(text changed, name removed, see comments below) Four anthropologists are among a long list of scholars who in The Guardian call for a boycott of Israel:
We must do what we can to stop Israel from winning its war. Israel must accept that its security depends on justice and peaceful coexistence with its neighbours, and not upon the criminal use of force.
We believe Israel should immediately and unconditionally end its assault on Gaza, end the occupation of the West Bank, and abandon all claims to possess or control territory beyond its 1967 borders. We call on the British government and the British people to take all feasible steps to oblige Israel to comply with these demands, starting with a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
In the US on the other hand 3 students, who protested against Israel’s attacks, were arrested (one of them an anthropologist).
The question of academic boycott was also discussed at a seminar that Thomas Hylland Eriksen organized with his colleages at the research project Culcom. Personally, I am not sure if boycott is the way to go, but I liked the “smart boycott” that political scientist Nils Butenschøn suggested. If you collaborate with Israel you should be sure that the Israeli institution does not discriminate or support acts that breache international law.
What role should academics play in situations like these in Gaza? Theologian Anne Hege Grung said that the conflict is held up by myths. Our job is to deconstruct these myths.
Israeli anthropologist Jeff Halper is one of those intellectuals who does exactly that, she said. Last year he arranged a boat trip to Gaza in order to break the Israeli blockade. There, he formulated a message to his fellow Israelis:
(1) Despite what our political leaders say, there is a political solution to the conflict and there are partners for peace. If anything, we of the peace movement must not allow the powers-that-be to mystify the conflict, to present it as a “clash of civilizations.” The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is political and as such it has a political solution;
(2) The Palestinians are not our enemies. In fact, I urge my fellow Israeli Jews to disassociate from the dead-end politics of our failed political leaders by declaring, in concert with Israeli and Palestinian peace-makers: We refuse to be enemies. And
(3) As the infinitely stronger party in the conflict and the only Occupying Power, we Israelis must accept responsibility for our failed and oppressive policies. Only we can end the conflict.
His report of the trip can be read on the blog by Ted Swedenburg, another blogging anthropologist. Swedenburg is professor at the University of Arkansas and editorial committee member of the Middle East Report. He has blogged a lot about the Gaza-conflict.
In an earlier post I’ve mentioned several antropologists who try to do something similar. In a more recent post, Maximilian Forte analyzes and criticizes the myths spread by American media:
So THE WORLD trembles with love at the mere mention of “Obama,” while all those who oppose Israeli genocide and demonstrated against it were “Muslims.” In the meantime, the only real threat to peace is Hamas, and its bottle rockets.
Palestinians, not being white, European, privileged allies of the U.S., unlike Israelis, are less than human, and less than important, except as “obstacles.” All that Israel ever does is respond and get provoked, it never initiates — a pristine white victim of irrational brown people, you can almost hear its maiden-like screams across the white Atlantic.
With “reporting” like this, the media will keep anthropologists in business for a long time to come, as we try to clean up the damage they cause in creating a deranged culture of war and hatred. And it is hatred, a subtle, insidious, and racist hatred that motivates and encourages AP to write the kind of articles about Gaza as it has.
Then, I found a post by Palestinian anthropologist Khalil Nakhleh who concludes:
The only future for us, as an indigenous national minority that can exercise our inherited basic human rights on our land and that can achieve true justice and equality, is to reclaim and re-assert our narrative. (…) Our repossessed narrative cannot be a reinterpretation of our history as a dull shadow of Jewish-Zionist narrative. Our repossessed narrative must be based on the deconstruction of the racist Zionist-Ashkenazi system, which itself is a precondition for such a just solution. The existing Israeli system is, by definition, racist and exclusivist, and it is inherently and structurally incapable of providing justice and genuine equality to my Palestinian people.
Today, Anthropologist Smadar Lavie emailed me a link to her text Sacrificing Gaza to revive Israel’s Labor party. She reminds us of the different groups within the Israeli society and writes that it was mostly was the Mizrahim (Jews with origin in the Arab and Muslim World) who have been hit by the Hamas missiles. The Israeli European elite “imported” them “as a demographic shield against the Arab enemy".
Smadar Lavie has put lots of papers online.
For more comments by anthropologists see my first posts: Anthropologists on the war on Gaza