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Naomi Klein Shows You Can Boycott Israel Without Cutting Off Dialogue Over Palestine

An interview with Klein and Israeli publisher Yael Lerer on why boycotting Israel will pressure the country to live up to international law.

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When writers and artists stop participating in the Israeli government's strategy to use culture to hide what's on the other side of the concrete walls, Israelis may eventually decide that those walls are a liability and decide to take them down

Lerer: I completely agree. As an Israeli citizen, I need boycotts for two reasons.

First, I want Israelis to feel more strongly that everything is not normal. It means nothing for many self-identified left-wing Israelis to say, "It's awful, what's going on in Gaza and in Hebron," while continuing their daily lives like everything is fine.

They go to the shows and they go to the concerts. These people are the elites in this country. These are the journalists that work at the newspapers. I want to move them. I want to shake these people up and make them understand they cannot continue their normal life when Palestinians in Qalqiliya [a West Bank city completely surrounded by the separation barrier] -- only 15 minutes away from Tel Aviv -- are in prison.

The second reason I need the boycott is because I lost the hope of creating change from within, which was what I tried to do as an activist for many years.

Twenty years ago, I could never have imagined this semi-apartheid situation. I care about the future in this place. I care about my fellow Israelis. I have a huge family here and many, many friends.

I know many people who don't have any other passports and who don't have any other options. I think that the solution for this place, the only possible future, is living together. Unfortunately, at this stage, I don't see how this future can be achieved without international pressure.

And I think that boycott is a nonviolent tool that has already shown us that it can work. So I'm asking: Please boycott me.

Klein: I also think we need to be very clear: This is an extraordinarily asymmetrical conflict where the Israeli state is the biggest boycotter of all. The economy in Gaza and the West Bank has been utterly destroyed by closures.

Beyond shutting down the borders so producers in Gaza couldn't get fruits and vegetables out, you had [over 200] factories in Gaza hit during the attack in late December and January. It was a systematic destruction of that economy to try to "teach Gaza a lesson" for having voted for Hamas. So, boycotts are happening.

The way I see BDS is that this is a tactic that we are resorting to because of Israeli impunity. There is an absolute unwillingness to apply international law to the Israeli state. Hamas has committed war crimes, but there is absolutely an international response to those crimes. [There is no response to Israeli war crimes, which are on an exponentially larger scale.]

We were just in Gaza. The thing that really struck me was the sense of shock among so many people that, even after the December/January attacks, even after hundreds of children were killed, there have been no actions taken by the international community to hold Israel accountable.

I mean, this was a display of utter impunity and disdain for international law, for the laws of war -- which, by the way, were created in direct response to the Nazi atrocities of the second World War. And yet, not only are there no consequences for those crimes, but the illegal siege of Gaza is still on.

What BDS is saying is our governments have failed. The United Nations has failed. The so-called international community is a joke. We have to fill the vacuum.