David Lloyd, professor of English at the University of California, Riverside gave a talk in Dublin in the summer 2016 about boycott in general and also about his recent visit to Palestine with MLA colleagues. Now he has published an essay titled “The Malevolence of Occupation” in the Dublin Review of Books, one of Ireland’s best literary reviews. The essay provides background to the boycott movement among US academics, an account of the difficult conditions under which Palestinians must teach and study, and also a call to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
You can read Lloyd’s entire essay here. Below are selected quotations from Lloyd’s essay.
Rise of BDS in the US
Above all, boycott is an instrument of civil society. We call for a boycott when the means to redress an ongoing injury are denied by the legal or political institutions that ought to intervene. In December 2009, Israel launched its catastrophic “Cast Lead” assault on Gaza ‑ as it would again in 2012 and 2014. Before it was over, Israel had killed some 1,400 Gazans, mostly civilians with nowhere to hide and no means of escape.
That’s why, in January 2009, a handful of US-based scholars launched the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel which calls for the suspension of all collaboration with Israeli academic institutions that are complicit with occupation and discrimination against Palestinians. Boycott, as we understood it, was not simply an expression of our very lively disgust at Israel’s indiscriminate and overwhelming slaughter. It was, first and foremost, a response to the call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel (BDS) . . .
Effectiveness of BDS
Formerly unassailable truisms about Israel have crumbled over the past few years, not because their falsity was not evident to anyone who cared to do some research (just read the late Edward Said), but because the boycott movement has generated debates that have disseminated information in an unprecedented range of venues, even within the precincts of the US Democratic Party. Perhaps the most telling index of the impact of the global boycott movement is the fact that the Israeli state has elevated BDS to the status of a major strategic threat.
The Israeli Occupation and the “Localization” Palestinian Education
On a recent trip to Palestine, on which we met Palestinian scholars and students from some ten or more institutions in Israel and on the West Bank, my colleagues and I witnessed our peers’ dismay at what they term localisation: that is, the cumulative effect of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement and interference with the right of foreigners to travel freely is the increasing fragmentation of intellectual life at all levels.
BDS and International Solidarity
But the boycott is not a tactic that Palestinians under Occupation or in Israel can very effectively deploy alone. It is, rather, a tactic that they have called on international civil society to implement. They ask us to respond to their call. If we do not, we too will be complicit, by virtue of our inaction, with the slow and deliberate destruction of Palestinian society and culture and with the daily violence that incrementally and malevolently pursues their elimination.