Letter: In defense of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions

In response to “The flaws of ahistorical activism” (May 21).

By Letter to the Editor

In a recent op-ed, Luke Brinker responded to an event organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on the growing and increasingly successful Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The global BDS movement very succinctly aims at three goals: an end to the Israeli occupation, an end to the second-class status of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the implementation of the right of Palestinian refugees of the 1948 and 1967 wars to return to their land and property. If you have any doubt that these are real issues, please refer to any Palestinian or Israeli human rights organization Web sites.

Brinker does not address a single one of these points. In fact, he does not seem to have attended the event at all. If he did, he was not paying attention: From the very beginning of his article, he draws on clichéd arguments of colonialist discourse on sexuality and reproductive rights in order to justify the continued occupation of the Palestinian people.

If he had paid attention, he would have heard Sherry Wolf, a prominent activist in the BDS movement, discuss the hypocrisy of pointing out the lack of queer rights in Palestine while supporting the oppression of all Palestinians. How exactly does Brinker propose that Palestinians engage in democratic and open discussions under the oppressive structure of occupation? Why hasn’t Israel ever welcomed a single queer or female Palestinian into the state to protect her rights if it is so concerned about them? He also might have heard about the great number of queer activists engaged in the BDS campaign, who have spent too much time debunking these types of deflective arguments.

However, Brinker is right to say we should put everything in its historical context. His arguments are not new and are in fact quite old. They are firmly rooted in centuries-old colonialist discourses that posit the uncivilized nature of the colonized as justification for their oppression. Whether it was the French civilizing mission, the British white man’s burden, or the white South African appeal to common heritage with the West, the forms of these arguments have always been the same.

BDS is in turn firmly rooted in a tradition of nonviolent resistance against oppressive or destructive systems, whether it be in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the anti-apartheid movement, the Delano grape strike, or the current divestment campaign against fossil fuel companies. Reality is quite opposed to Brinker’s assertion: We are deeply invested in history.

—Students for Justice in Palestine