[Marxism] The Case For Boycotting Israel and the United States

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Sat Aug 5 22:20:08 MDT 2006

I'll weigh in in favor of some kind of boycott of Israel, giving a strong
"second" to Andy's and Mark's sentiments. As in the case of the movement
to boycott (and divest from) apartheid South Africa, the goal was to
educate, more than bring South Africa to its knees. The latter was the job
of the Black South African people. Our job was to build a MOVEMENT with
the potential -- in conjunction with worldwide public opinion and the
revolutionary movement in S.A. -- to force the U.S. government to end its
support for the apartheid regime.

A boycott by "civil society" hoping to economically strangle South Africa
would have been a pipe dream. At its best, if memory serves, the
divestment movement achieved modest results in economic terms, but good
results in bringing people into solidarity with the Black South African
movement, eventually helping force the U.S. to distance itself from South
Africa. There was also an INTERNATIONAL boycott of South Africa, called
for by the ANC, which the anti-apartheid movement here fed into.

A TARGETTED boycott of Israel or Israeli products or firms would be one
excellent idea for broadening the new anti-apartheid movement. For one
thing it would highlight the role Washington and U.S. corporations play in
Israel's racist and genocidal policies, just as it did in the case of the
South African version. And it would put pressure (to one degree or
another, depending on the context) on Washington to distance itself from
Tel Aviv. Keep in mind that in the anti-apartheid movement, 40+ million
African Americans strongly identified with the plight of Black South
Africans, while white South Africans didn't have a strong pro-apartheid
lobby or much support here at all.

The problem is that there may not be that many South African firms or
products to boycott. Recall that the target of the divestment movement was
"firms that do business in South Africa." There is no reason not to
boycott specific U.S. industries, as well. Caterpillar has been subject to
such a boycott. That could be strengthened and broadened. Or General
Electric, which makes F-16 engines.

However, a general call to "boycott the U.S.," as some call for, is
tantamount to calling for inaction, for doing nothing. It's a call for us
to all become hippies and go live on a commune.

Michael Friedman
Ph.D. Candidate in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior
City University of New York

Molecular Systematics Laboratory
Department of Invertebrate Zoology
American Museum of Natural History
79th Street and Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

Office: 212-313-8721

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