Apr 18, 2011

#BDS: Academic sanctions and global solidarity for Palestinian liberation

"Academic sanctions and global solidarity for Palestinian liberation: A view from South Africa on the need to unfriend Israeli universities 
By Patrick Bond
Presented to the Association of American Geographers Annual Meetings- Seattle, Washington -[12_04_11] 
This panel is not only devoted to considering arguments about implementing the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, but also about broader problems of progressive political positioning and backlash in the academy. Although I do not deal with the April 2 case of Richard Goldstone’s unprincipled U-turn on the findings of the United Commissions commission into Israel’s 2008-09 Gaza invasion, the incident suggests the extent to which South African commentary on the oppression of Palestinians has become acutely politicized. For if Goldstone’s return to his Zionist past – recalling, too, his past as a minor apartheid-era judge (hence as a human rights ally, his zig-zag unreliability, reliability and now unreliability) – serves any purpose aside from empowering Israeli militarists, it will be to compel us to use South Africa as a base from which critical inquiry into the condition of Palestine must now be intensified.
Fortunately, just such an opportunity arises in the case of the University of Johannesburg faculty Senate’s decision on March 23 to support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) struggle by breaking ties with Israel’s Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Recall that in the most extreme black-and-white case, fighting to end apartheid, scholar-activists played a useful role that has relevance to the Palestinian situation. To be sure, academic boycotts of the apartheid regime were nowhere near as successful as the sports, cultural and economic sanctions that hit South African elites from the late 1960s, which were decisive in undermining the racist state and dividing/conquering the white population, especially from 1985. These experiences bear consideration as a site for ongoing Palestinian solidarity, and they point to a trajectory by which social consciousness can be ratcheted up into more sustained commitments. "

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