Friday, February 16, 2018

Sunaina Maira's "Boycott! The Academy and Justice for Palestine"

Sunaina Maira is the author of Boycott! The Academy and Justice for Palestine and a founding organizer of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to Boycott! and reported the following:
Page 99 is a great page to open to in my book! It addresses one of my key arguments about the movement to boycott Israeli academic institutions and for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) more generally. Documenting the history of the expanding academic boycott campaign as a progressive social movement, the book discusses how it is grounded in antiracist and decolonial principles. BDS campaigns have linked Palestine to struggles against militarization, police brutality, incarceration, and violent borders. The book draws on interviews with scholar-activists involved in academic boycott organizing and with the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). On this page, I quote Cynthia Franklin, from the University of Hawai’i a, Manoa:
To draw on Darnell Moore and Sa’ed Atshan’s formulation, the “reciprocal solidarities” that have been emerging as those in BDS and other social justice movements come together is resulting not only in emotionally sustaining shared stories and forms of community, but also in concrete forms of mobilization and calls to action for struggles that are at once articulated and place based. The historic M4BL Platform, and its support for BDS, is one example of this; another is Palestinian support for Native Peoples in North America organizing against the Dakota Pipeline. This is the result of organizers in different movements learning from and supporting each other in struggles that are at once articulated and sometimes distinct.
In this chapter, I discuss the endorsement of BDS by the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), which grew out of the Black Lives Matter movement, building on the transnational Black-Palestinian solidarity of campaigns such as Ferguson 2 Gaza.

The chapter offers an analysis of the backlash against the boycott movement as a window into the cultural and racial wars in which the Palestine question is embedded. It theorizes the backlash as an archive of repression, going beyond documenting the systematic censorship, defamation, blacklisting, and disciplining of academics, students, and activists who advocate for BDS and Palestinian rights. The backlash illuminates the racial, gender, and class politics of the “backlash network” of Zionist organizations, based on anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia. Israel lobby groups view the cross-racial solidarity and coalitions forged by BDS activists with other progressive movements, including queer and feminist campaigns, as a threat to uncritical support of Israel. They regularly combat the current recasting of solidarity with Palestine as a progressive-left cause by accusing boycott advocates of anti-Semitism.

However, the BDS movement has challenged the taboo on criticism of Israel in the U.S. academy and reframed the oppression of Palestinians through the frameworks of settler colonialism and apartheid, in addition to challenging the military occupation. The academic boycott resolutions endorsed by various academic associations, such as the American Studies Association, have helped transform the Palestine question, situating it in antiracist, internationalist, and indigenous rights frameworks. These campaigns have ruptured the sanctioned narrative about Palestine-Israel and reveal fugitive knowledges hitherto repressed by a powerful status quo. The boycott has thus enlarged academic freedom in the U.S. university and challenged the assaults on academic (and human) freedom for Palestinian scholars and students.
Learn more about Boycott!: The Academy and Justice for Palestine at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue