Monday, January 30, 2012

BDS and a Peaceful Movement to Solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

In Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, Electronic Intifada writer Ali Abunimah published an op-ed defended a conference by the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement (BDS) at the University of Pennsylvania. His essay was part of a debate with Former CIA Chief R. James Woolsey and Jonathan Schanzer over the conference. Woolsey and Schanzer object to the conference as promoting hate of Israel.

My Gut Reaction: Perhaps Woolsey and Schanzer prefer more violent forms of resistance to boycotts. After all, violence makes shilling for policies that border on apartheid much easier. Not to mention the fact that perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict keeps Israel dependent on the United States.

Analysis: Abunimah makes a good argument in favor of BDS. He notes that sanctions were what ultimately brought down the apartheid regime, while conservatives such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher tried to promote "constructive dialogue" as a sop to South Africa's critics while protecting their Cold War ally. He also notes that state-based negotiations have stalled due to weakness on the part of Western powers.

I think the BDS movement offers a new hope in a Middle East dominated by violence. In their article, Woolsey and Schanzer focus on the advocation of violent jihad by groups such as Hamas. One would think they would welcome a non-violent turn in Palestinian resistance.

Woolsey and Schanzer's article is not persuasive at all, and actually spends little time discussing the BDS movement or its goals. Instead, they whine that the BDS boycott doesn't focus more on violence in places such as Syria, never mind the fact that human rights abuses in Syria already get large amounts of mainstream attention. (One could equally condemn Woolsey and Schanzer for not solely focusing their efforts on human rights abuses by countries the United States has closer relations with, such as the People's Republic of China.)

However, the weakness of their article is predictable when you consider the authors' backgrounds. Woolsey was a shill for the Iraq War and publicly argued that Saddam Hussein was connected to the 9 / 11 attacks. Jonathan Schanzer is part of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia think tank set up by Islamophobic fanatic Daniel Pipes. Pipes's main claim to fame is that his writings helped inspire Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who posted a video of Pipes speaking on his blog. He also cited Pipes's writings over fifty times in his manifesto, leading to Pipes posting a rather defensive essay on his blog dissociating himself from the mass murderer who so obviously admired him.

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