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Uniting against Hafrada
Uniting against Hafrada (*)
A boycott against Israel should not only be about blocking off and separating. It must also generate new platforms for cooperation.
Last week, the Israel Apartheid Week was launched simultaneously in 40 different venues, including many major cities, around the world. This annual event, now in its sixth year, which despite its name in fact runs for two weeks, serves as a an important and effective stage for the struggle against Israel`s regime of Hafrada (separation). It is a meeting place where intellectuals, artists and cinematographers, be they Israeli, Palestinian or international, can exchange views and be heard by the public. One of the goals of the event is to promote the Boycott campaign (BDS) aimed at Israel, a campaign which is gaining world-wide momentum, and which now even boasts a local branch in the form of an Israeli action group, called Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (
Many in Israel view the boycott as a demonic threat, but the boycott`s message is one of non-violent resistance, and it was initiated as an alternative to years of violent resistance. The campaign`s stated goals are most worthy indeed. It aims to bring an end to the regime of occupation and separation, and is intended to apply until Israel abides by the tenets of international law and respects the universal principles of human rights. Hardly an anti-Semitic platform... Obviously, even if one finds these stated goals appropriate, the question has to be asked: is the boycott, as it is currently being pursued, a legitimate and effective means for accomplishing these admirable goals?
One condition for this is that the boycott campaign avoid crude generalizations and instead assess each case individually. Another condition, which in fact appears in the Boycott manifesto, is that only Israeli institutions, and not private individuals, should be boycotted.
The difficulty arises from the fact that all institutions, including Israeli institutions which collaborate with the separation regime, are comprised of individuals, and may include those who criticize the regime and advocate its replacement. These people will inevitably be hurt by the boycott. Academicians like Dr. Anat Matar, Prof. Rachel Giora, Dr. Neve Gordon and others, call for the boycotting of the institutions at which they work, and will willingly pay the price, if the boycott progresses. They are in fact already paying a heavy price: ostracized and reviled at their universities and subjected to an onslaught of insults and public criticism. It is vital and rightful that these lecturers continue teaching and educating at Israeli institutions, and it is therefore crucial that they find the space to act, work, develop and circulate their ideas. Within that space, even as they reside in Israel, they should also have the possibility to cooperate with Palestinian researchers. Such co-operation should be clearly distinguished from all sorts of projects held in Israel under the whitewashed title of `coexistence`.
The boycott has to open new doors
When an encounter takes place under circumstances of inequality - and such is almost always the case in Jewish-Arab interaction inside Israel - the final product is deformed and biased. Skander Kobti, co-director of the Film `Ajami`, is therefore right in declaring that he does not represent the State of Israel, even though the sponsors of the film intended it to be a representation of coexistence. Such ”coexistence” projects misrepresent reality, promoting a facade of normalization that has no real basis.
Cooperation has to be real and not rhetorical, Therefore, the boycott has to follow two paths at the same time: on the one hand, one should boycott conferences and other institutional projects originating in Israeli universities, which are funded by the government and where military research is being conducted; one should boycott Israeli cinema in various film festivals abroad when its state sponsors promote it as a `peace initiative`; and one should boycott corporations and businesses which profit from Israel`s violence towards the Palestinians.
On the other hand, however, one should develop new platforms and find common ground where mutual dialogue and creative activity can be carried out on an egalitarian basis.
Boycott should not only be about separating and blocking off - there is no sense in opposing separation by making it more acute. Just as a non-violent struggle is the appropriate response to political, military and spatial violence, so separation has to be countered by cooperation. Sometimes this will occur in the most unexpected places, For example, the wall which was built to separate has become the main venue for joint political activity. Accordingly, the required intervention must follow the form of intellectual, cultural and political creation - while the boycott will inevitably establish barriers, and must indeed do so, it should at the same time open new doors for cooperation between those who seek to unite against the regime of separation.
(*) Einat Weizman-Diamond is an Israeli actress and activist. This article is based on an article in Hebrew published by Maariv on 11/3/2010:
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