Mention boycott in a discussion of Israel, and chances are you’ll find yourself the butt of vicious attacks. Israeli professor Neve Gordon elicited just such denunciations when he published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times last Thursday in support of the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS (read Naomi Klein’s January Nation column supporting BDS here). After Gordon’s op-ed was published, several Members of the Israeli Knesset demanded his firing. The president of Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, where he teaches, said he should seek employment, and a home, elsewhere. And he’s received death threats.
Nation readers, particularly those who follow the Israel-Palestine conflict, will recognize Gordon as a longtime contributor to this magazine (disclosure: I’ve worked with Neve for years as his editor and am a friend as well). He didn’t come by this position lightly. As he explains in the op-ed,
It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.
I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country’s future.
Gordon then drops another word, apartheid, that seems to function as a red cape before the enraged bulls of the right-wing, ultra-Zionist camp:
The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews — whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel — are citizens of the state of Israel.