On Monday 30 January 2012, SOAS Israel Society held its launch event. To a packed Khalili lecture theatre, ISSOC asked the question – Is BDS Working?
Watch the rest of the event here. With thanks to Isabeau Doucet for the film work and editing!
About the event
The Palestinian-initiated global campaign for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel – the BDS movement – almost always sparks polarised reactions from the different sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The typically labelled ‘Pro-Palestinian’ activists see the movement as a global call for support of the Palestinian cause and full realisation of their rights under international law. The ‘Pro-Israel’ activists generally see it as a global movement to incite hatred against Israel – and anti-Semitism against Jews – and believe it should be delegitimized in all public and political forums. In both cases, the ambiguities and potential good or harm that can come out of boycotts and sanctions are left out of political debates and ideological platforms.
In a panel discussion with four experts representing a spectrum of political expertise and perspectives, ISSOC created a space to re-examine BDS through a more nuanced lens. We asked that each panellist deal with the question of efficacy and effectiveness regarding BDS and its stated goals: to end the occupation, the right of return of refugees and equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. With this approach, we engaged the audience and speakers alike in re-framing BDS in terms of its impacts and its potential to transform the dynamics of Israeli and Palestinian politics.
Our panel included:
Dr John Chalcraft
John Chalcraft is a Reader in the History and Politics of Empire/ Imperialism in the Government Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), UK. His research focuses on the popular history of the Middle East, protest movements, transnationalism, migration, labour history, and hegemony.
Prof Ilan Pappé
Ilan Pappé is one of the world’s leading historians of the Middle East, with a distinctive view of Arab-Israeli relations. He was a senior lecturer in the department of Middle Eastern History and the Department of Political Science in Haifa University, Israel between 1984 and 2006, and is now Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies and Co-Director for the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies. He has published extensively on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Hannah Weisfeld is the director, and one of the founders, of Yachad, a pro-Israel pro-peace grassroots movement, established in May 2011. Hannah has campaigned professionally on a variety of issues including the conflict in Darfur, climate change and fairtrade. She has a Masters degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and has spent time living in both Israel and Malawi.
Dimi Reider is an Israeli journalist and blogger, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post, among others. He is also co-founder and contributing editor at +972 Magazine, a collective publication by prominent Israeli and Palestinian bloggers. Dimi is an MSc Middle East Politics student here at SOAS, and, in full disclosure, a co-chair of the Israel Society.
Dr Lee Jones
Dr Lee Jones is lecturer in international politics at Queen Mary, University of London. A specialist in the politics of sovereignty and intervention in the developing world, he is currently engaged in a major ESRC-funded research project entitled ‘How Do Economic Sanctions (Not) Work?’, investigating the impact of sanctions on socio-political dynamics in target states. His book, ASEAN, Sovereignty and Intervention in Southeast Asia, was recently published by Palgrave Macmillan.