Incredible Breakthroughs & Major Challenges: A Roundtable on Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS): With Lisa Taraki, Chandni Desai, Max Ajl, and Lisa Hajjar

Greg Shupak

Inside the Canadian state and across much of the planet, the BDS movement is growing. Labour and student unions in Canada and the US have passed BDS resolutions in recent years. 

At the same time, BDS activists living inside the Canadian state face strong opposition from a ruling class with strong geopolitical and economic incentives to allow the slaughter and dispossession of Palestinians to continue. Campus organizations working on divestment have faced opposition from university administration, other students, and external groups like the Jewish Defence League. Meanwhile, the Harper government has made clear that it intends to suppress BDS. In January 2015, the Canadian state signed a memorandum of understanding with the Israeli government that says the two states will “work to counter the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.” Additionally, Bill C-51 effectively criminalizes Palestinian solidarity: it facilitates easy arrest of anyone “voicing support for terrorism in general,” and the Harper government consistently describes any form of Palestinian resistance and self-defence as terrorism. 

Critical reflection on international solidarity is demanded by a context characterized by both the optimism that comes from BDS winning victories around the world and the despair that comes with the continued colonization of the West Bank and Jerusalem, the systemic discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, the ongoing siege on Gaza, and the Israeli state’s slaughter of approximately 2,200 people in the Gaza strip last summer. That this brutality could not happen without the support of the Canadian, American, and EU governments underscores the urgency of analysis about how organizers outside of Palestine can be as effective as possible.

Lisa Taraki teaches sociology at Birzeit University in Palestine. She is one of the co-founders of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and is currently a member of PACBI’s Advisory Committee. PACBI is part of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian society that is leading the global BDS movement.

Chandni Desai is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto working on a dissertation on Palestinian cultural resistance. She has been an organizer in the Palestine solidarity movement with various groups in Toronto for the past six years; she has also organized in India and Southern Africa, which are places she considers home.

Max Ajl is an editor at Jadaliyya and Jacobin. Max is a PhD candidate at Cornell University, studying Tunisian agricultural policy, and a long-time Palestine solidarity activist.

Lisa Hajjar is a professor of sociology at the University of California - Santa Barbara. In 2014-2015, she became the Edward Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut. Her research and writing focus on law and legality, war and conflict, human rights, and torture. She is the author of Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza (University of California Press, 2005) and Torture: A Sociology of Violence and Human Rights (Routledge, 2013). Lisa is a Co-Editor at Jadaliyya and serves on the editorial committees of Middle East Report and Journal of Palestine Studies. She is currently working on a book about anti-torture lawyers in the US.

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