Finkelstein's change of heart on Israel boycott

Submitted by Matthew on 22 February, 2012 - 12:15

Prominent anti-Zionist writer Norman Finkelstein has broken from the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, denouncing it as a “cult” and saying that it is based on a politics of “eliminating Israel” but is too dishonest to say so.

Finkelstein, whose books include The Holocaust Industry and Beyond Chutzpah, has until now focused much of his work on arguing his view that Israel and its supporters internationally manipulate or manufacture claims of anti-Semitism and imagined existential threats to Israel in order to suppress criticism of the state. But now he has denounced the movement he was a prominent supporter of for disguising its real aims — the destruction of Israel — behind “disingenuous” posturing.

He also criticised the BDS movement for its ineffectiveness, claiming that they talk up victories like that against Veolia (the French company who pulled out of a transport project in Israel after a campaign) to mask a lack of more substantial successes. He claims that many of the Palestinian civil society organisations which back the movement are paper operations.

Finkelstein has not suddenly become a revolutionary internationalist on the question. In the interview where he makes the statements, he continually emphasises “international law” as the point-of-departure for his views on the question and attacks the BDS movement for “leftist posturing”. But many of his criticisms ring true; Workers’ Liberty has also criticised BDS’s tactical inefficacy and argued that a tactic of root-and-branch boycotts of everything Israeli only makes sense in the context of thoroughgoing hostility to the existence of any Israeli-Jewish national entity.

Hopefully Finkelstein’s comments can help open up space within the Palestinian solidarity movement for further discussion of the approach and, despite the limitations in Finkelstein’s own politics, lay down a marker for the idea that one can be for independence and justice for the Palestinians without supporting the BDS movement.

“Zionists” to blame for Greek crisis?

UK left group Counterfire is promoting a long, rambling statement co-authored by “Zorba The Greek” composer Mikis Theodorakis as the main focus for their Greek solidarity work.

Somewhat bizarrely, the statement appears to blame America (“Wall Street”) rather than European imperialist powers for Greece’s plight. This view appears somewhat less bizarre, however,when one learns of Theodorakis’s view that “Zionists” and “the Jewish-American lobby” are the shadowy forces behind
all the world’s problems (they even “control 99% of global musical life”, a truly astonishing feat).

Theodorakis, now 87 years old, belongs alongside “anti-Zionist” saxophonist Gilad Atzmon in that category of talented artists who make good music but have horrendous,anti-Semitic politics.

These people have no positive role to play in the development of healthy international solidarity.

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