Judith Butler and Ariella Azoulay on the logic of the academic boycott

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    David C. Lloyd

    Both Judith Butler and Ariella Azoulay have recently posted at MLABoycott\’s site, articulating their rationale for supporting the boycott of Israeli academic institutions at this time.

    Azoulay writes:

    \”The boycott targets the Israeli regime, not Israeli citizens, unless they act as representatives of the regime. What, then, is the position of Jewish Israeli citizens with regard to this call? They may not be able to suspend their relations with the state completely, as BDS leaders themselves acknowledge. However, they can narrow them down. Occasionally, when they are able to mobilize certain symbolic power, they can publicly boycott particular events, prizes, and ceremonies, and avoid giving services that they are required to give. In this sense, their responses to the crimes and abuses practiced by their own regime do not come from an external position and hence do not consist of solidarity of the sort offered by citizens of other countries. Jewish Israelis are governed alongside Palestinians, and they are subjects of the same political regime; their citizenship is not external or incidental to the abuses of Palestinians under this regime, but its constitutive element. Unable to endorse the boycott from the outside, Jewish Israelis can still take part in it, and their participation, as citizens denouncing their own political regime, makes the BDS movement’s call a call to redefine the nature of their citizenship altogether.

    Under the emergency regulations that have not been revoked since 1948, and whose purpose has been to maintain the principle of differential ruling, to be a good citizen means being involved, in more or less direct ways, more or less enthusiastically, in exercising the violence necessary to maintain this principle. Therefore, from the point of view of an Israeli citizen, the call for boycott can also be the beginning of the recognition of a right that Israeli Jews have been consistently deprived: the right not to be perpetrators.\”


    Butler writes:

    Boycotts have a time-honored place in the history of political expression.  The BDS movement opposes discrimination on the basis of citizenship, and so opposes all forms of boycott that target individuals.  It has clearly opposed anti-Semitism and all forms of racism,  These principles constitute its official policy for more than ten years.  The boycott campaign addresses those institutions that support and help to reproduce inequality, dispossession, and injustice.  What it asks is that Israeli institutions become part of the struggle to realize political freedoms and international rights, that institutions oppose the Israeli government until such time as those important political rights, principles, and freedoms are realized through the dismantling of occupation, the institutionalization of political and legal equality, and the formulation of a just solution for those who, in accord with international law, have the right to return to lands forcibly taken from them.  BDS is a movement for freedom, a call for the realization of democratic ideals, the demand for a world in which co-habitation might one day become possible.

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