The Boycott of Israel as a Strategy: Reality and Ambitions

The Boycott Strategy in Resistance against the Israeli Occupation and Apartheid System: Reality and Ambition, published by the ACRPS, includes a selection of research presented at an ACRPS conference held in Hammamet, Tunisia from 4th to 6th August 2016. The 448-page book divides the research presented into two sections. The first deals with the boycott campaigns in the Arab world; the history and the paths they took. The second examines the boycott campaigns internationally, looking at their experiments and models. Azmi Bishara wrote an introduction to the book entitled "Normalization of Abnormality", which deals with the emergence of the concept of “normalization”, problems with the conceptual limits, normalization in the occupied territories, and the challenges of resisting normalization. Bishara believes that the Arab powers adhering to the Palestinian cause and seeking justice - as their own cause rather than just a Palestinian one, refuse to accept Israel as a natural part of the region. This is not a slogan, but rather a rejection of normal relations with Israel.

Boycotts and Resistance

In the first chapter, Abdul Latif al-Hanachi introduces the historical roots of the boycott, and the evolution of the concept and its historical forms in British occupied Palestine. The boycotts started as a resistance to the Zionist movement and occupation’s expansion, where it worked as a frequent resistance tool used in Palestine since the British occupation.

In the second chapter, Ahmed Qasem Hussein discusses the factors that restrain the boycott movement at the official level while popularizing it on the civilian level. He also looks at the possibility of turning this movement into part and parcel of the popular resistance in Palestine. Discussed also is the historical development of the official Arab boycott after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

In the third chapter, Michel Nofal addresses the Palestinian national project’s need for a strategy that focuses on the international achievements of the boycott. This should take into account the great response to it in the West and in the United States in particular, amid a Palestinian-Arab renege that turns some of the Palestinian politicians into accomplices. While covering up for the colonial settlement plan and the Zionist occupation they advocate normalization with Israel in the Arab region.

Constraints and Experiences

Ashraf Bader Othman investigates, in the fourth chapter, the outline of the Israeli strategy against the boycott movement, which benefited from both international and Palestinian shortcomings and the almost complete absence of an Arab or Islamic institutional role.

In the fifth chapter, Abu Bakr Abdelrazek and Roba Al-Olona aim to measure the extent of the economic boycott in the 2012 and 2014 wars in Gaza, and its impact on the Palestinian private sector. They also investigate how the boycott took shape, its evolution in the popular consciousness, and its impact on the establishment of a Palestinian national economy.

Mona Awadallah goes on to look at the boycott campaigns in Jordan in the sixth chapter. She uses research gathered from 13 interviews with activists who either led or participated in campaigns against normalization in Jordan. She pointed out that despite the multiplicity of anti-normalization campaigns, there is a significant decline in its activity in general, due to declining freedom in the country, and exposure of activists to legal measures.

In the next chapter, Rashid Isa Al-Jassim offers a historic presentation of the boycott in Bahrain, based on the Bahraini archives and field interviews. He believes that this provides a better understanding of the mechanisms and roles used by Bahrainis in the influence and formation of public opinion and decision-making, and how diverse groups come together to activate the boycott as a supportive weapon of the Palestinian cause.

From South Africa to Europe

Stephen Freeman discusses the key factors of South Africa’s defeat of the apartheid regime in chapter eight. He looks at the successes of the boycott campaign and how the Palestinians can benefit from this experience. He frames the struggle as a campaign for human rights and a creation of a relationship between local resistance and the international solidarity movement.

In the ninth chapter, Osama Abu Arshid discusses the Zionists attempts and methods to delegitimize the boycott movement in the United States. He sheds light on the growing sympathy towards the Palestinians in the US, prompting the Zionist lobby to try to pass laws in the states, infringing student work through administrative tools, and repressing any boycott advocacy.

The tenth chapter, by Tariq Hamoud, examines the Israeli boycott movement in Europe, posing a major concern for Israel due to Europe’s role as an incubator of the Zionist project historically, and the Euro-Israeli economic partnership.

International Boycott

In chapter 11, Amani Snawar writes about the European Union's 2015 resolution to label settlement goods as "Israeli settlement", after ten years of excluding these goods from the privileges of the free trade zone between Europe and Israel. She points out that the goal of this step is to assert a standard EU stance and clarify its obligations under international law on the non-recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the territories occupied since 1967.

Emily Blizzard looks into the role of mass communication in educating a broad spectrum of public opinion in Australia in chapter 12. She examines its ability to attract support for the Palestinian cause, and especially in boycott campaigns. Blizzard argues that boycott movements can gain positive momentum even in the most hostile contexts, such as Australia’s, by bringing together boycott calls, new social media and mass media.

Support networks

In chapter 13, Peter Slezk presents the experience of the boycott movement in Australia and its Supporters; such as the “Australians Friends of Palestine Association” in Melbourne, the “Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine” in Sydney, "Palestine Support Network Australia", and the BDS movement. In chapter 14, Kamal Marzouga addresses the reality, growth and challenges of Chile's Boycott Campaign, along with an investigation of its contribution to discourse and strategy.

Muhammad Nizari studies the current challenges facing the boycott of Israel in Malaysia in chapter 15. He explores its emergence and experience amidst Malaysian sympathy with the Palestinian cause, Malaysia's steadfastness in its resolve to not establish diplomatic relations with Israel to support the Palestinian cause. This boycott movement is led by a number of Malaysian NGOs, including “Al Aqsa Al Sharif”, “Viva Palestina” and “Aman Palestin”. Nizari lists a number of challenges such as a lack of support from segments of the Malaysian community, Malaysian dependence on international trade, and Malaysia's preoccupation with its economic growth and its growing debt.

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