community should impose a boycott on Israel, analogous to the one imposed on South Africa.

Many organizations and individuals have voiced opposition to an academic and cultural boycott. Their contention is that the arts and academic community in Israel will be denied the basic tenets of free speech. Ironically, the proposed model asserts that people of conscience, including conscious Israelis, are ostensibly encouraged to embrace “free speech” and “dialogue” over the most basic rights of an oppressed people. What remains missing from their argument is the fact that the Palestinian people have been methodically occupied, controlled, and embargoed by the Israeli government and many Israeli institutions for decades—with no effective recourse taken by the United Nations, European Union, or United States.

Just this week, the Associated Press reported that seven Palestinians from occupied Gaza were denied exit visas to “pursue their Fulbright scholarship studies” by the Israeli government. While their Fulbrights were reinstated after the AP article circulated, and the US State Department is now purportedly “trying” to get Israel to change its position, the vast majority of these incidents go unnoticed. There are countless other stories of hip hop artists, theater groups, and debke troupes not being able to travel to the West Bank from Gaza, and vice versa, never mind exiting the prison walls of the Occupied Territories. Moreover, one cannot downplay the multitude of instances where Palestinians—using means of non-violent protest—have been arrested, beaten, or shot by Israeli soldiers. Sadly, many of these detracting groups and individuals in Israel calling for “dialogue” based on “dual narratives” cannot be seen at any of the non-violent protests against the apartheid wall or part of the growing list of Israeli soldiers refusing to serve in the army. Onlookers in the so-called “left” in the US incessantly opine about the need for Palestinians to assert themselves non-violently—yet when Palestinians and their supporters embrace a fundamental tool of non-violent resistance, they are castigated.

Furthermore, those in a position to boycott must recognize the effects of Israel’s policies on the 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of Israel who have become relegated to third class status and have seen their own art and film community attacked by Israel’s discriminatory legal system. If the Israeli people and those in the international community truly want to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, they will embrace what more than sixty Palestinian academic, cultural and civil society organizations have endorsed: a full academic and cultural boycott of the state of Israel.

Throughout the Oslo years, the purported time of peace, endless cultural dialogue took place. But as Omar Barghouti—dance choreographer, activist, and ardent sponsor of a cultural boycott—contends, “A decade of joint Palestinian-Israeli projects mostly resulted in providing a figleaf, covering up Israel’s relentless colonization of Palestinian land and its crimes against the Palestinian people.”

It is clear that even cultural dialogue with the Israeli establishment has only proven to normalize the occupation. Tutu once declared, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Now is not the time to be neutral, nor the time to be reticent; it is the time to act.

* A shorter version of this essay was first published as part of a collection of positions compiled by Randy Gener, titled: “12 Positions on Cultural Sanctions — Theatre practitioners offer their views on a call to boycott Israel,” in the May-June 2008 issue of American Theatre Magazine.

REMI KANAZI is the editor of the forthcoming anthology of poetry, Poets For Palestine, which can be pre-ordered at www.PoetsForPalestine.com. Remi can be contacted at remroum@gmail.com.

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail