Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The BDS Movement

I’m always inspired and reflective after reading Edward Said. He himself talks about the very definition of authority in literature, and if anyone has been an authority in the Western discourse for the Palestinian cause, it has been Said. With that in mind, some of my latest readings of Said prompted questions about the global BDS movement against Israel.

Let me say from the start that I have been and continue to be a supporter of BDS. For that matter, I am open to discussing ANY method of engagement with Israel to force the end of the occupation of the land of Palestine, the enactment of self-determination for the Palestinian people and the total end of all blockades of supplies to the Palestinian people.

As an American citizen, I am responsible in many ways for the continued torment of the Palestinians. It is my tax dollars and the profits from the multinational corporations based in my country that go towards the continued repression of the Arabs in Palestine. I am outraged that the vast majority of Americans are so ignorant when it comes to this fact. Most are unaware of the basic language and geographical/demographic terms of the conflict such as Nakba, Arab Israelis, The Right of Return, West Bank zones A, B and C, Oslo and all its implications, The pre-1967 borders, The Green Line, etc… It is inexcusable to be uninformed as to the foreign policy of one’s country. Our internal problems are not nearly as important as how our dollars affect other nations.

Historically, any movement to blockade, embargo, boycott, divest, sanction a particular country always hits the citizens of that country harder than its government. In fact, as we saw in Iraq in the 90’s, the government can find ways to further enrich itself while the people starve and die by the millions. The same is true today with Israel’s blockade of Gaza and with the embargo against the people of Cuba instigated by the United States.

Our responsibility is great. We must step back and examine the minute details of what it is we’re doing, and how we plan on implementing the plan to free Palestine without being counter-productive or downright inhumane. For that reason, this article does not pretend to be an answer. It is a question that I am wrestling with, and one in which I am proposing to my comrades for consideration and deciphering. How do we cause a change in policy in the Israeli government without hurting the CITIZENS of Israel? How do we continue to keep the elements of Israeli society that are morally sickened by the occupation fighting for justice?

I believe, as does Said, that any satisfactory resolution of the torment in Palestine is going to involve the aid of people on both sides of the literal divide. It is the morally upstanding elements of Israeli society that are critical to the process. Will we alienate them and shoot ourselves in the foot by the very process of BDS? It is a question that was raised on the BDS website, but is one that I believe deserves more thoughtful consideration. Who will be affected the most by the BDS movement, and how will those results translate to change for the Palestinian people? Are we certain that our actions through BDS are going to cause a change in the century old process and thought of Zionism, or will the very actions of the movement make Zionism more resolute? Will BDS backfire and cause INCREASED rather than REDUCED suffering to the Palestinians?

I ask these questions from the perspective of someone who values each human life as equal to the next. It is the very reason for my radicalization both politically and morally. The reactionary politics of individuals and governments are exactly what motivates me to avoid dogmatic assumptions and assertions. It is only through constant questioning and self-examination that we as radicals/progressives can continue to move forward and cause REAL change. The moment that we become set in a pattern of belief is when we become reactionary ourselves. If we profess to be more open-minded than those whose beliefs we oppose, then we must continue to question.

No one is more pro-justice than I. The struggle against oppression is one that I have adopted as my life’s battle. It is my reason for returning to school, for declining jobs in my long radio career, and for my political affiliation with the ISO. I am raising these questions on BDS to help us achieve the maximum results with the minimum of harm. The Palestinians have certainly endured enough, and we can NOT continue the cycle of violence with Israel as a solution. I do not pretend to be the expert. This is an open-ended discussion that must continue, and my hope is for an honest and critical soul-search on how to best accomplish our goals. It is only through equality that we will reach peace. It is only through valuing the life of the other as much as our own that we can begin to practice justice. I not only welcome your comments, but I hope that we can have an ongoing dialogue on the BDS movement as well as other potential pressures on the racist and unjust Zionists. This statement is meant to start the conversation (from the beginning if necessary), not to end it.

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