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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars clear, intelligent and compelling, 16 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (Paperback)
Omar Barghouti can fairly be described as the main figurehead of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and anyone reading this book will understand why. Barghouti argues the case for BDS with intelligence, passion, and compelling moral force. After briefly reminding us of the sad state of affairs whereby the US consistently provides Israel with complete impunity from consequences for its on-going oppression and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, Barghouti introduces boycott as a tactic whereby citizens of conscience throughout the world can seek to put pressure upon Israel to respect the legal and human rights of the indigenous people of that land.

Barghouti then goes on to discuss the concern already generated within Israel by the call for boycott, and the fear evidenced by politicians and commentators of Israel becoming a pariah state. Israel, it seems wants the best of both worlds (in its own terms) - permission to oppress and dispossess the Palestinians and still be held up as a bastion of culture and civilisation! Therein lies its 'weakness' (or perhaps its saving grace) as the possibility exists, through boycott and divestment, to persuade the Israeli politicians and the Israeli public who vote for them that continuing along the path of oppression and discrimination just isn't worth it.

This is no more oppressive than the actions of a caring parent who withholds a privilege from a young child who has hit another child. The aim is not to punish them for its own sake, but to educate them that violence towards other children is not acceptable. Similarly the aim of BDS is simply to teach Israeli politicians and the public who support them that they must start to treat the indigenous population of the land they are occupying with respect and dignity. Nothing less will be acceptable. Treating the Palestinians with respect and dignity will not signal the death or destruction of Israel or Israelis (let along 'the Jews') but rather the birth of Israel as a decent and responsible nation which promotes and respects the rights of all people.

The book includes individual chapters on the lessons drawn from the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the call for an academic boycott, the call for a cultural boycott, and responses to anti-boycott arguments. Barghouti demonstrates an impressive awareness of the areas of ambiguity and confusion generated by these issues and does his best to address them. With respect to the cultural and academic boycott the point is made that this does not apply to individual Israeli artists or academics but only to artistic or academic institutions which can be fairly considered to be complicit in Israeli apartheid through their tacit or explicit support for the status quo. It should be noted that this includes theatre and dance companies which accept state funding on the basis that they will "promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel" and academic institutions providing Israel's military intelligence establishment with indispensible research on demography, geography, and hydrology which is used by the Israeli military to plan and carry out the theft of Palestinian land and water resources, and the slow-paced ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their land.

The book is a little bit disjointed in the later chapters which don't seem to follow on from one another in any particular order. However, I did not feel that this detracted from the quality of the book, for me, since each of these later chapters is self-contained and the quality of Barghouti's commentary and analysis is consistently high.

I would not recommend this book to someone new to this topic. This is a book that seems to assumes a certain amount of background knowledge. For anyone new or relatively new to this issue I would recommend `Israeli Apartheid A Beginner's Guide' by Ben White, `Peace not Apartheid' by Jimmy Carter, or `Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War Against the Palestinians' by Baruch Kimmerling - which although a bit dated now gives a particularly clear picture of the dynamic that have shaped and created this sad and regrettable situation.
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Location: Southampton, United Kingdom

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