Naomi Klein Shows You Can Boycott Israel Without Cutting Off Dialogue Over Palestine
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Yael Lerer: Andalus has been dealing with this contradiction from the very beginning. We publish Arab writers that oppose "normalization" of the occupation -- like we do. And we always try to find ways to deal with these contradictions.
Actually, this is the first time we have had a book tour, because our normal way of dealing with these contradictions is to translate the books but not hold any celebrations. Our writers never come here. So here we had this challenge for the first time.
We made the big launch of the Hebrew edition not in Tel Aviv but in Haifa, at an Arab theater, where our hosts were not Israeli official institutions, but Palestinian minority institutions. (As you know, there is a minority of 20 percent Palestinian within Israel.)
But this event was not aimed only at this community -- we invited Israeli Jews to come as well. One could read everywhere in Hebrew, "Naomi Klein is coming to Haifa, come and hear her."
At the same time, it was important to have the first book events in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, with the Arabic edition, and that before all the book events, Naomi participated in a demonstration in Bi'lin against the separation wall.
So we spoke to the Israeli public at the events and through the Israeli media. The book is available in Hebrew. But, at the same time, we expressed a strong anti-normalization position. We were not doing it like everything is normal.
Klein: And that's the point. This is not a boycott of Israelis. It's a boycott of pretending that everything is normal in Israel, because that's what cultural producers are usually invited to do.
There has been a huge amount of misrepresentation about the boycott campaign, claiming that it is a boycott of Israelis, or Jews, or that it's anti-Semitic. We are trying to address those misconceptions with this tour. There are some clear rules: We're not going to work with a state-sponsored book fair, for instance. I have refused invitations to come to Israel, to speak at state-sponsored film festivals and things like that.
But If I were boycotting Israelis, I wouldn't be in Israel engaging with Israelis. I would have stayed home.
One of the things we are trying to draw out with this tour is that for foreigners like me, however you choose to come to Israel, you are making choices, and you are taking a side. It's possible to pretend that you are not, but that's only because of Israel's success in making the conflict invisible inside a carefully constructed bubble.
In my book there is a long chapter about Israel and the construction of the homeland security state. It looks closely at the companies that build the high-tech walls and fences and checkpoints and that keep Palestinians in the Occupied Territories in a state of constant surveillance.
It is because of the effectiveness of the homeland security sector that it's possible to come to cities like Tel Aviv and be almost completely oblivious to what is happening in Ramallah, in Gaza. This state is like a giant gated community. It has perfected the art of constructing a security bubble, and that is, in a sense, its brand.
It's a brand that is sold to Diaspora Jews like me. It says: "We can keep you safe, we can create, in a sea of enemies, a bubble of safety for you to enjoy, to have a wonderful beach holiday, to go to film festivals and book festivals -- even as we bomb Gaza, even as we turn the West Bank into a chain of mini-Bantustans, surrounded by walls and expanding settlements, and roads Palestinians don't have access to."