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The BDS movement and radical democracy

Chalcraft, John (2015) The BDS movement and radical democracy. In: Feldman, David, (ed.) Boycotts Past and Present. Palgrave Macmillan, London, UK. (In Press)

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Introduction: On 25 June 2015, the high-profile magazine Newsweek reported that Foreign Direct Investment in Israel was nearly 50% lower in 2014 than in 2013. The drop was attributed to “the fallout from the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Operation Protective Edge [of July-August 2014] and international boycotts against the country for alleged violations of international law” (Moore 2015). Research on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), nonetheless, is still in its infancy, and opinion is highly divided as to its nature and role. This chapter takes the view that the movement cannot be dismissed as just another form of anti-Semitism. It argues that the BDS movement instead exhibits a number of important similarities to recent radical democracy movements. It is a non-hierarchical and non-doctrinal movement that is networked, de-centralized, multitudinous, and trans-local. The movement seeks to address and change political society without aiming to take up an established position of power within political society itself, through inclusionary, direct-action mobilisation rooted in universal rights. The chapter argues that it is precisely these radically democratic features that can help account for the movement’s increasing potency in recent years. The chapter is based on participant observation in the movement over nearly a decade, and is offered by an academic with a commitment to the movement. Some are bound to discount contributions from those who have stakes in the movement or its suppression as overly interested and politicized; others will maintain a more open-minded position, grasping the complexity of the relationship between politics and scholarship, the problems lurking behind claims to objectivity (Novick 1989), and understanding that in an unresolved and profoundly polarizing conflict, neutrality and detachment is a difficult stance for any contemporary actor to maintain credibly, or even usefully.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 The Author
Divisions: Government
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2016 15:47
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2019 13:22

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