Monday, January 26, 2009

Chomsky responds:

Thanks for the generous words.

I don't see the disagreement about investment. I just looked at the transcript, and what I said is: "divestment became a proper tactic after years, decades of education and organizing, to the point where Congress was legislating against trade, corporations were pulling out, and so on. That's what's missing: the education and organizing which makes it an understandable move. And, in fact, if we ever got to that point, you wouldn't even need it, because the US could be brought in line with international opinion."

The time-line seems very close to what you sketch below. There was no epiphany, and it wasn't sudden. It was a long-drawn out process, which by the late 70s and early 80s had gained enormous popular support, elite support as well. Pressure for the Sullivan principles was in 1977, but the movement really didn't take off until the 1980s. That was after decades of serious educational and organizing work.

However, there is a fundamental difference between South Africa and Israel. In the case of South Africa, the goal was to undermine Apartheid. In the case of Israel, the goal is to end the decisive military, diplomatic, and ideological US support for Israel -- more narrowly, to bring the US to support the international consensus on a two-state settlement that the US had blocked, unilaterally, for over 30 years. If that happens, Israel will have to go along. So BDS directed against Israel is a very seriously misleading tactic, which absolves the US, the major actor in this affair.

If organizing and education reached the level of opposition to Apartheid, BDS would be beside the point (as well as misdirected), because it would by then be able to shift US rejectionism.

Noam Chomsky

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