Naomi Klein and handling complexity


Naomi Klein, who is no fool, appears to be involved in a selective boycott of Israel. She calls for an economic and cultural boycott of the country, but is there now, presumably spending some money, for the Israeli launch of her book The Shock Doctrine. This requires a certain amount of tightrope walking, the sort that would impress a Talmud scholar. For example, she is not taking the royalties from the book, published by Andalus Publishing, which specialises in Arabic literature.

She says:

“First of all, I deal in communications. It’s my profession and my passion and I naturally rebel against any kind of cutting off of channels of dialogue. I think that one of the most powerful tools of those who oppose the boycott is the argument that it is a boycott of Israelis. It’s true that some academics won’t agree to accept an article by an Israeli for publication in a journal. There aren’t many of them, and they make stupid decisions. This is not what the boycott committee has called for. The decision isn’t to boycott Israel but rather to oppose official relationships with Israeli institutions.”

“I try to be consistent in the way I act in conflict areas I don’t want to act in a normal way in a place that seems very abnormal to me. When I was in Sri Lanka after the tsunami, I didn’t go to cocktail parties and also in Iraq no cocktail parties. The State of Israel is trying to show that everything is fine in its territory, that it’s possible to spend a nice vacation here or to be part of Western culture, very Western culture. I don’t want to be a part of that. I am waiting impatiently for the time when I will be able to come for a vacation or a normal book launch in Tel Aviv. But this is a privilege that should be reserved for all the inhabitants.”

To me, this is disingenous. Most boycotters are for the boycott of Israel full stop: they call for divestment from Israeli companies, boycotting of products made in Israel. For example, when a London cafe said “We do not sell Israeli products”, they did not mean “We do not sell Israeli government products.” When American anti-Israel activists picketed Trader Joe’s, it was for selling Israeli-made couscous, not official Israeli government couscous. When French anti-Zionists marched into Carrefour taking things off the shelves, they were looking for “Made in Israel” stickers, not “Made by the Israeli state” stickers. In general, most boycotters have not prioritised boycotting cocktail parties.

I naturally rebel against any kind of cutting off of channels of dialogue.” Yes, me too. That’s why I am against a cultural boycott, and am glad Klein is defying the cultural boycott to be published in Israel, even if she says she isn’t.

The most offensive thing Klein says in her Ha’aretz interview,by the way, is this: “[Some Jews] even think we get one get-away-with-genocide-free card.”

[I’m not even going to get on to her defence of the idiocy that surrounded Durban II. See The Moderate Voice, pithily, or David Schraub, in more detail.]

While writing this, I notice the breaking news:

Klein and her husband Avi Lewis, a documentary film director and a presenter on Al-Jazeera TV, were detained Monday while leaving Gaza for Israel. Yael Lerer, founder of the Andalus publishing house, said the two had been held for three and a half hours while she waited for them outside the crossing. Lewis said they were detained because their names sounded Jewish and Israeli to the soldiers; people with Israeli passports are forbidden from entering Gaza. They said Shin Bet security agents questioned Lewis while Klein stood by.

Klein, author of “No Logo” (published in Israel by Babel), is visiting here to promote her book “The Shock Doctrine,” which Andalus is publishing in Hebrew. She arrived last Thursday night and took part in a demonstration against the separation fence near the West Bank village of Bil’in. She also had meetings at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem, and spent two days in Gaza. Klein had called for a world-wide boycott of Israel during Operation Cast Lead last winter as a strategy to end the occupation. Last night she had a meeting at the Almidan Theater in Haifa. The Shin Beit confirmed that Klein was quetioned for 10 minutes, but that it was not responsible for detaining her.

Bizarre, and unfortunate.

[For news item, h/t B]

UPDATE: An unsavoury footnote, from Schalom Libertad.

One Response to “Naomi Klein and handling complexity”

  1. 1 Ancemo

    Great post!

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