Violent Boycotts and the BDS Movement

By: Omri Boehm, Los Angeles Review of Books, June 16, 2015

“We have come to a point in which it is necessary to get our hands dirty when fighting for the rights of Palestinians. Boycotts of, divestments from, and sanctions on Israeli institutions are ways to pressure the Israeli government, and to begin to produce some change. The prevalent feeling in Israel is that business can and will continue as usual without outside pressure, resulting in 50 more years of military occupation. Israel’s recently elected far-right government, which has just launched a massive campaign attempting to delegitimize BDS activities, is the clearest example that change in this country can no longer come from within.

Nevertheless, I cannot bring myself to support the boycott on Israeli academics. The way in which the open letter from which I quoted construes the relation between BDS and the freedom of speech is emblematic of a comfortable but treacherous misconception that has become, in some circles, commonplace. BDS supporters speak as if they can boycott without silencing; or silence without being violent. Arguably, this position is more pernicious to speech and to political action than the boycott itself.”

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