Israeli Anthropologists Support the Boycott

[this post originally appeared on Savage Minds in the context of the 2014-2016 campaign]

We, the undersigned anthropologists, Israelis and citizens of Israel:

We, the undersigned anthropologists, Israelis and citizens of Israel, concerned about the devastating continuation of colonial dispossession in Israel/Palestine, applaud the courageous stance of members at the 2015 business meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) who, overwhelmingly, by 88%, voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions—a decision that must be ratified in a final electronic membership vote April 15 to May 31. We urge our colleagues in the AAA to vote in favor of this resolution. We believe that an academic boycott puts pressure on the Israeli government to advance our common goal of a just peace for all the inhabitants of this land.

We believe this pressure is vital, and we especially reject any spurious arguments that attempt to blame boycotts, divestments, sanctions (BDS) measures for the rise of the Israeli right. The crisis situation we now face is the result of long political history, in which Israeli politicians have been undermining the possibility for a just two-state solution since settlement activity began in the 1960s. Blaming BDS for the chilling political reality in Israel is a new form of “blaming the victim,” as Edward Said put it long ago.

The call for boycott is not the result of a happy situation, but the outcome of a frightening occupation that destroys Palestinian life and welfare. To quote one critic of academic boycott, Dan Rabinowitz, it is “the disturbing policies which resemble those practiced by the Apartheid regime of South Africa” that produce support for this resolution.

Critics often claim that the boycott undermines the “two-state solution,” making disingenuous claims that the majority of Israelis support this position. No remotely possible governing coalition currently supports any semblance of a just two-state solution (for leading politicians making the case against the two-state solution, see here and here). Further, dissent even among Israeli Jews is under attack, as ruling politicians and extremist, racist groups like Im Tirtzu and Lehava whip up public hysteria against NGOs that attempt to protect Palestinian human rights. No doubt, when our colleagues write about the curbing of dissent in Israel, it is this reality that they are registering.

We agree that we have reached a crisis point, where under certain international conditions, another mass expulsion of Palestinians could occur—or worse. A recent Pew report, based on 3800 interviews with Israeli Jews between October 2014 and May 2015 found that 79% of Israeli Jews (strongly) agree that Jews “deserve preferential treatment in Israel,” and 48% of Israeli Jews (strongly) agree that “Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel.” That is, the Israeli Jewish population overwhelmingly favors the institutionalized racial supremacy of Jews, and a plurality favor outright ethnic cleansing.

We believe it is possible to take a positive stand against this reality. The Palestinian call for BDS is at its core an anti-colonial, non-violent form of international protest against an enormously violent occupation. The AAA resolution calling for an academic boycott does not target Israeli anthropologists nor moderates. It is targeting the frightening and murderous military regime over Palestinian life that shows no signs of ending. It is responding to the urgent need for international condemnation of this regime. Even critics like Rabinowitz recognize this, writing: “I also agree that BDS has dramatically enhanced global awareness of the situation in Israel and Palestine, successfully propelling a realization in the West of the urgent need for meaningful change.”

Some critics charge that the timeline for ending an academic boycott is too vague, and that this could lead to an interminable boycott. On the other hand, they basically admit that dialogue—whatever that could mean, nowhere is it set out—is also an interminable process. They state that dialogue is “frustrating,” and ask for patience. The vague timeline for dialogue echoes the continually deferred “peace process,” which has allowed for the continuing expansion of settlements, but has not approached “peace.” At what point, we ask them, can we acknowledge that dialogue is not producing positive change? Are we to wait and see if the mass expulsion of Palestinians is finalized? If a boycott can seem long, it is only because the occupation is interminable and increasingly intense.

International pressure is necessary now. The most effective non-violent measures available at the moment are boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against the Israeli state as called for by Palestinian civil society organizations. We are proud to join in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues and support this call. We believe that BDS points a way forward to creating truly united action, to defeating colonization, and to making possible a more peaceful and just future for all the inhabitants of this contested land.

We urge all members of the AAA to join in supporting the academic boycott resolution on the spring ballot. Only a principled, international stand can defeat the devastation wrought by the ongoing process of colonization.

Endorsed by 22 anthropologists.

To help protect early career academics–in an atmosphere of increasing intimidation and legal restrictions on advocating for academic boycott–all the signatories have agreed to sign anonymously as a single collective.