Earlier this month, The New York Review of Books published a call for “a targeted boycott of all goods and services from all Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, and any investments that promote the occupation, until such time as a peace settlement is negotiated between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.”
That call, signed by Peter Beinart, Todd Gitlin, Michael Walzer and more than 70 other liberal Zionist writers and luminaries, states that the so-called Green Line – the 1949 Armistice Line separating the occupied West Bank from present-day Israel – “should be the starting point for negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian parties on future boundaries between two states.”
This is precisely the kind of attempt to co-opt the success of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that Columbia University professor Joseph Massad cautions about in a 2014 article for The Electronic Intifada: liberal Zionists aim to redefine and redirect the movement’s strength and efforts towards preserving, instead of challenging, Israel as a racist, apartheid and colonial state.
Massad warns that BDS could turn from something “untouchable by European and American officials and liberal academics and activists – who understood its ultimate goal as one that not only refuses to guarantee the survival of Israel as a racist state, but also aims specifically to dismantle all its racist structures – to something increasingly safe to adopt by most of them, as it now can be used to secure Israel’s survival.”
Palestinians must insist, Massad writes, that those in solidarity with them adopt BDS with an explicit commitment to its goals, “to bring about an end to Israel’s racism and colonialism in all its forms inside and outside the 1948 boundaries” – the whole of present-day Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In the current issue of The New York Review of Books, more than 100 activists, scholars and artists from Palestine and around the world – including BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti, activist and scholar Angela Davis, historian Joan Scott, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, writer Alice Walker and South African freedom fighter Ronnie Kasrils – have responded.
The new letter – of which I am one the signers – says that it defies “common sense” to call only for “boycotting settlements while letting Israel, the state that has illegally built and maintained those settlements for decades, off the hook.”
“By omitting Israel’s other serious violations of international law, the statement fails the moral consistency test,” the letter adds. “Aren’t Palestinian refugees, the majority of Palestinians, entitled to their UN-stipulated rights? Shouldn’t Palestinian citizens of Israel enjoy equal rights by repealing Israel’s dozens of laws that racially discriminate against them?”
It emphasizes that the Palestinian call for BDS is aimed at “all entities, Israeli or international, that are complicit in denying Palestinians everywhere their rights.”
So in that sense, its publication of the letter represents a small opening in the wall of exclusion.