Last week The Nation ran a piece by Noam Chomsky that was critical of the BDS movement as unrealistic in seeking support for the right of return of refugees, thereby defying “international consensus” for a two-state solution. Chomsky also said that the South Africa apartheid struggle was not applicable to the Israel-Palestine conflict because the U.S. will support Israel no matter what it does to Palestinians. This week it has run five pieces in response, all at the link.
The first, by Yousef Munayyer, says that supporting BDS is the one thing that folks can actually do if they wish to change Palestinian conditions. He insists on the South African apartheid model and BDS’s ability to transform the international discourse by mobilizing civil society; and states that Chomsky is turning a blind eye to the role of Zionism when he dismisses BDS’s goals of promoting the right of return and ending Palestinian discrimination inside Israel.
Jewish majoritarian control… is apartheid, and rather than challenging it head on, Chomsky advises Palestinians, and those concerned for them, to accept the prevailing power structure and fight for only a fraction of their rights. Such fractioning of a people’s humanity in the name of pragmatism is the stuff of eighteenth-century America and the “three-fifths compromise”; it is unbecoming to the twenty-first century.
The second is by MJ Rosenberg and begins, “Professor Chomsky is right.” Rosenberg characterizes BDS as a fringe movement aimed at dismantling Israel, and says only the U.S. government can apply the pressure to end the occupation and bring about the two-state solution. Rosenberg says “political action” is needed to generate that U.S. pressure, but he doesn’t mean the grassroots: he dismisses actions by food coops and student groups as “playing games.”
The third is by Nadia Ben Youssef, emphasizing discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel.
Just as in the OPT, the Israeli regime within the Green Line is predicated on inequality and permeated with racism.
The fourth is by Ran Greenstein, challenging BDS and Chomsky. He states that Chomsky ignored a legal definition of apartheid that embraces both the South African and Israeli regimes but he counters BDS in asserting that “external solidarity” has been more important to the movement than what Greenstein valorizes, a local struggle based in Israel/Palestine. “The unifying thrust in our case could be provided by the notion of basic human rights for all, wherever they reside, thus bypassing the futile debate between one-state and two-state solutions.”
The fifth piece is from the Organizing Collective of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. It says Chomsky was wrong to describe BDS as a call issued by “Palestinian intellectuals.” It was also issued
by a collective of some 170 civil society groups, including labor unions, teachers unions, healthcare providers and many others.
The US Campaign praises BDS’s effectiveness and warns that there is no alternative:
BDS… has been one of the most critical galvanizing tools internationally in the struggle for justice in Palestine. Israel is unleashing violence and damage on a massive scale, as evident in horrifying state and settler violence in the past week. BDS has been gathering strength worldwide. It is a critical tool and tactic in building substantial international public pressure against Israeli bombings, invasions and home demolitions, while official international voices remain silent and complicit. To reject it, or dilute its demands, at this moment in history is to vacate its gains and to grasp instead at a nonexistent alternative.