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The Dominion, August 2009 — Issue #62 “Boycott Debate,� continued from page 9 believes, will pressure a part of Israeli society to say: “We need peace to have a normal life.� Klein thinks there has been a change within Israeli society after the 2008 massacre in Gaza and the election of the far right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “Most progressive Israelis drew the line at calling Israel an apartheid state and calling for a boycott,� but now, she says, a group of Israelis have come together to form Boycott from Within. *** Yael Lerer is the founder of Andalus Publishing and a Boycott from Within member. The publishing company hasn’t turned a profit. It can barely afford to translate The Shock Doctrine into Hebrew. Fortunately, Klein donated Andalus the publication rights. All royalties from Hebrew copies sold in Israel will go towards Andalus for translating Arabic literature into Hebrew. “I think that all our work is a work of resistance,� says Lerer. She explains that publishing books in Hebrew by authors like Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and Elias Khoury (both donated publishing rights to Andalus) is part of the fight against the cultural hegemony in Israel. Most Israelis “don’t really want to be part of the Arab world,� says Lerer. “They don’t want to read Arabic literature or to be aware of what is going on around them.� From her home office in Tel Aviv, Lerer tells me, “With every book that I publish, I always have some moments that I think ‘this is the last book that I publish’; and for what, for whom? “But on the other hand,� she adds, “I think that if there are a thousand Israelis that read Naomi Klein, like some of those that read our Arabic translations, it’s going to make some impact.� Lerer says boycotting Israel doesn’t mean you must stop speaking to Israelis. Instead, she wants to end the normalization of the occupation. “I cannot bear this normality that Israelis live,� explains Lerer. “Personally, I’m disturbed by all of these Israelis who think of themselves as

enlightened people and at the same time don’t do anything against the occupation, or do things, but in a very minor way.� She hopes intellectuals won’t be welcomed to international festivals if they’re contributing to the portrayal of a “normal liberal Israel, when Israel is an apartheid state.� Lerer thinks more academics who fear the repercussions of speaking against Israel might be motivated to speak out if they’re pressured by the international community. Lerer has been an activist for nearly 30 years. “No-one could imagine then what is going on now. Nobody could imagine massacres like Gaza,� she says. “With the slogans of peace Israel gets all this support and can continue to do what it wants.� The Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, the peace agreement with Egypt in 1978. And yet, says Lerer, “So much blood has been shed since then.� Lerer doesn’t expect change from inside Israel anymore. “I need this boycott. I need external pressure.� When I ask her if she thinks the boycott will further antagonize Israel she reminds me of the Tel Aviv University poll: 94 per cent of Israeli Jews supported the attack on Gaza. “What is more aggressive than this [attack on Gaza]?� she asks. “Concentration camps? Gas chambers?� *** Some critics of the boycott believe the BDS campaign will only increase Israeli fears that they’re being attacked. Very few Israelis, including those calling themselves peace activists, support the boycott. “What we’re going to do by doing that [boycotting Israel] is create greater anxiety amongst Israelis,� says Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin. CEO and founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), Baskin believes that if there is still a chance for a two state solution–�the only solution,� in his view–then the focus should be on that. IPCRI is housed in a unique location inside the Tantur Ecu-

menical Institute, overlooking East Jerusalem. Down the road is the concrete wall and the checkpoint into Bethlehem. Across the street at the foot of the hill, an active construction site builds block houses in the settlement of Har Homa. “I think it’s using ammunition too early,� reiterates the peace activist. “It won’t get the support of governments around the world at this point. It’ll be on the margins.� Baskin thinks the international community should instead employ a concentrated boycott of products coming from the settlements, focusing on Israeli policies in the settlements and the occupied territories. “That would have more support amongst ordinary Israelis and it would not be using a tool that might be important to use at a later stage, and we’re not there yet,� says Baskin. “If you check you’ll find a direct correlation between those who are using the language of apartheid South Africa and how they see the solution to the conflict. And I disagree with them entirely,� says Baskin. “I think it denies Palestinian people the right to self determination. A large majority of Palestinians want an independent state. They don’t want to be part of a bi-national state, neither do Israelis.� Furthermore, Baskin believes that one secular democratic state for all Israeli and Palestinian citizens will mean continuing the conflict. According to Baskin, “It means that we’re going to be killing each other in much greater numbers with much greater intensity.� *** Nonetheless, Israel’s assault on Gaza this winter has turned more people into supporters of the worldwide boycott, especially in Canada. Independent Jewish Voices Canada (including signatory Naomi Klein) became the first national Jewish organization to support the boycott in June. The University of Toronto held the first Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) in 2005. This year, 40 cities participated in IAW and Hampshire College became

the first American school to completely divest from Israel. (The institution has withdrawn its investments in six companies that supply the Israeli military with equipment and services in the occupied territories.) Citing IAW events in Toronto, Canadian director John Greyson pulled his film from TLVFest in June, the annual LGBT film festival in Tel Aviv. “The Israeli apartheid forum this week, and particularly Naomi Klein’s speech, helped clarify my thoughts. Her words took me back to the BDS movement of the Eighties, against South African apartheid, and the first 16mm film I ever made, which was in support of that struggle, clips of which are included in Fig Trees [Greyson’s latest film]. The cultural boycott worked in South Africa’s case, and lead directly to the sweeping changes and activism that Fig Trees celebrates in song. Therefore, in the spirit of the film, and those activists, I don’t feel there’s a choice any longer,� explains Greyson in his letter to the director of TLVFest. The Yes Men also chose not to screen their film at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July. In Jerusalem, according to an Israeli currently organizing a social justice literature festival in the city, there is no place to hold an event where both Israelis and Palestinians will come. Meanwhile, Ma’an News reports settlers from Bat Ayin set fire to fig, olive and grape trees in Beit Ummar, and ten more Palestinians from Beit Ummar were arrested in July. ,MFJOTBSHVNFOUTGPS#%4BSFFYQPVOEFE on in her article for The Guardian, i&OPVHI JUT5JNFGPSB#PZDPUU $BSNFMMF8PMGTPOJTBOJOEFQFOEFOU KPVSOBMJTUGSPN5PSPOUPDVSSFOUMZCBTFE JO*TSBFM1BMFTUJOF BOEBDPQZFEJUPSGPS Briarpatch Magazine


The Boycott Debate(2)