To Boycott Israel…or Not?

Naomi Klein and Rabbi Arthur Waskow debate whether divestment will bring peace to the Middle East.

In These Times
Posted by Bulatlat

At the height of the war in Gaza, author Naomi Klein endorsed the campaign known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). A coalition of Palestinian groups founded the BDS movement on July 9, 2005, as a way for the international community to put pressure on Israel to reach a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

In her syndicated column, Klein wrote, “It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.”

Klein, author of the best selling books, The Shock Doctrine and No Logo, has taken heat for her position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Israel is always more emotionally difficult for me,” she told New Voices, a national Jewish student magazine, “I think mainly it’s because of the force of the reaction and the closeness [of the] reaction. It’s not a stranger that is upset about [what I write], it’s people in my family who write me long letters saying, ‘Oh, I hate you!’ ”

Similar strong feelings are on display at Hampshire College, which has been debating whether it should divest from companies that do business in Israel. Hampshire’s Students for Justice in Palestine wants its college to divest from companies like Caterpillar, General Electric, Motorola and United Technologies. In response, Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz has threatened to lead a divestment campaign against Hampshire College if the administration gives in to the students’ demands.

Is BDS the right response? Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a contributing editor of Ramparts and a former fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, says that the BDS campaign will not work. He maintains that significant differences exist between the political situation in apartheid-era South Africa and present-day Israel.

In 1969, Waskow began campaigning for a two-state peace settlement between Israel and Palestine. He is co-author of The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Currently, he is the director of the Shalom Center, a Philadelphia-based organization that he describes as “a prophetic voice in Jewish, multi-religious, and American life that brings Jewish and other spiritual thought and practice to bear on seeking peace, pursuing justice, healing the earth, and celebrating community.”

Recently, Klein and Waskow spoke with In These Times about the efficacy of the BDS strategy.

Share This Post