Over 1,000 American anthropologists have signed onto a boycott Israel petition. What this type of activism fails to do is to target the occupation in its essence – as an international system, sustained by an array of multinational interests.
By Gil Hizi
The American Anthropological Association (AAA) will hold its annual conference in Washington DC next week. This year there are several panels scheduled to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue, with particular focus of how to promote sanctions on Israeli academic institutions. At present, almost 1,000 anthropologists have signed a petition in support of a boycott and the AAA will supply plenty of ink for scholars who wish to add their signature to the cause.
The occupation is a grave matter and international intervention is necessary. Yet what this type of signature-activism fails to do is to target the occupation in its essence – as an international system, sustained by an array of multinational interests.
The AAA petition explains how Israeli universities participate in the occupation. It demands very generally to end the siege on Gaza, to provide Palestinian refugees the “right of return” and to guarantee equal citizenship rights to Israeli Arabs. While one letter of reply from Israeli anthropologists supports this petition, the official response from the Israeli Anthropological Society is highly critical of the boycott. It laments that the AAA, the largest anthropological association in the world, is exercising its power over Israeli anthropologists and the fact that the boycott ignores the “complexity” of the conflict.
Another response, a worldwide petition of anthropologists against the boycott, emphasizes that the occupation must end immediately and that Israel carries responsibility for the situation. Its criticism of BDS lies in the probability that sanctions will only serve the interests of the Israeli government, which wishes to mute radical voices inside local academia. Left-wing anthropologists such as Dan Rabinowitz, Edna Lomsky-Feder and Eyal Ben-Ari, who have all dedicated the last decades to criticizing Israeli institutional power, are supporters of this initiative.
While that second message expresses important ideas, even it fails to point out the...Read More