Stephen Zunes is a Contributing Editor to Tikkun Magazine and professor of political science at the University of San Francisco. His article, “Divesting from All Occupations” comes very, very close to articulating the position on BDS (Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions) held by Tikkun Magazine. We differ only in the following respects:

1. We do not agree that the criterion of what counts as an “Occupation” should be determined in the legalistic way that Zunes derives from international law. The Occupation of Tibet by China and of Chechnya by Russia should count, and there may be other such (India in Kashmir, perhaps?). Ethical considerations should be considered valid in determining what is and is not an “Occupation” when considering BDS.

2. We believe that BDS is also appropriate against any country engaged in prolonged warfare (and hence occupation) in some other country’s territory (the U.S. in Iraq till this year, and in Afghanistan continuing; Sudan in Darfur? Syria in Lebanon for many years, Israel in Lebanon for many years) unless it can make a credible case that failing such an occupation their own country would face occupation by the other.

3. In the case of Israel (or any other country ruled by a group that has a long history of being victims of persecution previous to having a state under its control), I have argued in my book that BDS has the potential negative consequence of increasing the paranoia of that previously persecuted group, which in turn might lead to more oppressive behavior rather than a lifting of the oppressive behavior, and that therefore it is a dangerous (though appropriately non-violent) strategy that should be used very sparingly if at all, and then only in a very targeted way (so, in Israel, I argued in my bookEmbracing Israel Palestine,activists should clearly not targetallIsraeli institutions, but only those specifically involved in enforcing the occupation, and products produced by Israelis living in the West Bank, and firms such as Caterpillar that build equipment that is used to enforce the Occupation and/or the displacement of Palestinians from their homes).

4. It is imperative that those who launch BDS campaigns make clear what it would take to stop the campaign. The reason it is not enough of an answer to say “Stop the Occupation” is that in the case of Israel/Palestine, at least, and this may well be the case in other contemporary or future occupation in other countries, the criterion is in doubt, with some (like those of us at Tikkun) meaning the end of the Occupation of the West Bank and the boycotts and blockades of Gaza by Israel, whereas other supporters of BDS think that the Occupation refers to Israel’s very creation in 1948 and its end would require the ending of Israel as a refuge state for Jews facing oppression elsewhere. One major reason why Tikkun has not joined the BDS movement as a whole is that it seems to include both of these positions, and that makes it very easy for the blind supporters of Israeli policy to claim that support for BDS is really support for an ending of the State of Israel, since at least some parts of the BDS movement genuinely hold that view. We believe that in the case of the State of Israel those who support BDS (ourselves included) need to continuously make clear that they also support the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination in at least part of its ancient homeland in what became Palestine after Jews were forcibly expelled by Roman imperialism roughly 1900 years ago.

Please do read Stephen Zunes important piece which makes a strong argument for a switch in the way that the peace movement could support BDS. As Zunes points out,

At the Presbyterian gathering and elsewhere, many opponents of the divestment resolution acknowledged that the Israeli government is engaged in serious human rights abuses in the occupied territories, but expressed concerned that the divestment resolution unfairly “singles out Israel.” Indeed, there are a number of governments in the world that engage in worse human rightsabuses than Israel, and violations of human rights should be opposed regardless if they take place within a country’s internationally-recognized borders or in an illegally occupied territory. Given that Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, there is understandably particular sensitivity if Israel alone is seen as being targeted, however serious the government’s transgressions.

People click the link to follow the rest of the article, “Divesting from All Occupations.”


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