January 15, 2011

Dr. Abigail Bakan of Queen's University to Guest Lecture on Palestine Solidarity, Israel, and the Boycott. Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement at Mount Allison University (UPDATE: CANCELLED)

Update: This lecture was cancelled due to the winter storm.

I wrote earlier about the controversy surrounding Mount Allison's decision to honor Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books and founder of a charity for Israeli Army Veterans with an Honorary Degree at the 2010 May Graduation Ceremony. 

At the time, despite the controversy the degree was awarded and the ceremony went on apparently without a hitch. In an Argosy article at the time, VP Academic & Research Stephen McClatchie said that fair minded debate around the issue would be engaged at the University had offered to provide funds to arrange a forum on the conflict. 
University provost Stephen McClatchie agreed. “We are an academic institution and academic debate is what we're all about. We should be engaging with such difficult topics and it is important to do so in an open, fair-minded, and respectful way,” he said.
McClatchie said he has offered funds to Thomas to arrange a forum on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the upcoming academic year.
Thomas also hopes that this controversy will lead to a revision in how honorary degrees are awarded.

On Thursday, an official University event, sponsored by McClatchie's office, seems to provide just that forum for discussion. 

Arts Guest lecture — Dr. Abigail Bakan, Queen's University
Palestine Solidarity, Israel, and the Boycott. Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement
Dr. Abigail Bakan, Dept. of Political Studies, Queen's University
Crabtree Auditorium (Rm M14)
January 13, 2011. 7:00 pm

Sponsored by the Office of the VP Academic & Research, the Department of Geography & Environment, the Department of Politics & International Relations, the Sociology Department, and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

Contact: Dr. David Thomas, 364-2211, dthomas@mta.ca

Palestinian resistance and international solidarity: the BDS campaign

  1. Abigail B. Bakan
    1. Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
  1. Yasmeen Abu-Laban
    1. Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada


Israel's recent war in Gaza ('Operation Cast Lead') has both exposed Israel's defiance of international law and provided the occasion for increasing support for an organised transnational boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The BDS movement is aimed at challenging the Israeli state's illegal military occupation and a host of corresponding repressive policies directed at Palestinians. However, the BDS campaign, and in particular the call for an academic boycott, has been controversial. It has generated a counter-response emphasising, variously, the goals of the movement as ineffective, counterproductive to peace and/or security, contrary to norms of academic freedom and even tied to anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism. Utilising a Gramscian approach, and drawing from Charles Mills' concept of 'racial contract', we examine the history of the divestment campaign and the debates it has engendered. We argue that the effectiveness of BDS as a strategy of resistance and cross-border solidarity is intimately connected with a challenge to the hegemonic place of Zionism in western ideology. This campaign has challenged an international racial contract which, from 1948, has assigned a common interest between the state of Israel and international political allies, while absenting Palestinians as simultaneously non-white, the subjects of extreme repression and stateless. The BDS campaign also points to an alternative — the promise of a real and lasting peace in the Middle East.