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Occupation magazine - Activism

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BDS Turns the Corner
Scott McConnell
The American Conservativ

The American Studies Association landslide vote in favor of boycotting Israeli institutions is a milestone, a landmark event. As one commenter put it, succinctly, history is being made before our eyes. The vote put the BDS movement, growing in Europe and heretofore well known only to Americans who follow Israel and Palestine closely, on the American political map. The New York Times, which has long ignored the campaign, put the ASA vote on its front page.

A few discrete points:

Yes, the American Studies Association is not broadly representative of America. College professors are generally liberal, and ASA members are probably more liberal than most. Much of American Studies analyses, contextualizes, explores, deconstructs American ethnic relations, which is in great part the story of how Americas white founders and their descendants oppressed, marginalized, etc. immigrants and people of color. At many times in my life, Ive found this discourse irritating, tiresome, latently oppressive. But it is also, in the main, true. And it is something that America can be proud of that it has (in real world comparative terms) traveled astonishingly far in fulfilling its founding ideals, which were not (explicitly) racist. Im not an Angela Davis fan (the black former communist candidate for president is an ASA stalwart) but Im glad that someone like her can have a prominent and influential career, rather than be denied it as she would have been in the America of my grandparents.

The vote wont have any immediate and practical impact on Israel and the occupation. It was often argued about the boycott of South Africa that such activities hurt the people they were supposed to help. Perhaps in the short run this was true, but Israeli decision-makers are becoming increasingly conscious that they cant forever occupy the West Bank and benefit from Western diplomatic support and all the economic and cultural benefits that entails. Israelis have voted increasingly for right-wing governments, supported the expansion of settlements, and are generally blithely indifferent to the occupation, whether it be the checkpoints, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the refusal to allow Palestinians to build new homes, the unrelenting bureaucratic restrictions on Palestinian travel, freedom of movement, and life. Growing international isolation will be Israels price for this policy. The ASA vote is the tip of the iceberg of an international campaign to sanction Israel for its refusal to allow Palestinian self-determination on even a small segment of the Palestinan Mandate territory. In Europe, major companies have pulled out of Israeli contracts, and Israelis have been provisionally denied access to EU funds and institutions which they have long been accustomed to accessing. The movement will grow slowly, but it will grow and Israel will change because of it. Just as South Africa did.

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