[P6494] Reciprocal Mobilization in the Politics of BDS: Strategy, Competition, and Wars of Position

Created by Nathaniel Shils
Tuesday, 11/30/21 2:00 pm


The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement has emerged as a key site of contestation over the future of Palestinian rights. Over the course of nearly two decades, both supporters and opponents of BDS have mobilized substantial resources through transnational networks and the movement has generated intense, ongoing controversies, the visibility of which has exceed any material impact. This panel brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars who are studying different dimensions of the BDS movement and transnational advocacy for Palestinian rights. The participants examine different dynamics of contestation around the movement in and beyond the Middle East.

The first paper compares the responses of BDS activists, opposition leftists, and Islamists in Morocco to the government’s normalization agreement with Israel. The analysis draws on semi-structured interviews and uses social movement theory to examine how activists frame their views on normalization. It explores how different kinds of linkages to the Moroccan state and to international solidarity networks impact the arguments that activists make in their opposition to normalization. The second paper turns attention to solidarity activism in Germany and to processes of moral, political, and legal judgement in recent BDS controversies. It examines how ideas about historic responsibility in Germany are mobilized in relation to competing claims about rights and responsibilities vis-à-vis Palestine and Israel. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Berlin and observations of two major trials related to Palestinian rights advocacy, the paper highlights how those coming under attack for their alliances with the BDS movement experience judgement not merely as disagreement, but as discrimination. The third paper uses a Gramscian framework to analyze Israeli responses to the real and imagined threats posed by BDS. It focuses on the manifestation of a distinct policy conundrum that governments targeted by boycotts often face. On the one hand, they will be tempted by a strategy of avoidance in which they ignore boycotts or minimize the challenges they are presumed to pose. On the other hand, this approach risks giving boycotters opportunities to transform the terms of debate and mold the political and discursive landscape, thereby laying the groundwork for more powerful future challenges. A common response by target governments, which is evident in Israel, is to hesitate to confront boycotters, then to over-react, but to do so by manipulative, ad hominem, and semi-clandestine measures rather than by confronting and contradicting substantive critiques of policies.


Palestinian American Research Center (PARC)


Pol Science; Pol Science; Pol Science; Pol Science; Pol Science




Ian Lustick

(University of Pennsylvania)
Ian S. Lustick is the Bess W. Heyman Professor in the Political Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania. He taught previously at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Arabs in the Jewish State; For the Land and the Lord; Unsettled States,...
Panel Participating Role(s): Co-Author;

Maha Nassar

(University of Arizona)
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Maia Carter Hallward

(Kennesaw State University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Co-Author;

Noura Erakat

(Rutgers University, New Brunswick)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Nathaniel Shils

(University of Pennsylvania)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Taib Biygautane

(Kennesaw State University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Sophia Hoffinger

(University of Edinburgh)
Sophia Hoffinger is a PhD student in the Social Anthropology Department, at the University of Edinburgh. Her doctoral research explores ethnographic articulations of and claims to justice, responsibility, and rights within the contested field of anti-colonial...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;
Hallward, Maia Carter (Kennesaw State University) - Abstract Second Author
Lustick, Ian (University of Pennsylvania) - Abstract Second Author