Norwegian Solidarity: Debating the BDS movement in Oslo
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Norwegian Solidarity: Debating the BDS movement in Oslo

Norwegian solidarity continues to support the isolation of Apartheid Israel through various events. The latest important event was a meeting discussing the necessity for Academic and Cultural Boycott held in Oslo at the 29th of November.

The need to hold intellectuals, academics and artists accountable is slowly growing within the solidarity movement globally. It still has to struggle against corporate power within the campuses and distribution of arts that ensures outspoken supporters of the Palestinian struggle and justice in Palestine are put under considerable pressure. Further, it has to break down the general myth of “neutrality” in science and arts propagated in mainstream discourse. However, slowly the awareness is spreading that not taking a stand is taking a stand as well.

The text below is adapted from a report sent by the Norwegian solidarity about their discussions:

“Is cultural and academic boycott of Israel a correct, a necessary and an effective means of resistance?” This meeting title brought together a hundred people in Oslo in late November, organized by the Palestine Committee and Countryside Youth of Oslo (Bondeungdomslaget). Five speakers spoke on the topic from various backgrounds and experience. Øystein Gudim, an activist from the anti apartheid movement, pointed to the similarities and differences between the Palestinian and the South African liberation movement. He emphasized that the UN sanctions facilitated the political struggle against Apartheid and how the solidarity alliance was built on the labour movement, student activists, various churches and a wide range of political parties. Sports were included in the cultural boycott of South Africa, and this hit the apartheid regime very hard. Some South Africans say that today’s Apartheid Wall and the following bantustanification of Palestine is even worse than the political situation under Apartheid in South Africa.

Doctor Gry Henriksen talked about her experience as a doctor in Gaza during the Israeli siege last summer. Her main point was that most people outside Gaza have no idea whatsoever about how desperate the situation is and how isolated people feel there. “Please don’t take away our hopes for a better future!”

Edvard Vogt is a retired law professor. He argued that Israel is essentially a settler state and the last brutal version of the US and European colonialism. Vogt pointed to the fact that expanding settlement project is detrimental to the Israeli state. He went on to address the academy in Israel, stating that it is a scandal that Israeli academics do not protest against the destruction of Palestinian universities in Gaza and the West Bank. The talk was concluded with the call to lobby harder on the Norwegian government not to take part in the isolation of the legally elected Palestinian government, and demand opening of airports and ports.

Sonja Krohn is a painter. He dealt with widespread doubt surrounding cultural and academic boycott, specifically the fear that it will hit Israeli artists. Krohn pointed to the fact that artists too have to go to the military service in Israel, arguing that the idea of “pure art isolated from society” is wrong.

Tore Sivertsen is a veterinarian. He emphasized equality as a goal for all who live in Palestine as well as for Palestinian refugees. In addition, the question of why one should boycott Israel and not other occupying powers was addressed. Sivertsen argued that the Israeli occupation is a special case, as it practices open state racism. Furthermore, attention was drawn to the fact that most Israeli academics support their state and that a boycott may lead some of them to reconsider Israel’s policy. However, boycott should focus on institutions and not on individuals. He concluded by saying that working for an academic and cultural boycott will surely draw accusations of anti-Semitism, but being attacked is a necessary price to be paid by international solidarity groups who support the Palestinian struggle.

During the debate, some argued that academic and cultural boycotts will hit the political left in Israel, that time is not yet ripe for this kind of action, and that at present time too few people support boycott to make it a realistic way of pushing Israel to end the occupation of Palestine. Others however stressed the need to open debate in numerous organizations, workplaces and academic institutions and to involve them in the work for boycott and sanctions against Israel.

The Norwegian solidarity movement was very satisfied with the meeting. 100 people attending this kind of meeting in Oslo is a good as sign as it reveals that there is a broad interest in this issue.