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Ben-Gurion University
[BGU Sociology] Esmail Nashif "Entrenching the Boycott in the Principles of the Resistance"

 Editorial Note

Esmail Nashif (BGU) uses a Marxist analysis to expand on the use of boycott.  He states that as currently practiced, the boycott aims at "weakening the Zionist regime in Palestine" based on the "contradictions of this regime."  But, in his view, the boycott is only limited as it calls for Israel's compliance with international law and its withdrawal from the West Bank. 
Nashif proposes to put the boycott into a broader historical perspective of 1948; this would mobilize the entire Palestinian community, including the Diaspora and broaden the goal to demand the return of the refugees to Israel proper.   Moreover, the new vision would put the boycott in "the Arab-Islamic historical context as a primary frame of reference and not in the context of the authority of Western purity, as is currently the case."   In other words, the boycott would shape the new Palestinian consciousness and make it a more effective tool to fight the "Zionist colonial oppressor."


Esmail Nashif (second on the left).

Department of Sociology - Anthropology, Ben Gurion University

Email: esmail@bgu.ac.il


Mada al-Carmel
Jadal Issue no.11, September 2011
Entrenching the Boycott in the Principles of the Resistance
Esmail Nashif*
The boycott, in its diverse forms, against the colonial regime in Palestine is a welcome
step so long as its objective is to undermine the regime. Presumably, the intentions and
aims of the leaders of the campaigns calling for the boycott are indeed to weaken the
Zionist regime in Palestine, and that they are based on the contradictions of this regime.
However, the boycott against the colonial rule in Palestine raises some questions that the
horizon of Palestinian collective action has often ignored. Of particular importance is the
question of the relationship between the tools of resistance and their users. This question
is tied to the vision from which the tools of resistance are derived. From this perspective,
the boycott does not exist in and of itself, and it can be effective only if it is used in a
more general framework that strives to undermine colonialism. In this article, I shall
examine the relations between the general, theoretical-political framework of the boycott
as a tool of resistance, on the one hand, and the Palestinian who uses the tool to bring
down the Zionist colonial regime in Palestine, on the other hand. The question that will
be used to make this analysis is this: What is the form of the active collective subject that
can be created if boycott is used as the central action in the framework of overall relations
that negate the Zionist regime in Palestine?
The most important feature of the boycott as a tool is perhaps that it is based on the
nature of the Zionist regime as a capitalist venture from the socioeconomic perspective
and as a regime that aspires to monopolize the victim status and the legitimacy resulting
from that status in order to build its economic and military institutions. The boycott is a
sociopolitical construct that prevents individual persons, groups, institutions, and profit-

Mada al-Carmel
Jadal Issue no.11, September 2011
seeking companies from engaging in activity that maintains the colonial regime, and at
times strengthens it, either in an economic and military manner or with respect to its
moral legitimacy. The optimal prevention results from a willful abstention of individuals,
institutions, and companies from engaging in such activity. In other words, collective
internalization of the mental-emotional structure that refuses to take part (or even to
cooperate with those who are taking part) in the colonial organizations that reject
Palestinian existence, unless that existence provides a source of profit for those
organizations. The prevention, in its minimal ethical form, is similar to an aggressive
moral police that persecutes persons who violate the prevention, in order to remove them
from the existing socio-political context, and thereby achieve abstention from performing
the acts (economic, military, and moral) that serve the colonialism. These two poles —
willful abstention and police prevention — define a certain kind of continuation that
includes a mixture of the two kinds based on the current socioeconomic situation in the
specific Palestinian context. Therefore, as with every other means of resistance, the tool
must be positioned within the context of its creation and its use, i.e. in the diverse kinds
of Palestinian contexts and in the relations between these contexts from the perspective of
the boycott and resistance to the Zionist colonialism and to those who sustain this
Many Palestinian components touch directly on the boycott issue, forcing us to reconsider
our relations with the colonial regime. I shall discuss these components: the Palestinians
of 1948; the West Bank and Gaza; and the Palestinian diaspora exiled in neighboring
Arab countries. In the present situation, there is no inclusive sociopolitical-theoretical
framework of these parts of the Palestinian people. As a result, each part is detached from
the others and has a different and independent context, requiring another kind of
resistance tools in general, and with respect to the boycott in particular.
Most of the Palestinians of 1948, with all the details of their material and symbolic life,
are involved in the colonial regime and the regime’s apparatuses that define their daily
lives. In addition, there is limited, marginal social activity that seeks to break the cycle of
dependence on the regime. As for the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority acts as a kind
of sub-contractor of the colonial regime. This funct'ion has a structural ceiling designated

Mada al-Carmel
Jadal Issue no.11, September 2011
for the Palestinian Authority, so the identity of the persons acting on its behalf is
irrelevant; rather, it depends on the structural func'tion within the colonial struggle in
Palestine. In Gaza, the experience has been a two-edged sword. The resistance
movements indeed managed to achieve a decisive result and to bring about the
withdrawal of the regime there. However, the withdrawal led to another kind of control of
the movement of people and basic raw materials and perpetuated the detachment of Gaza
from every other Palestinian entity. The Palestinian diaspora in exile is entrenched in
internal and other contractions with the existing Arab regimes. As a result, the need for
examining its relations with the colonial regime has fallen to the third or fourth level of
priority. Therefore, boycott in the diaspora has implications other than those involving
the prevention I mentioned above.
This preliminary survey indicates that the boycott, in its present form, arose directly from
the experience of the West Bank and from rejection of the character of the structure of the
Palestinian Authority as a sub-contractor of the colonial regime. A conspicuous element
in this regard is the lack of an overall vision or sociopolitical theoretical framework of the
Palestinian collective. This lack of vision and framework has caused the boycott to
atrophy to the point where it was reduced to the experience of certain urban elites who
have gained ascendance following the general withdrawal of the entire Palestinian society.
These Palestinian elites, for the reasons connected to the nature of the colonial
apparatuses to which they have been subjected, view the boycott as a practice whose
declared purpose is to force Israel to comply with international law and its undeclared
purpose is to use the strategy of cleansing (that is, cleansing the Palestinian of his
Israeliness) — this practice being part of the battle waged between these elites and the
Palestinian Authority elites over control of Palestinian society and over who will serve as
its sole representative in dealings with the international community.
The Palestinian Authority is characterized by its relations with Israel, while most of the
elites, who use the boycott as their primary means, attempt to conduct a discourse that
opposes the material aspect of these relations (the goods), on the one hand, and their
symbolic aspect (the legitimacy of the occupation of the West Bank), on the other hand.
The principal problem in the present form of the boycott is that it results from partial

Mada al-Carmel
Jadal Issue no.11, September 2011
Palestinian experience, but an attempt is made to generalize it to the entire Palestinian
case. For example, the boycott calls for a meaningful solution in the West Bank and in
Gaza by means of the end to the occupation, while simultaneously proposing to the
Palestinians of 1948 that they agree to full equality and integration in that regime that is
being boycotted in other places. Furthermore, the boycott calls for return of the refugees
without dealing in any substantial manner with the nature of the regime they will return to.
A material and symbolic ethical boycott of the colonial regime is insufficient so long as it
does not lead to a profound examination of the Palestinian — regardless of his or her
specific context — as an active agent in the social history that shapes his or her collective
identity. When boycott is used as a tool, the Palestinian subject is turned into the sum
total of practices that oppose the colonial presence. This kind of examination depends on
that presence in order to reject it. One of the features of the formation of settler
colonialism in Palestine is the almost absolute totalitarian presence in every sphere of life,
a situation that originated with the advent of Zionism and its genesis in the capitalist
project. The colonial presence includes, therefore, all spheres of daily life, including the
symbolic life of the Palestinians. Thus, rejection of the forms of the colonial presence
requires activity in all spheres of Palestinian life, in a way that fits the totalitarian logic of
colonialism and enables boycotting and negating it. This dead-end is the main cause for
the creation of the Palestinian subject as a victim who is incapable of being rescued from
his or her catastrophe, and to the Palestinians perceiving it as such, and to placement of
the Palestinian within the web of the capitalist apparatus in all its stages. But the principal
factor that enables the colonial regime to relate to itself as an historical agent is
necessarily the variety of victims, primarily Palestinians.
It could be that the main evidence of these processes is the division of the Palestinians
into types according to the form of colonial presence in their collective and individual
body. Consequently, the extent and form of the boycott that negates the colonizer and the
colonial presence in Palestinians creates them anew, as if they were a tragic repetition of
variations of the structure of the victim.
The history of Palestinian resistance is not lacking in the development of resistance tools
as much as in critical debate that can improve these tools and the resistance to include a

Mada al-Carmel
Jadal Issue no.11, September 2011
more profound and comprehensive liberation. The boycott as a tool of resistance brings to
the fore the lack of a general Palestinian framework that encompasses the entire
Palestinian collective, a framework that is not affected by the contradictions of the
colonial regime and is not dependent on it. Therefore, the boycott’s reach must include —
at minimum — the dependence of Palestinian consciousness on Zionist colonial activity
and develop an awareness of this dependence and the need to break it. Indeed, only this
Palestinian intervention can embrace all the diverse Palestinian groups without the
intervention being dependent on, and proceeding along with, the colonial reality. In its
present form, the boycott, being derived from the hothouse of liberation from the
hegemonic consciousness, is not conditioned upon the presence of the colonial regime
within the Palestinian subject. Rather, it strives to attain the moment of the Palestinian
presence after negating the principle of presence of the perpetrator in shaping the
Palestinian victim. The other is only one of the forms against which the subject can be
defined and its horizontal metaphor. On the other hand, negating the subject makes it
possible to penetrate the depths of consciousness of the collective subject.
Thus, we must shape the boycott tool in the Arab-Islamic historical context as a primary
frame of reference, and not in the context of the authority of Western purity, as is
currently the case. If we do so, the boycott will become an integral part of the liberation
from the colonial presence within the subject. The Palestinian intervention after its
colonial moment is an Arab-Islamic intervention, since, on the one hand, it constitutes
ratification of the geologic strata of the cultural tradition at the movement of its
constitutive liberation intervention, and, on the other hand, it directs this tradition to
forms of temporary experience on the basis of its humanist baggage. The most important
thing in the framework of re-reading the Palestinian intervention through the Islamic
Arab hothouse is the question of striving to reestablish the national Palestinian collective.

Esmail Nashif is a lecturer at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva.
This essay was originally written in Arabic.

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