This weekend at the eighth annual US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation national organizers’ conference held in Chicago, delegates from the approximately 300 member groups that make up the US Campaign voted in favor of an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. The vote came on the heels of a presentation by Omar Barghouti and myself on behalf of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the US Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
The proposal that “the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation should endorse the principle of cultural and academic boycotts” passed by a landslide with one abstention and not a single objection. The quasi-unanimous vote, and the deep collective breath of relief that followed, will go down in history as the moment US-based Palestine solidarity activists overcame tactical differences that had long hindered us, to finally come together to confront Israeli apartheid.
I’ve written about a talk I presented a few days ago at Sydney University on this very subject, the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Independent Australian Jewish Voices blogger Michael Brull was there:
Yesterday [Tuesday], I attended a talk by Antony Loewenstein and John Docker, chaired by Jake Lynch. It was a presentation in favour of boycotting Israel. It was a 2 hour talk, and halfway through perhaps 20 [Jewish] people poured in, perhaps more, who were overwhelmingly hostile to what was being said, who aggressively asked hostile questions, who used the opportunity to give lengthy talks reciting Israeli government talking points (one young man even spoke in favour of Israel’s “achievements” in Gaza). [Jewish academic] Suzanne Rutland gave a 5 minute presentation against the boycott, a young man spoke against the boycott, because of his experience of activism in Israel. The striking thing about the interlocutors is their complete absence of any concern for Palestinian rights being violated. I might say there was a partial exception – Rutland spoke against the boycott, but without giving any recognition of Palestinian suffering, she explained that she opposed settlements: not to explain their illegitimacy, but to show how credible her position should be considered.