August 13, 2010
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society has become the first Australian community-affiliated Jewish organisation to adopt the view that some boycotts of Israel may indeed be justified. The decision culminated a 16-month process of discussion and expression of a wide range of views in its Newsletter.
The resolution (full text below) rejected the Palestinian civil society version of Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS): “The AJDS is opposed to any Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at the breadth of Israeli economic, cultural or intellectual activity”. The AJDS only supports “selected BDS actions designed to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation, blockade and settlement on Palestinian lands lying outside of the June 1967 Israeli borders.”
Unlike the rejected Palestinian full BDS, the AJDS wants to concentrate on those who profit from this very occupation. An example given in the resolution is of boycotting “settlement products”. In this way the AJDS’s stance is similar to that taken recently by the National Council of Churches in Australia. Like the churches, the AJDS has not endorsed some of the other aims of the Palestinian BDS such as the Palestinian Right of Return.
While not reversing the AJDS’s long-term opposition to blanket academic boycotts, the AJDS envisages boycotting “specific Israeli academics openly supportive of the Occupation.” The organisation made it plain that nevertheless decision on any action would still need to be taken on a case-by-case basis.
The AJDS is opposed to any Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign aimed at the breadth of Israeli economic, cultural or intellectual activity. However, the AJDS does support selected BDS actions designed to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation, blockade and settlement on Palestinian lands lying outside of the June 1967 Israeli borders. Such limited and focused BDS support might include boycotts of settlement products and divestment from military Research and Development (R&D) and boycott of industrial/military activities unrelated to Israel’s defence and security. It might also include selected sanctions or boycotts against specific Israeli academics openly supportive of the Occupation.
The AJDS will make any decisions on these matters on a case-by-case basis, and exercise its judgement as to the political/social cost-benefits of any such actions before granting specific endorsement or approval.
On the day of its Special General Meeting, the AJDS held a forum which gave a hearing to Palestinian activist Samah Sabawi on the subject. Sabawi put the case for the Palestinian civil society’s call for a BDS of Israel. She explained the need for non-violent actions as a better way of resolving the issue. The audience was receptive and with the exception of one non-member, those who spoke expressed agreement with the thrust of her presentation. A common disagreement, however, aired by several people, was Sabawi’s use of the term “Apartheid State” for Israel.
Sabawi spent a lot of her time going through counterarguments to objections to BDS raised with her by progressive Jews in the past. If audience expression was any guide, some appear to be superfluous for AJDS members. On the other hand she was explicit in denying the people of Israel a say in the process. She wanted to use international pressure to force an imposed solution based on her narrative on Israel. Election of a different kind of government was not an option. This went against the grain of the AJDS ‘s long-held view that there were two sides of the conflict, and any resolution must have majority support in each of the two national groups involved: Israelis and Palestinians. Sabawi has been asked to provide a summary of her views for a future Newsletter. She herself expressed an interest in further exploring with AJDS members her use of “Apartheid state” terminology and the issue of the Right of Return.
August 13, 2010