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What has boycotting Israel ever done for the Palestinians?

Boycotting Israel and rejecting any type of normalization is back in the spotlight after the arrest this month of the Lebanese-French film director Ziad Doueiri.
Doueiri was detained on his arrival at Beirut airport after the publication of an offensive and provocative article about him in Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese daily newspaper that broadly supports Hezbollah.
The article related to Doueiri’s 2012 movie “The Attack,” which tackled the Palestinian cause through a love story involving a female suicide bomber and her doctor, a Palestinian living in Israel. The movie was shot in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Lebanon is officially at war with Israel, and its citizens, such as Doueiri, are not permitted to travel there. Al-Akhbar’s article urged authorities to take action against him.
As a result, when the director arrived in Beirut for the premiere of his latest movie, “The Insult,” security officials detained him at the airport. His Lebanese and French passports were confiscated and he was ordered to appear before a military court the following day. The judge ruled that he had no case to answer, returned his passports and released him.
This case has two dimensions: The relativization of power, and control. Doueiri had visited Lebanon several times before and was not arrested. He said he had informed the authorities that he was producing a movie about the Palestinian cause and no one objected, except of course when it came to depicting relations between Lebanese figures known for their former relations with Israel and who are currently in power. Doueiri himself has said that the boycott of Israel harms the Palestinians more than it does Israel.
The debate revolves around one main point: The 70-year-old slogan rejecting any type of normalization with Israel. The boycott weapon has always been part of the conflict. It has deliberately blurred the line between the stance taken on the occupied country and the stance taken against the repressive Israeli authorities. We should distinguish between the Israeli authorities and their policies, and Israelis in general; what happens now is that anyone who dares to say they like an Israeli song, writer, movie or dish is accused of being an Israeli agent.

Far from advancing the cause, those who reject normalization are spreading ignorance and empowering the oppressors.

Diana Moukalled

So what has the boycott achieved? How has it served the Palestinian cause (which is indisputably fair and just)? Name one achievement, and by that I do not mean a Western musician or writer refusing to visit Israel. How has the boycott helped the Palestinian cause that is now fading? Why has Israel been able to repress us, despite all the years of boycott?
Far from helping us, the boycott has been exploited to spread ignorance. The Israeli writer Amos Oz’s book “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” which depicts the awful face of Israel, was banned. We have been fooled by “intellectuals” who we have allowed to censor our minds and our intelligence. We need to see that the conflict with Israel is not only about the passing, agenda-driven missiles, which are far from restoring Palestinians’ rights.
Israel, the country that we do not like, is an occupier oppressing the Palestinians; however, Haifa and Jaffa are cities that we would love to visit. None of the boycotters like these cities more than we do.
We need to be honest and admit that the boycott has achieved nothing for the Palestinian cause. Instead, it has been used against us to spread ignorance and prevent us from discussing and learning new things. This is the dilemma of the anti-normalization advocates: They adopted an approach that empowered Israel against us. They imposed the logic of absolute confrontation, all against all.
In our region, people are ruled through tyranny and sectarianism, which is why our countries have become a permanent arena for civil war. The boycotters are using this same logic to drive us toward a permanent fight against normalization with Israel. They are using the Palestinian cause to keep us recklessly enraged; this is why we are trapped in our current state.

  Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer.
Twitter @dianamoukalled