Let’s talk about “tactics” and “tactical differences.” Certainly, people do have tactical differences, which is why people engage in letter writing campaign, mass permitted demonstrations, and smaller unpermitted demonstrations and civil disobedience actions, for example.
However, when such “tactical differences” become the subject of extensive political debate and discussion, it is reasonable to assume that the differences are not merely tactical, but are, in fact, substantive – even if one party to the conversation does not want to acknowledge their substantive nature.
Let’s also acknowledge that the history of extraordinarily substantive “tactical differences” in the Palestinian movement is quite substantial. Everything from the Oslo Accords, to joining the PA, has at one point been labelled as a “tactical option” by its proponents. Every concession on Palestinian rights has been categorized by generations of Palestinian leadership (and their supporters) as “tactical.” (This is particularly true around the issue of the right of return, the meaning of the Oslo accords for refugees, etc.) That doesn’t mean that a debate about the Oslo accords is really just a matter of “tactical differences” and not really a big deal, and just the debate within the movement, after all.
On the issue of Finkelstein and the Right of Return, he may “believe in the right of return,” or “believe it is valid in international law.” Fine. But he spends a huge amount of actual time arguing against anyone supporting it!
I will note, in this context, that unlike Finkelstein, the BNC, Omar Barghouti, and PACBI, do not spend a lot of time doing anything similar. The BNC – and Barghouti personally – are huge proponents of large BDS campaigns that engage in selective divestment, focus on the occupation, focus on settlement goods or US military contractors, and barely mention the right of return, such as the TIAA-CREF campaign. To the best of my knowledge (and I believe my information on this is substantively correct), the BNC has never pressured the organizers of this campaign to adopt principles that were further than they saw as useful, and in fact has responded to critiques of this and other campaigns *on this issue* as insensitive to the US context, etc!
So there’s *not* a BDS cult insisting that people have to frame their local or institutional boycott campaigns in specific frameworks; what there is, is a call that lays out the fundamentals of the Palestinian national movement and the 3 sectors of Palestinian nation. There’s basically a very clear acceptance of tactical differences, eyes focused on the enemy.
(Those 3 issues did not arise at the time of the BDS call. If they were not included, the call would NOT have the broad support it has among Palestinian groups and institutions, including movements and organizations representing refugees. )
NF’s Gaza Freedom March, I’ll note, was quite different than the BDS campaigns supported by the BNC, Unlike those campaigns, it involved international activists exercising their expression in Palestine, on Palestinian land, making demands about what “freedom” means for Palestinians. Contrary to NF’s apparent belief that it gives the March credibility among others for Palestinians to not be involved nor set the demands of the march, that very thing led to a lack of credibility for the March among many Palestinian and Arab activists in Gaza and elsewhere! It was not an action that took place primarily in the space of solidarity activists, but one that was intended to take place in Palestine. The “political context document” was an extraordinarily mild political statement.
BTW, NF does in fact say all the time that the Right of Return is a right. He then proceeds to talk about how reasonable people disagree about it; how rights can be negotiated; etc. His talks and his lectures in which he dismisses the right of return, says it should be negotiated away, and says people should understand Israeli “demographic concerns” are not billed as “Norman Finkelstein’s Views on Tactics for Palestinians and Solidarity Activists,” they’re solutionist talks about “How To Solve The Conflict”. So one can assume that he supports his recommendations to negotiate away the right of return, and that he finds the insistence on “full” right of return (an important distinction) in the BDS call to be uncomfortable because it contradicts with his prescriptions on “How to Solve the Conflict.”
I mean, sure, he could be lying! It could all be a “tactic!” Maybe he really supports the full right of return for all Palestinians and thinks it’s the core of the conflict and the cause. But in the end, it’s just the “tactics” of Oslo all over again, and people moved past that twenty years ago.