It’s in our heart/it’s in our heads: BDS and Me
(2014 update: in the two years that passed since I originally wrote this post, my opinion changed and became even more complicated. Maybe one day I’ll write about it).
In the past few weeks I had several conversations with leftist activists abroad. These conversations led me to finally understand, I think, what is my position on BDS and certain similar practices of politics. The arrival of a band I really really love this June was a trigger to this post, as it took five minutes from the announcement on their show to the “so, when’s the cancellation “due to political reasons”?” tweets to follow.
It took me some time to understand why I was uncomfortable with BDS, although I can understand and even relate to its reasoning, and that I have more than a few friends who support different practices of it.*
However, rather than my location and position in this as an Israeli, my uncomfortableness has more to do about the way I see and define political action. To put it plainly, I don’t believe in mainstream politics or blunt actions of herds. I vote, but I see very little impact to it. As Daphne Leef and Dror Feuer put it several months ago:
We are here because we want to be here. We choose to be here, we choose to be in a good place, in a just society, we want to live in society as a society – not as a collection of lonely individuals who each sit in front of one box, the TV, and once every four years put a slip in another box – the polling box.
In the light of the feminist tradition, I turned to examination of political practice in daily life. I started think and take my daily life seriously, see where my choices are – from the grocery store to consumption of culture, from comebacks and insults to listening to others. I’m choosing to think my most mundane actions, see if I can turn even the slightest change into a vector, and vector into a lifestyle. The point of it is thinking that leads to change. While I know I’m a minority both in my political views and my definition of political action, I simply don’t see any other way to live my life in. I need the constant thinking, in order to see where change is possible.
This is one reason why I don’t like the usage of the word apartheid regarding to what my government is doing to Palestinians. It only fits sometimes, and only to some practices and aspects of the occupation. I also believe people are not computers. We don’t act binary, and even if we tend to think in binary terms, it’s never 100% how we act. And this is where I see and think that change is possible – confronting the binary so-called thought with the practice of everyday life. Thought/ideology and practice are never the same. I see this gap as opportunity, and conscious to this gap as the vehicle of change. Which is why, if the occupation is an ideology – at least the way I see it – it means we have to think it through, every person to herself. Take a minute to watch this video, a short lecture by Mbuyiseni Ndlozi. I know that a lot see in it justification to BDS. I see in it an explanation to the position I just described: as to why it’s important not to take a binary action against a rooted ideology, because binary action is a blind action.
The catch is that from my position in the conflict, BDS is the blind binary action. Now, I understand my position is very different than other BDS supporters around the world. Two American people whom I’m lucky to call friends explained to me it’s very hard to find any products from Israel that weren’t made in the occupied territories. For me, in Israel, it’s quite easy to find food that didn’t grow there. In a culture where most of us are consumers first and human beings after, it’s a rational thing to do. However, if the goal of BDS is to make Israelis think about the occupation and their contribution to it, I mostly see how it divides this fragmented people. If there’s one thing I learned from the summer protests is that we need to find what unites us. Too many things divide us. Which is why, from my place in it, boycotting is too easy. I also think that no matter where you are, calling it apartheid is too easy. It gives one the blind political practice, not the everyday practice of thought and consideration, and most of all – of choice, of a political saying.
As a feminist, I think a lot comes down to choices. When I see a pattern that limits that into a signal course of action, I back off. I prefer my thinking to be free, and political action that doesn’t exclude anyone off the table.** Not to mention, this table is my home. Trying to find alternative ways that will allow me to share it with others while working to fix it are two sides of the same coin for me. It’s living. It’s politics. And occasionally, it’s also live shows.
*Disclosure: I’m a member in a joint team for handling “gray” aspects of gender-based violence in unusual settings in civil society organizations, which is led by Coalition of Women for Peace, which supports BDS. I’m there because of my experience with Hollaback Israel, and because while they are committed to ending the occupation and creating a more just society, while enhancing women’s inclusion and participation in the public discourse, I’m committed to enhancing women’s inclusion and participation in the public discourse and by thus creating a more just society.
**(unless some people are unable to speak in others’ presence, and then think tanks and joint teams such as the ones I’m involved with are taking action to see how we create affirmative action and free spaces for action, for all. It’s a hell of a work, this politics of space and action. I’m loving it.)