Palestinian Representation, diaspora, and BDS

By Noura Erakat
Submitted to Session P2836 (Palestine Now: Solidarity and Self Determination in the Post-Oslo Context, 2011 Annual Meeting
Intl Rltns/Aff
Human Rights;
In a time when Palestinian leadership is bifurcated diplomatically and geographically and when the Palestinian national body is fragmented multiple times over throughout a global diaspora, it is seemingly difficult to identify with whom solidarity activists are allied. In fact, a common, and arguably disingenuous, retort to the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions has been that “there exists no Palestinian equivalent to the African National Congress that can genuinely call for solidarity,” as if to suggest that absent such leadership, no group of Palestinians can represent Palestinians as a nation. This raises several questions including, 1) how then can Palestinians realize their self-determination absent their composition as a nation?; 2) how did the advent of a peace process ushered by the Madrid Peace Process, and more prominently Oslo, undermine the Palestinian Liberation Organization?; 3) How have Palestinians come to represent themselves in the absence of a functioning trans-national government?; and finally 4) how did this political vacuum, coupled with a failed peace process, provide the platform for an alternative Palestinian option led by a broad swath of civil society actors? This paper seeks to answer these questions in a broader effort to understand the onus underpinning the burgeoning boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. The paper will address what BDS is; how Palestinians have organized themselves in a transnational diaspora absent formal institutions; how the 2005 call works to shift the paradigm from a statist-based to a rights-based approach and in so doing congeals the Palestinian national-body; and how the sincerest form of solidarity is one that adopts BDS and echoes its demands.