Once again Uri Avnery is using his blog to criticize the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Under the title “Red and Green,” Avnery comments on the long and interesting program recently broadcast on Israeli Channel 10 on the growing international isolation of Israel.
Avnery, the veteran journalist and activist, repeats his main arguments against the “Boycott Israel” campaign and the need to focus only on the boycott of settlers and settlement products. I have already reacted to a similar criticism by Avnery, but the well-deserved authority of Uri Avnery within the international solidarity movement requires a debate of what I consider to be his (very few indeed) mistaken views.
“Indeed there is no need for a world-wide [BDS] organization, [the reportage] says, because all over the place there is a spontaneous surge of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli feeling. Following the ‘Cast Lead’ operation and the flotilla affair, this process has gathered momentum,” summarizes Avnery.
After this summary, Uri’s blog focuses on a criticism of the campaign of boycotting Israel. His main argument is that the campaign doesn’t distinguish between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). For Avnery, while the OPT should be totally freed from Israeli control and domination, the territories west of the “Green Line” are “naturally” Israeli, just as Manchester is British and Hanover is German. There should be no challenge to this reality and, as Uri said once, he will be the first to defend Israel from any such challenge. For Avnery, the colonial nature of the State of Israel is obsolete within 1948.
Confronted with the colonial behavior and continuous dynamics of the state of Israel, more and more people are questioning Avnery’s approach, having difficulties to believe that the colonial behavior of all Israeli governments since 1967 is only a long series of mistakes due to severe blindness. Unlike my friend Uri, I don’t think that our problem is the worldwide “red and green” alliance, but definitely the “blue and white” nature of Israel and its structural colonialism.
Towards the end of his blog Uri Avnery writes: “all this becomes impossible if there is a call for a boycott on all Israelis” (my emphasis, MW). This is a mistake, but not an accidental one: the BDS campaign has never been oriented towards individuals, but towards products and institutions. The mistake, however, reflects the basic confusion of Avnery (and others) between the state, its deeds and its population. For Avnery, the state and the population are more or less the same; the state is the collective organization of the citizens’ community and attacking the state (and even more so, denying its legitimacy) is synonymous with attacking its population and denying its right to exist as a collective.
In reality, however, the state is an accumulation of its deeds and institutions. The state and civil society (its organized population) are two different entities, often antagonist to each other. Israel is a colonial state in its modus operandi, institutions and history, the same way South Africa was an apartheid state and the US, before the civil rights movement, a segregationist one.
Uri Avnery rightly points that the BDS campaign is targeting the colonial/apartheid state of Israel, not only the settlements and their products. BDS is calling for a triple revolution: ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan; ensuring full individual and collective equality in the pre-1967 Israel; and realizing the right of Palestinian refugees to return. Only the fulfillment of these three set of demands can make Israel a civilized state, acceptable in the community of democratic nations; until then, Israel (the real state of Israel, not an ahistorical and abstract concept) will remain a pariah state for all who are coherent in the defence of basic human rights and democracy and should be boycotted, the way apartheid South Africa, Fascist Spain or Greece of the military dictatorship have been boycotted.
As for the Israeli population that both Avnery and I would like to see on the frontline of the struggle for a just peace in this area, modern history has taught us that only the efficacy of the anti-colonial struggle and the growing price — in blood, money, international isolation and internal degeneration — to be paid for ongoing colonialism will ultimately make the change. Until then, we will remain a tiny minority of visionaries, adding our important voices — important, because they are coming from within the belly of the beast — to the growing international demand for justice for the Palestinian people.
Contrary to Uri Avnery’s claim, the solidarity movement with Palestine should not “support the Israeli activists,” but the other way round: the Israeli activists should provide their support to the worldwide campaign aiming at isolating the Israeli apartheid state, for the sake of the rights of the Palestinian people as well as for the sake of a viable future for our grandchildren.
Michael Warschawski is a co-founder of the Alternative Information Center. This article was first published by the Alternative Information Center on 31 August 2010 under a Creative Commons license.