Israel “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movement comes to Denver
Founder Omar Bargouti’s recent call for dismantling the entire Jewish homeland in Israel makes plain that the boycott movement’s vision for the Jews of Israel is not a two-state solution or even the one-state solution — but rather a no-state solution.
By David M. Rosen Posted: 11/17/2015
When the 11,000-member American Anthropological Association holds its meetings in Denver this week, the sole issue before its annual business meeting will be whether the largest association of anthropologists in the world will join the Palestinian-based “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movement and boycott their colleagues in Israel. Should the association vote for a boycott, it will mark its final transformation from a professional scientific organization into a radical NGO.
This transformation of anthropology has been coming for some time. For years, boycott, divestment and sanctions activists within the association have used the classroom as a platform for their politics. At last year’s annual meeting of anthropologists in Washington, D.C., numerous so called “scholarly sessions” served solely as pro-boycott rallies where activists bragged about the politicization of the classroom and research. One anthropologist declared that “teaching is my politics” while another proclaimed scholarly objectivity to be part of the “Zionist agenda.”
But why is the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement relentlessly pursuing Israeli anthropologists? After all, Israeli anthropologists, on the whole, are politically liberal, tolerant, and opposed to the politics of occupation as pursued by the current right-wing government of Israel. They would ordinarily be natural allies of any anthropologists interested in finding fair and just solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The answer is quite simple: this movement is not interested in such solutions.
As the movement has grown stronger, it has become significantly more strident. Founder Omar Bargouti’s recent call for dismantling the entire Jewish homeland in Israel makes plain that the boycott movement’s vision for the Jews of Israel is not a two-state solution or even the one-state solution — but rather a no-state solution. The movement is now engaged in a radical anti-normalization campaign designed to shut down debate and communications surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and drive out the voices of dialogue and moderation.
Like all radical movements, this one demands simple binary oppositions: a world made up of oppressors and oppressed, good guys and bad guys. All radical movements have “take no prisoners” and “if you’re not with us you’re against us” positions. This one is no different. Its true goal — the destruction of Jewish sovereignty in Israel — cannot abide even the mere existence of liberal, tolerant, pluralistic and progressive Israeli institutions and actors. What the movement calls its “anti-normalization project” is specifically designed to eliminate all cooperation with centers of progress and reform in Israel.
What does all this mean for American anthropology? This year in Denver, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement will ask the American Anthropological Association to become a sponsor and underwriter of its ideology. Any contemporary observer knows that in recent weeks the forces of radicalism — left and right — have seized the opportunity for promoting violence in Israel and Palestine. In this conflict, the movement is demanding that the American Anthropological Association align itself with some of the most radical and irredentist forces within the Palestinian national movement, against the forces of moderation, including our own colleagues and their departments in Israel.
I have grave doubts that American anthropology can ever recover from taking such a radical step.
David M. Rosen is a professor of anthropology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.