Monday, May 4, 2009

boycott as violence

Gershom Gorenberg writes, in a larger piece about Palestinian non-violence (which is, so far, nascent and not really non-violence yet):
Many Israelis believe both that continued rule over the Palestinians is untenable - and that there’s no chance of making peace with the Palestinians. The challenge of effective Palestinian political action is to make Israelis pay more attention to their misgivings about the occupation - while alleviating their fears that peace is just the prelude to the next attack.
I'm going to keep thinking about some of the stuff in the post for a while. I have an attraction to, or at least a willingness to tolerate, some 'revolutionary' violence. Or maybe it's better to say I have an attachment to ridiculing some of the more idiotic (and half-hearted) versions of pacifism. But in the end, there's emotion there that I have to dig up and examine. Violence is surely sometimes necessary, but Gorenberg skewers the attachment many 'radicals' have to violence. It ceases to be a tool and becomes an aesthetic - as surely on the Left as on the Right.

But I wanted to highlight the above quote and put boycotts in that context. Boycotters often claim boycotts are nonviolent, but they are, by their very nature, coercive. They are about power and demonstrating power. I wish more boycotters would accept that as the obvious truth it is.

And boycotts will fail on the two tests Gorenberg offers to measure the effectiveness of violence. It will make Israelis more fearful and they will background their concerns about the occupation. And then the boycott will fail. What then?

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