We, Boycott from Within, write this document as those registered by the State of Israel as Jews, and therefore accessing the rights, benefits, and privileges that this status awards. As such, we are obligated to take meaningful steps towards decolonization. At the heart of this obligation is our solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, entailing non-participation in organizations and activities which normalize colonial structures and colonial propaganda. The Palestinian-led BDS movement guidelines shed light on opportunities for us to do so.
What is normalization?
“It is helpful to think of normalization as a “colonization of the mind,” whereby the oppressed subject comes to believe that the oppressor’s reality is the only “normal” reality that must be subscribed to, and that the oppression is a fact of life that must be coped with. Those who engage in normalization either ignore this oppression, or accept it as the status quo that can be lived with. In an attempt to whitewash its violations of international law and human rights, Israel attempts to rebrand itself, or present itself as normal -- even “enlightened” -- through an intricate array of relations and activities encompassing hi-tech, cultural, legal, LGTBQ+ (or LGTBQIA2S+) and other realms”.
The normalization of Israel's apartheid policies contributes to the insidious process by which their foundational injustices are obscured and normalized, through various means such as culture, education, and business. It is therefore an act that Israeli BDS supporters must confront individually and together in order to promote decolonization – an end to Israel’s regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid.
The movement guidelines
“Identity alone does not determine complicity” - The 2005 BDS Call includes an explicit call on anti-colonial Israelis to join the movement for freedom, justice, and equal rights for all. The Palestinian call has determined that not every collaboration with Israelis constitutes normalization. It is rather “the substance and premise” of the collaboration that determines whether or not the Palestinian guidelines define it as normalization. (https://bdsmovement.net/news/debating-bds-normalization-and-partial-boycotts-1)
The Boycott National Committee (BNC) has offered guidelines to Israelis who wish to ethically engage with Palestinians and avoid normalizing activities and projects.
The Israeli party must publicly support the comprehensive rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with international law (at a minimum, the three rights stated in the BDS Call).
The activity/project relationship itself must involve a form of resistance to Israel’s Apartheid, occupation, and violations of international law.
The above definition of normalization was adopted in November 2007 by the great majority of indigenous Palestinian civil society, as represented by the Palestinian Boycott National Committee, leading the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, two years after the publication of the 2005 call for BDS. (https://bdsmovement.net/news/bds-movement-anti-normalization-guidelines)
Why is this important for us as anti-colonial Israelis?
Respecting the boycott called for by the colonized is an ethical obligation for any conscientious person or group standing in solidarity with the oppressed. Ending apartheid and decolonizing Palestine will not only liberate the indigenous Palestinians, it will also constitute a meaningful step towards the liberation of Israelis from their role as colonizers. When our consciousness as colonial-settlers is further distorted by our deeply racist education system and popular media, we misinterpret reality and lose some of the connection to our humanity. Adhering to the anti-normalization guidelines empowers us, by providing us with tools to push back against these corrupting influences.
The guidelines also advise us on how to act ethically and play our part in the Palestinian-led struggle for decolonization.
Noncooperation with normalization.
Israelis who participate in activities with Palestinians or other Arabs, that do not meet the above movement guidelines, are cultivating oppressive relationships. In these colonial relationships, Palestinians/Arabs are exploited for the sake of clearing the conscience of individual Israelis, and/or whitewashing the Israeli regime of colonial oppression and apartheid - rather than engaging in co-resistance aimed at ending the systematic oppression inherent to the apartheid regime, from which Israelis benefit. Only the latter can pave the road to ethical co-existence, based on ending the system of oppression and realizing the comprehensive rights of the Palestinian people.
Therefore, we, as citizens of Israel and as a group, commit to withdrawing all support from any event, including abroad, which meets the BDS movement’s definition of normalization, especially activities that morally or politically equate the oppressor with the oppressed, or present the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis as symmetrical.
Coresistance, not coexistence
The BNC has clarified its opposition to forms of “dialogue” and “coexistence” as follows:
”Dialogue, “healing,” and “reconciliation” processes that do not aim to end oppression, regardless of the intentions behind them, serve to privilege oppressive co-existence at the cost of co-resistance, for they presume the possibility of coexistence before the realization of justice.” https://bdsmovement.net/news/israel%E2%80%99s-exceptionalism-normalizing-abnormal
We as Israeli citizens commit to joint resistance to Israeli apartheid, occupation, and violations of international law. We will refrain from participating in events deceptively characterized as “dialogue” or “coexistence,” where the mere acts of holding conversations or participating in joint activities with Palestinians are misrepresented as acts of resistance to oppression and often as alternatives to the boycott.
Respecting Palestinian safe spaces
Being that one of the most oppressive aspects of such “partnerships” is the hegemonic Israeli-centered framing and contextualization, and learning from the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, we, as Israeli citizens and as a collective, commit to not assuming we are de facto welcome in Palestinian spaces. Palestinian spaces are to be safe and we should refrain from coercing our presence within them. We offer our utmost solidarity while accepting that some forums are not for our participation.
Prioritizing Palestinian voices
We commit to refrain from abusing our privileges, as citizens of Israel and/or as Jews, in order to have our voices prioritized over Palestinian voices.
We also commit to refrain from patronizing Palestinians when it comes to asserting their comprehensive rights and civil resistance strategies.
Finally, we commit to refrain from demanding or asserting personal “exemptions” that contradict the anti-normalization guidelines, as set out by the BNC (including PACBI), resulting in de-facto normalization and a violation of the boycott.
We invite our fellow Israeli citizens, committed to decolonization and meaningful solidarity, to read, share, discuss, and utilize this document in real-life situations, where dilemmas of personal and political gain, relationships, privilege, and sacrifice, arise.
We commit to holding ourselves accountable to anti-normalization and serving as a source of information for other Israelis who wish to join the Palestinian led movement.
Let us end Israeli-settler colonialism, occupation, and apartheid together.