Abstract

Boycotts have a persistent presence in the world of anticolonialism in general, and Palestinian history in particular. Whereas they are often associated today with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), this article shows that they have been consistently utilized in Palestine since 1908, responding to a long continuum of colonization. The article accounts for their varying origins, instrumental functions, contextual relationships to other tools of struggle, and modes of articulation. It examines shifts in Palestinian boycott practice and discourse, emphasizing the importance of considering this tactical form not in the abstract terms of social movement theory, but in light of its concrete relationship with broader anticolonial structures and strategies. Drawing on lessons from boycott’s long history in Palestine and other anticolonial contexts such as South Africa, it further reflects on its position in contemporary Palestinian politics. It argues that, in the post-Oslo environment, boycott shifted from a tactic serving a revolutionary strategic vision to a tactical solidarity response addressing the absence of a comprehensive national strategy. Boycott plays a crucial role in the global war of position in which the Palestinian solidarity movement is currently engaged, but this does not alter the need for a rejuvenation of representative national structures that are capable of deliberating and implementing broader anticolonial strategies.

Boycotts have a long history in colonial contexts. In the current millennium, they have become most widely associated with Palestine, especially after the issuance of its 2005 civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). The Palestinian lineage of boycott, however, goes back much further, spanning eleven decades, the first four of which unfolded before the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe). These boycotts corresponded to a continuum of settler-colonization, a continuum that constitutes, in the words of Karma Nabulsi, an “active process that hasn’t yet stopped or achieved its ends.”1 Over the course of that continuum a range of liberation strategies were deployed, and these were served by a variety of tools that included, but were by no means restricted to, boycott.

How should boycott be approached in this setting? One possibility would be reliance on contemporary social movement theory. In that abstract domain, boycott belongs to what Charles Tilly calls a repertoire of contention.2 It is essentially conceptualized as a performance through which one party can challenge another, a performance that has a transferable and recurrent quality in different geographic and temporal settings. Sidney Tarrow adds further specificity by classifying boycott within the category of “modular performances and repertoires.”3 As with other “modular” repertoires, boycott could be “mounted in a variety of sites, on behalf of a variety of goals, and against a variety of targets,” and it could “unify people with different aims and could be diffused to a variety of types of confrontation with authorities.”4 The ambition behind this manner of approaching social movement strategies and tactics was explicitly articulated by McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly. It aims “chiefly at the identification of causal analogies—discovery that ostensibly disparate political processes actually have similar causal properties,” as well as the promotion of “conceptual standardization over the field as a whole.”5

In contrast, this article is less concerned with the intrinsic qualities, or the standardization, of the boycott as a social scientific construct. The analysis of boycott qua boycott tells us little about the relationship between boycott and the actual struggles it is meant to serve. It poses the risk of privileging the tactical form over the substantive principles underlying it, not to mention the material realities it is meant to alter. As such, it effectively reorients focus away from the concerns of those waging struggle. In its emphasis, it tends toward the refinement of the study of techniques in the pure realm of abstraction, rather than in the domain of concrete political and social relations.

In anticolonial contexts, the contentious politics framework further carries the risk of depoliticizing reality. By viewing boycott as contention, social movement theory displaces, or even sanitizes, languages of struggle. Contention becomes a replacement word for a range of expressions—resistance, revolutionary action, popular mobilization, and so on—that are laden with political and normative meaning. When it comes to Palestine, this risks erasing already marginalized voices, through a failure to consider how those immersed in struggle conceptualized their own practices. Hardly any anticolonial practitioner would have done so with reference to the idea of “contention.” This is partly because of the flattening quality of a term that is devoid of value judgment, and is thus completely neutral vis-à-vis power relations.

Rather than being viewed through the lens of contentious performativity, boycott is approached here as a tactic operating in a broader strategic arena. There are many pathways available for studying boycott in this light, and three of these are treaded here. Firstly, a genealogical account is provided, probing the entry of boycott into Palestinian political life, and its rise as an established tactic rooted in deep ideational and institutional roots. Second, the specific politics and circumstances that gave rise to boycott as a desirable form of action are explored, an endeavor that further requires examining the location of boycott within broader strategies of liberation unfolding at different historical junctures. Third, the political bodies out of which these strategies emerged and the immediate and long-term pressures to which they were responding are taken into account.

Hebrew Labor and the Ottoman Origins of Boycott

In tracing the origins of the continuum of colonialism and anticolonialism in which boycott operated in Palestine, it is useful to return to the vision of early Zionist leaders. The most prominent, Theodore Herzl, saw the dynamics in Palestine through the lens of colonization. In The Jewish State, he criticized previous “attempts at colonization made even by really benevolent men.”6 The problem with these “important experiments in colonization,” he stated, was that they were made “on the mistaken principle of a gradual infiltration of Jews.” This principle was bound to fail: “It continues till the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself threatened, and forces the Government to stop a further influx of Jews. Immigration is consequently futile unless we have the sovereign right to continue such immigration.”7

What is remarkable about this statement is not just its vision of the “sovereign right,” but the a priori assumption against which it is developed: the inevitable rise of native resistance, which would eventually result in a state crackdown against the colonists. The answer to this dilemma would be to deprive the natives from having access to the instruments of the state, reserving those for the benefit of the colonists. As we now know, this vision was eventually realized, and as of 1918 Jewish colonists were entering under British patronage “by right and not by sufferance.” But that took two decades. In the meantime, and as predicted by Herzl, resistance was developing in Palestine. Amongst its earliest instruments were calls for boycott.

Boycott had already been deployed in 1908 Palestine as a means of protesting the Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia.8 Soon thereafter, calls for boycott as a response to Zionist colonization were launched between 1910 and the outbreak of the Great War. One of these calls was carried out in Hebron in the Spring of 1914.9 This was followed by a “general summons” issued by a civic association in Jerusalem and published in El-Carmel on July 7, 1914, which dramatically asked readers: “Do you wish to be slaves to the Zionists who have come to expel you out of your country, claiming that it is theirs?. . . Are you, Muslims, Christians, Palestinians, Syrians, Arabs, happy at this?” The summons focused on preventing land sales to colonists, through such means as pressuring the government to implement its own policies and “expelling and cursing land brokers.” It further beseeched the audience to “strive to develop national and local trades and industries. Just as they do not trade with Muslims and Christians, do not have commercial dealings except with your [Arab] compatriots.”10

The two methods of resistance that were proposed in this summons were to appear time and again over the following decades: economic self-reliance and boycott. The specific context of their initial arrival should not be missed. The expansion of the public sphere and the rise of the press after the 1908 Ottoman Constitutional Revolution coincided with an accumulation of incidents whereby colonists violently displaced peasants from lands bought from absentee landlords. As Rashid Khalidi has long argued, growing awareness of these incidents was decisive in shaping Palestinian opposition to Zionism.11 This was supplemented by another factor that is of more immediate concern for us here: the introduction of a vigorous boycott policy on the part of the colonists.

Prior to 1878, there were no colonists and there was no boycott. There were Jewish communities constituting a tiny percentage of the population, but they were either an integral part of Palestinian society, or were part of small religious groupings that did not seek the overthrow of existing social relations or the establishment of a Jewish state. When the first European Jewish colonies began to appear after 1878, they were negligible in size and number. Boycott arrived as colonization began to grow during its second wave (1904–14), and as more politicized and ideological Zionist elements began to join colonist ranks.

These elements produced the doctrines of “conquest of labor” and “Hebrew labor.” Introduced under the banner of self-reliance in theory, the actual practice was an effective and sustained boycott of native Palestinian Arab laborers and, eventually, businesses, in pursuit of a “pure settlement” model.12 Viewed from this prism, boycott was at the core of the Zionist project in Palestine.13 The “nationalist ideology of the Jewish labor movement was to conquer as much land as possible.”14 The conquest of land depended on the “conquest of labor” and the creation of a separate economy and society; this required excluding Arab workers from Jewish colonies and enterprises as well as shunning Jews who did not participate in enforcing this exclusion.

Remarkably, this process produced three key institutions: out of the boycott of Palestinian Arab guards in Jewish colonies there emerged Hashomer in 1909 (which later morphed into the Haganah and the Israeli army); out of the boycott of Palestinian Arab hands in Jewish farms there emerged, also in the same year, a new type of colony: the Kibbutz; out of the exclusion of Palestinian Arab workers from Zionist industries and unions there emerged, in 1920, the Histadrut. This was the foundation on which Zionist colonization, and eventually the State of Israel, was built. Lest we, in our knowledge of the present, err in the direction of teleology, we should note that there was nothing inevitable about the eventual success of these colonist institutions or their boycott of Arab labor.15

Early Boycotts and the Birth of National Structures

The outbreak of the Great War meant that Palestinian boycotts in the Ottoman period did not go far beyond the model described earlier: limited initiatives on the part of civic associations belonging to a nascent but emerging public sphere. The British occupation created a new reality that required a much bigger response. Britain bestowed upon the colonization program the benefits of imperial facilitation. On the ground, this meant protecting colonization from all forms of native opposition, something that could only take place through the denial of Palestinian political rights.

Under late Ottoman rule, these rights included equal citizenship as well as electoral participation through a limited franchise.16 Palestinians, in other words, were part and parcel of Ottoman sovereignty arrangements. The British occupation, however, denied them any sovereignty over their land or the right of self-determination within it. The removal of existing political rights for the native majority accompanied the innovation of new national rights for a colonist minority. Palestinians active in the public sphere at the time correctly understood that this was not only paving the way for political tyranny, but also for potential future displacement.

The battle to reverse the new colonial policy was waged in the first four years of the British occupation. These were the years in which the fate of the former Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, along with the rest of the world, was being determined in the back rooms of international peace conferences and the hallways of imperial governance. To give force to demands of self-determination and independence, national structures—whose most famous Arab example was the Egyptian Wafd—were compelled to demonstrate representative capacity and coverage of different social segments, classes, and sects. It is in this regional and international context that the convening of the first Arab Palestinian Conference in Jerusalem in February 1919 can be best understood. In line with the broader trend, this body eventually developed mobilization as well as representative capacity. But there is also a local specificity to the process that cannot be missed. Unlike in Egypt for example, where there was no settler-colonial movement, Palestinian representatives had to compete with the representative structures of the colonists.

Boycott played a part in this story. The colonists had the benefit of secure and unquestioned representation, something that was seamlessly granted by the British government to Chaim Weizmann and his Zionist Commission, founded in March 1918 to oversee the implementation of the Balfour declaration. This representation, as far as the Zionists and the British were concerned, also extended to native Jewish communities.17 In contrast, there was no official recognition of Palestinian representative structures,18 and this opened the space for colonists to attempt to manipulate native representation and to try to coopt local figures to that end. The intervention in native political dynamics started soon after the arrival of the British occupation, and continued thereafter. The main aim was to damage national institutions and leading figures committed to combatting colonization activities. To “undermine the legitimacy of the national leadership” (and later on to “weaken the mufti”) were long-term goals pursued by the colonist leaders.19 Toward achieving these goals, they appointed Haim Kalvarisky to coordinate the infiltration of Palestinian native structures.20

One of the main tools that Palestinians used to prevent this from taking place was communal boycott. This was illustrated early on in 1918 in the case of former Nablus mayor Haidar Touqan, who had been recruited by Kalvarisky with the implicit aim of undermining Palestinian efforts to present a unified agenda against colonialization. Touqan “was collectively boycotted. No one visited his house, no one greeted him, his greetings were not answered, and he became an outcast.”21 This was one of the earliest instances of the use of boycott for the purpose of thwarting collaboration, an established practice that exists to this day, usually utilized at a local level. Larger-scale, more externally directed boycotts were not on the agenda at this stage, for the focus was on diplomatic initiatives.

The Search for Strategy: Boycott in the 1920s

Diplomacy was at the center of the Fourth Palestinian Arab National Conference held in Jerusalem in June 1921, whose proceedings culminated in sending an official delegation to London that was entrusted with presenting the Arab Palestinian case to the British government. The delegation asked “for the creation of a National Government which shall be responsible to a Parliament elected by those natives of Palestine who lived in the country before the War, consisting of Moslems, Christians, and Jews.”22 The Secretary for the Colonies Winston Churchill rejected this demand, and the Balfour policy was enshrined into the new mandate established over Palestine.

The failure of Palestinian leaders to convince British authorities to change course through diplomatic means gave rise to a new form of boycott. Its birthplace was Nablus, which was hosting the Fifth Arab Palestinian National Conference on August 20–25, 1922. The conference coincided with the return of a frustrated Palestinian delegation seeking to formulate a new strategy. On the immediate level, that strategy had to effectively address the British attempt to legitimize its new mandate by means of imposing a Legislative Council that did not adequately represent the Palestinian Arab majority, and a constitution that took the establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine as its fundamental premise.

Popular pressure played a direct role in shaping the decisions of the conference. Upon their disembarkation in Haifa, members of the delegation made their way to Nablus, crisscrossing several towns and villages to attend the proceedings. Wherever they stopped, they were greeted with celebrations but also met with firm demands for action. By way of example, as the delegation members passed through Jenin, they met with its assembled citizens at the hall of its municipal park. A young local woman entered, dressed in black. She gave a speech that moved the crowd to tears, resolutely announcing: “I wore this black dress today, and I shall not remove it until the Balfour declaration is revoked.” Her father then spoke, stating with firmness and clarity, “We did not send you, honored delegation, to Europe to ask for independence. For, we must achieve independence with our own hands. We sent you to show Europe that we, today, no longer trust her promises and covenants.”23

Similar encounters took place along the road to Nablus, and they culminated with a welcome of the delegation by thousands of people in that city demonstrating against the Balfour policy. The conference was then convened over the following days. The decisive decision to boycott took place on August 23, 1922. After a round of elaborations on the threat posed by the Legislative Council and the constitution to Palestinian rights, Haifa’s Rashid al-Haj Ibrahim proposed that “the Conference delegates vow to each other that they would refuse participation in electing members to the Legislative Council, boycott the Constitution, and seek to get every Palestinian to do the same.” Musa Kazem al-Husseini, the president of the conference, then stood, “vowing to the Conference and the nation to abide by that to the last breath of his life.” Tears streamed down from his eyes as he made the vow and “the delegates of the Conference and the other listeners stood up in awe of that chilling sight, their eyes overflowing with tears as they repeated the words of the President word for word.”24

For all the affective intensity it exemplified, and the popular pressure underlying it, the 1922 political boycott decision was in fact highly measured, and it is important here to consider it in relation to other forms of struggle that were available at the time. The main alternative would have been to develop a comprehensive strategy of armed resistance, something that was consciously avoided at this stage. This was not for lack of grassroots willingness: in the countryside, there were semiregular clashes between villagers and the colonists next door. Likewise, in the cities, there had been bloody clashes between non-elite urban dwellers and local colonists. This was seen in Jerusalem during the 1920 Nabi Musa Festival as well as in Jaffa in 1921.25

The Palestinian leadership chose not to escalate such spontaneous mobilizations, and its stance cannot be understood in isolation of the 1920 Nabi Musa events. This episode witnessed the introduction of three major colonial control mechanisms. Firstly, it was demonstrated that any violent mobilization was to be swiftly crushed. Secondly, the Palestinian traditional leadership was disciplined: as a lesson to everyone else, the Husseini family, Jerusalem’s quintessential notable house, was reduced to British steering by carrot and stick.26 Third, the colonial authorities set about on cultivating notables—foremost among them Raghib Nashashibi—who were more “moderate” in their opposition to the colonial authorities than the mainstream Husseini leaders. In the immediate wake of Nabi Musa, these figures were afforded prestige and access to resources by means of appointment to important positions such as the mayorship of Jerusalem. While building on partisan divisions that had existed before, this development played an important role in laying the institutional and economic foundations for subsequent political factionalism.27

Even in the absence of this new variable, Palestinian patriotic elites entered a phase of operating within the boundaries of colonial legality. This was amply demonstrated in response to the 1921 Jaffa events, which witnessed the cooperation of patriotic elites in quieting the native population. While still opting for what James Scott refers to as “open resistance”28—resistance that is formalized and explicitly articulated—they placed themselves at the nonviolent end of the spectrum. In utilizing boycott, the delegates were steering collective action away from a clash for which they deemed the country ill prepared. A similar logic was synchronically in operation in India. When Gandhi announced—a mere two years before Palestine’s fifth national conference—the launch of the noncooperation movement, he noted that “half of India is too weak to offer violent resistance and the other half is unwilling to do so. I have therefore suggested the remedy of non-cooperation.”29 Gandhi’s elaboration invites us to move beyond thinking of the boycott variant of open resistance solely from a moral prism, whereby the virtues and vices of violence and nonviolence are weighed and debated. Instead, it points to a consideration of the relationship between open resistance and capacity. In the case of 1920 India, Gandhi believed that there was no holding ability for successful violence, and that non-cooperation could grow as an alternative that would eventually “compel” the government to “retrace its steps and undo the wrongs committed.”30 The outlook was similar in Palestine, but the struggle with the British occupation had still not escalated to the point of non-cooperation.

Although it could not offer, by virtue of structural constraints, a positive strategy for liberation at the onset of the mandate, the 1922 political boycott proved to be an immediate success, at least when it came to achieving its limited objective of undermining the Legislative Council plan. Elections to the council were held in February and March of 1923, but the Executive Committee of the Arab Palestinian National Conference was able to counter it through organizing in every city, town, and major village of the country. Pamphlets were distributed daily and delegations roamed all cities and their surrounding villages, explaining the need for boycott. So effective was this effort that the results of the election had to be annulled, and the British high commissioner, the committed Zionist Herbert Samuel, appointed an advisory council instead. A vigorous campaign directed at the Palestinian Arab members who agreed to serve resulted in the resignation of seven of ten Palestinian members before the council could even meet. This outcome was celebrated by the Palestinian leadership as “the greatest triumph that our movement has achieved over the past five years.”31

A second, and less immediately successful, boycott that was adopted at the 1922 Fifth Arab Palestinian National Conference focused on the suspension of economic relations with colonists. Economic boycott, the conference highlighted, would “strengthen patriotic feeling and would revive economic life in the country.” It would also harm the profits of colonist merchants, thus discouraging them “from immigrating to a country in which their livelihood is more limited.”32

At this stage, this policy constituted a declaration of intent rather than an instantaneously implementable program. By 1924, newspapers like Filastin could still note with evident frustration that numerous Palestinian Arab customers were still buying colonist goods and services, despite the ongoing Zionist boycott of Arab labor.33 The principal reason behind the initial weakness of this economic boycott was that it required sustained long-term national mobilization and unity of a kind that could induce the restructuring of prevailing economic relations as well as the alteration of consumer behavior. This vision was now officially introduced into the Palestinian agenda, but the process of fostering national capital and enterprises, as well as delinking from colonist economic structures, had to wait until the 1930s.34

A similar fate befell other more ambitious boycott proposals that were presented at the Sixth Arab Palestinian National Conference held in Jaffa on June 16–20, 1923. In his speech to the conference, the secretary of the Muslim Christian Associations, Jamal al-Hussaini, focused on the need to boycott taxes on the basis of the principle “no taxation without representation.” The taxes that were paid to the mandate authorities, he emphasized, were being used in a manner injurious to the interests of the country, channeled as they were into facilitating the Jewish national homeland policy.35 Several subsequent speeches by other delegates echoed and further reinforced this message.36

To recognize, analyze, and propose a response to a garishly unfair reality is one thing; to choose to confront it is a different matter altogether. Few, if any, in attendance had any illusions as to the existential threat of Zionism and the illegitimacy of the mandate. Yet, many feared the repercussions of a radical boycott. Faced with the certain prospect of bankruptcy, they wondered, would the government refrain from using naked force and terror?37 Amid this anxiety, the delegates did not reject the proposal of non-cooperation through boycotting taxes outright, but they restricted themselves to accepting the principle, formulating a compromise decision that referred the “study of the subject of boycott to the Executive Committee, and its implementation only in case of extreme need, after prior consultation with the delegations from across the country or the Conference.”38 The tax boycott was at once accepted and indefinitely suspended.

While the delegates refrained from launching a major assault on the finances of the mandate, they passed a boycott resolution against one of its Zionist initiatives: Pinhas Rutenberg’s electricity company. This was part of a broader development policy whereby the British gave “European Jews. . . the exclusive task of running economic concession developments” to the exclusion of Palestinian Arabs.39 The decision to boycott reflected an awareness of that fact, but this awareness was not translated into meaningful action on the level of local municipalities.

This was but a symptom of a crisis of Palestinian representation and organization whose seeds were planted earlier. As we have already seen, the centripetal trend exemplified in the establishment of national representative structures coincided with the centrifugal process of intensified partisan competition amplified by colonial encouragement. The effects of this competition were acutely felt after the sixth national conference.40 Palestinians were thereafter unable to hold a national conference for five years, and this undermined the prospect of building upon strategies of resistance, boycott included, that had been innovated in the early 1920s. Even when that conference was finally held in 1928, it was unable to produce any resolutions of major consequence. While the principle of “no taxation without representation” was discussed in its hallways, no further boycotts were seriously pondered or adopted.41 More significantly, the conclusion of the proceedings marked the end of the era of Palestinian Arab National Conferences and the closure of an important deliberative space in which the delegates of the Palestinian people could decide on a national agenda. By no means did this signal the end of Palestinian resistance, but the birth of new more radical forms.

The Radical Turn, 1929–33

The August 1929 Buraq Rising was a turning point in Palestinian national politics as a whole, intensifying, among other forms of resistance, the economic boycott. This is a recurring theme in the Palestinian history of boycott. As a method of struggle that requires mass mobilization, it tends to flourish in moments of crisis that propel such mobilization. The aftermath of the Buraq Rising was one such moment. In late September 1929, an event sponsored by the Supreme Muslim Council and the Arab Executive Committee was held at the Rawdat al-Ma’arif School in Jerusalem, exhibiting Arab merchandise and calling for importing supplies from Syria instead of buying goods from colonists. Over the following months, the Palestinian Arab press and Zionist newspapers were filled with news and reflections on the escalating boycott. By October 1929, Haifa’s al-Yarmouk daily newspaper reported its finding that Arab merchants preferred to purchase their supplies from “Arab warehouses in Haifa or Jaffa or Jerusalem, regardless of the cost.” It also praised as highly effective the method followed in Arab towns and villages of “finding out the origins of goods through probing the receipts.”42

For its part, Filastin noted that “Jews are bitterly complaining about the Arab boycott, saying that it is leading to their ruin. At the same time, they boycott Arabs and buy from them only when it is absolutely necessary.”43 On the whole his was an accurate reflection of what was taking place. For, the Buraq Rising saw the spread of not only of Palestinian Arab boycott of Jewish colonists, but also the growth of Jewish boycott of Palestinian Arabs. Instances of that boycott were reported extensively—including for example Tel Aviv’s boycott of Jaffa’s central butchery—framed in a manner that highlighted the need for an Arab Palestinian boycott.44

Such press coverage not only played the role of disseminating news, but it also mobilized for the boycott by keeping it on the agenda, demonstrating its necessity and impact. The raison d’etre of the boycott was elaborated on, for example, in an October 6, 1929, front-page editorial in al-Yarmouk. Boycott, it suggested, was “sharper than the edge of the sword.” Highlighting boycott’s morality, the article reminded its readers that the “English have spilled much blood in the last war in their effort to defend their commercial interests from German attack.” If the very violation of the sanctity of life was permissible in the context of state competition, then a nonlethal “civilian weapon” like boycott was surely appropriate for use in the effort against colonization.45

Speech acts along these lines accompanied the development of boycott on the ground. Individual citizens were not only participating in it, but also contributing to it through encouraging Palestinian Arab consumers to withhold their purchases from colonist stores. Throughout 1930, Palestinian newspapers were reporting that the boycott’s impact was beginning to be significantly felt “despite the measures to counter it on the part of mandate authorities.46 This momentum was also propelled by the emergence of youth activism that was pressuring the national leadership to take a much more assertive stance in confronting the British occupation rather than just Zionist colonization. Massive pressure from below necessitated a change from above.

The nature of that change was in tune with surrounding regional and global events, which reached a new climax during 1931, an annus mirabilis for boycott in multiple Arab countries. In Egypt, discussions of boycotting British goods were spreading widely, and the Wafd Party held a meeting on March 7 directed at boycotting British goods.47 Likewise there was a boycott that targeted the French tram and electricity companies in Beirut and Damascus, lasting from April to November, 1931. In October of the same year, a push for boycotting Italian goods emerged in Tripoli.

These events were closely followed in Palestine, and they highlighted the synchronic affiliation of its patriotic (watani) movement with a much larger anticolonial context, a theme that was discussed in the press at the time.48 The emphasis on the transnational dimension of boycott was not restricted to the realm of writing and reflection. By this time, Gandhi’s relaunch of his non-cooperation movement was the talk of the day. He had achieved enormous respect in Palestine, recognized, to quote one major Palestinian paper, as “the grandest leader of the East and the highest exemplar of leadership in his mindset, clothing, and diet.”49 His non-cooperation program was directly influencing the Palestinian arena, as can be seen in the Arab National Conference held in Nablus on September 20, 1931.

Organized in response to British stockpiling of weapons in Zionist colonies, the highlight of the conference was a speech delivered by Jamal al-Husseini. His main message was that Palestinians needed a shift in political strategy. Since 1918, they had followed a dual course. First, they pursued a “positive policy” of soliciting sympathy and support in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States to convince the British of the need to abandon their policy of facilitating Jewish colonization of Palestine. Second, they engaged in a “negative policy” that entailed rejecting the Balfour Declaration and the terms of the mandate, as well as boycotting the 1922 Legislative Council elections and other deficient representative formulas imposed by the colonial authorities. At best, the former yielded limited success, whereas the latter was too restrained, unable to force the British to accord the people of the country their “natural rights,” even if only partially.

After thirteen years of modest gains and enormous setbacks for the Palestinian people, the solution was to intensify the “negative policy.” The image of a political ladder was utilized here. Throughout the 1920s, Palestinians had remained at the first step of the ladder, and now was an apt moment to climb to the second step. This would necessitate boycotting the government whenever possible, “threatening its financial resources by all legitimate means.” At the heart of this effort would be the reduction of national intake of foreign goods from which the government derived customs revenues, and replacing them with Palestinian and Arab products. Should this not be enough, then the Palestinians would be forced to climb yet another step up the ladder, adopting “an all-out Gandhian approach” that “may well be the best path for the Palestinian nation to take” in the face of the “dual British and Zionist colonialism.”50

The emphasis on initially operating within the parameters of the law led the historian Weldon Matthews to argue that “the significance of al-Husayni’s position was that, although he employed the symbolism of the Indian non-cooperation movement, he responded to the militants in Nablus with what was essentially a plea to obey the law. This must have been highly satisfactory to the government, which did not need the Arab community’s recognition, only its docility.”51 There is more to al-Husseini’s position than that, as can be seen from gauging his consistency in advocating a policy of gradual escalation. His caution in embarking on extralegal action reflected his assessment of Palestinian readiness, rather than commitment to docility. His was a conservative assessment to be sure, but one that was not entirely disingenuous. Among Palestinian leaders, he was perhaps the most familiar with the Indian model, having visited the country from November 1923 to June 1924, and having met with numerous leaders of the non-cooperation movement.52 A year and a half after the Nablus conference, he reflected on his audience with Gandhi: “The Mufti of Haifa asked him (at that time non-cooperation had not succeeded): ‘you have failed, so what do you want to do now?’ Gandhi answered: ‘I have failed, but I will continue and I shall try again.’ That was in 1923, and Gandhi started implementation in 1930. In other words, it took him seven years to get ready, while we want to implement the idea in one hour, which is impossible.”53

Regardless of the intent underlying them, Husseini’s conservative caution, opposition to immediate radical action, and partiality to long-term preparation won the day. The suggested alteration in policy was unanimously adopted by the conference, but there was no jump into the deep end. The Nablus Conference resolved that a boycott committee was to be formed to put the policy in place and draw plans to ensure its success. While non-cooperation with the British was not immediately implemented, the idea’s mass proliferation in the aftermath of the Nablus Conference merited enough concern to be reported in the British Mandatory’s report to the League of Nations: “The Arab Press continues to attack the policy of the Mandatory and certain leaders of Arab opinion have not hesitated to discuss the possibility of non-co-operation.”54

Over the following weeks, boycott efforts intensified, culminating with an Arab Executive Committee boycott call in October 29, 1931. Significantly, this call was not just addressed to the Palestinian people, but to the “Arab and Muslim worlds” as a whole: “The Arabs of Palestine have resolved to boycott Jewish factories and stores in that country. They ask of their Arab and Muslim brothers to respect this decision by boycotting all the manufactured and farm goods produced by the Jews in Palestine. . . . They further ask the leaders of the Arab states and the Arab newspapers to encourage the nation to give this support.”55 This renewed call for boycott signaled the first major endeavor to globalize it, spreading it well beyond the boundaries of Palestine. It consciously coincided with the preparations for the General Islamic Congress. The congress was held at the behest of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini and Maulana Shawkat Ali, leader of the Caliphate Movement in India, and its delegate list constituted a who’s who of the Muslim world. Unprecedented in its scale, it resolved that Muslims across the world adopt a “negative policy” of boycotting Jewish goods produced in Palestine. It also initiated a “positive policy” of supporting Palestinian self-reliance through the creation of an Arab Agricultural Bank in Palestine.56

As the conference ended, the practical task of implementing the boycott in Palestine was vigorously pursued. The most significant manifestation of this agenda took place during the Levant Fair of 1932. This international trade fair was organized by the Zionist movement for the promotion of Jewish goods produced in Palestine, officially sponsored by the British colonial authorities.57 Boycotting this event was a priority, as it would undermine Zionist trade promotion as well as the British government’s sponsorship. The boycott was successful, to the extent that the British mandatory authorities opined that the “trend of Arab feeling can be gauged from the boycott of the Levant Fair at Tel-Aviv by Arabs and from the announcement that Jews are not to be invited to participate in the proposed Arab Fair in 1933.”58

As substantial as this boycott was, it was carried out at a basic level that did not directly undermine the core structures of the British occupation. This was due to a conscious policy on the part of the leadership of the Arab Executive Committee, who were still wary of directly clashing with the mandate authorities. This policy did not correspond to a more radical orientation that was manifested in numerous locales at the grassroots level. It was also far below the expectations of radical members of the Executive Committee that had worked with the mufti for years, but that were keen to see the construction of a more active and assertive independence movement. This resulted in the emergence of the Istiqlal Party, which had advocated non-cooperation as one of its core demands, and whose presence added pressure on the leadership to move further toward that goal.59

Boycott, Non-cooperation, and Revolt: 1933–39

By 1933, the shift toward non-cooperation had gathered added force, at a time when Jewish immigration had increased exponentially, partly as a result of Nazi anti-Semitism, and the closure of Western European and North American borders in the face of many of its victims. The scale of this immigration even exceeded the high limits set by the mandate authorities and was achieved by means of illegal entry to Palestine. Personal meetings between leaders of all major political currents in Palestine took place, and it was agreed that a delegation would be sent to inform the high commissioner that non-cooperation would be carried out unless a substantial alteration in immigration policy took place within one month.60

After the failure of the delegation’s mission, the president of the Arab Executive Committee issued a call, on March 22, for a grand national conference in Jaffa, on the basis that the British government’s policy was oriented toward “paving the way for evicting this nation out of its land and replacing it with foreigners.” The president accordingly announced that the government would henceforth be viewed as a “genuine opponent that must be removed by every legitimate method available.”61 Despite reinforcing the established Palestinian leadership practice of respecting the boundaries of colonial “legitimacy,” the language of this call was unprecedentedly bold, tilting further toward the direction of transforming the boycott into non-cooperation with the British.

This trend was confirmed at the Jaffa meeting, which was held on March 26, 1933. Despite its explicit focus on discussing non-cooperation, it was attended by an estimated six hundred delegates, including most of the major figures from across the political spectrum. As noted earlier, the principle of non-cooperation had already been adopted by the Sixth Arab Palestinian Conference of 1923, but its implementation was suspended. Ten years later, the Grand National Conference in Jaffa restored the issue to the agenda. What form of non-cooperation was to be agreed upon? This was a subject of vigorous discussion during the conference. Three types of non-cooperation were discussed: social, economic, and political. Social noncooperation was the easiest, as it would simply entail canceling all social interactions with British officials: invitations to them would no longer be extended, and invitations from them would be refused. Economic non-cooperation would be more challenging, as it would require ceasing to pay customs, the Tithe, and other forms of taxation. As for political non-cooperation, it would take the form of a mass resignation from all government positions, and the refusal of Palestinian lawyers to appear before mandate court.62

The difficulties of pursuing economic and political cooperation were apparent. If the land taxes were left unpaid, then the government could theoretically auction all lands for sale. If the customs were not paid, then the government could refuse to release imports bought by the merchants. As for mass resignations from the government, they could undermine the Palestinian interest in eventually staffing a national government, leaving vital posts unfilled with Arabs. All of these concerns, and many more, were raised, but at the end, the conference resolved to “renew” the 1923 decision, and to “announce the return to non-cooperation, but in a practical manner this time.” The Arab Executive Committee’s bureau was instructed to invite all national organizations and bodies to discuss the implementation of this decision. Moreover, the government was to be notified that the Conference had decided to “cut relations with it.”63

The importance of these resolutions lay in further entrenching the principle of non-cooperation on a national scale, rather than in elaborating how that principle could be implemented. It essentially led to the continuation of the model of “gradual escalation” that had already been established at the Nablus conference in 1931. The extent of this escalation can be gauged from the mandate government, which had summarized the situation as follows: “In March a meeting of Arabs was held at Jaffa, when a resolution of non-cooperation was passed. Generally speaking this resolution has been carried out, but Arab leaders have continued to make representations, oral and in writing, to the Government and to seek audience of the High Commissioner; and with rare exceptions Arab members of Government Boards have not faltered in their attendance.”64 While social non-cooperation was carried out to a degree, political non-cooperation was pursued only at an elementary level, amounting to a reduction in contact, as opposed to its absolute elimination. And while there was a notable growth on the economic front of a “positive” self-reliance policy (its crown jewel being the highly successful Arab trade fair of 1933), the “negative” path of withholding tax payments was only partially pursued. In other words, extralegal means of non-cooperation were yet to be comprehensively embraced.

This did not mean that extralegality was not attempted in other realms of resistance. Indeed, the most important event of 1933 was a series of demonstrations carried out in in late October, whereby the Arab Executive Committee—harshly criticized by the grassroots for months for its avoidance of confrontation—openly defied the government’s ban on public protests and the high commissioner’s assurance that police repression would be used in full force.65 The limited uprising that ensued was the first to be primarily directed at the colonial government rather than the colonists. The response of the authorities was swift, ruthless, and bloody, resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries as well as the imprisonment of several leaders of the Arab Executive Committee.66

This highlighted the perennial dilemma that the Palestinian leadership faced: the British authorities would not hesitate to kill, maim, or imprison should extralegal action be taken. Yet acting within the law could not possibly generate pressure strong enough to effect a change in colonial policy. In this context, calibrating resistance and deciding on its forms was a trying endeavor, one that was attempted again and again by a leadership that was neither radical enough to clash with the system nor docile enough to accept it. Its ultimate and unsurprising failure paved the way for a different strategy altogether, one that was determined by much more radical, and far more marginalized, grassroots elements. This was none other than outright revolt.

Many micro–boycott initiatives took place on the path to revolt. Some of these were not directed against the British or the colonists, but at those collaborating with them. For instance, on January 26, 1935, “the entirety of Muslim scholars and clerics in Palestine” issued a fatwa against those selling lands to the colonists. The latter were “not to be prayed for (upon death), not to be buried in Muslim cemeteries, and they were to be ostracized and boycotted. Their status was to be belittled, they were not to be kindly approached, and proximity to them would not be sought.”67

Such initiatives took place at a time of growing arms stockpiling and military training on the part of the colonists, much of it sponsored by, or conveniently ignored by, the mandate authorities. Armed action against this policy was initiated by the popular preacher Izz al-Din al-Qassam and the clandestine movement he had built over the course of the early 1930s. The killing of al-Qassam by British authorities ironically popularized the strategy of armed rebellion that he had proposed, influenced in no small part by the example of the Great Syrian Revolt of 1925–27. This contributed to the outbreak of the 1936–39 Great Revolt in Palestine. The revolt had many features. Its general strike, the longest in history, is often emphasized, and so is its vigorous armed struggle that was grounded in the countryside but also extended to the heart of the cities. Yet it should further be remembered that the revolt witnessed the implementation of the boycott and non-cooperation program at an unprecedented scale.68

This coincided with a rejuvenation of national structures that took two forms. The first was the election of National Committees in every major city and village on a nonpartisan basis, a process that began in Nablus in April 19, 1936, and was emulated in all other areas soon thereafter.69 The second was the establishment, in Jerusalem, of an Arab Higher Committee (AHC) representing all the major parties on April 25. On May 2, the AHC wrote to all the National Committees, asking them to consider the question of a tax boycott.70 The committees wrote back in support of this boycott, and this coincided with a call from “the people of Jerusalem,” signed by dozens of figures, beseeching the “entire nation” to “go back to what had been previously announced and suggested in National Conferences,” adopting “the principles of no taxation without representation and non-cooperation as peaceful weapons to resist British colonialism in an honorable noble manner that would force it to restore to Arabs their full rights.”71

A tax boycott, beginning on May 15, was officially announced in the first Meeting of the National Committees held in Jerusalem on May 7, 1936, and this was accompanied by a call for a boycott of Jewish colonists in Palestine.72 Both boycotts were implemented at the same time. For the following six months, the general strike continued, along with boycott and non-cooperation. The strike didn’t end until October 11, 1936, after an appeal for “calm” from the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Transjordan, and Yemen. These kings and princes reassured the AHC that they would intervene with the British authorities to address Palestinian grievances. Contrary to these reassurances, the British Secretary for Colonies announced on November 5 that Jewish immigration to Palestine would continue. This was on the eve of the dispatch of the Peel Commission to investigate the causes of the revolt, leading the AHC to announce a complete Palestinian boycott of the commission.73 The boycott was impressively observed. By the admission of the commission itself, “as long as the AHC maintained the ‘boycott,’ no Arab came near us.”74

This boycott was only suspended after intervention by Arab rulers. Again, the results went against the wishes of Palestine’s overwhelming native majority, with the commission recommending the partition of the country. It was in this tense atmosphere that the Acting District Commissioner of the Galilee was assassinated on September 26, 1937. The British authorities responded with the attempted destruction of Palestinian national structures. It disbanded and outlawed all the National Committees. It did the same to the AHC chasing after its members, arresting the ones it managed to catch, and exiling them to the Seychelles. It especially targeted the foremost leader of Palestine, the mufti, deposing him of his position as the head of the Supreme Muslim Council, and besieging him in the Haram al-Sharif until he managed to eventually escape Palestine, unable to ever return.75

The revolt intensified after this stage, and armed struggle became its central feature. Aspects of the boycott also remained, with the cessation of economic relations still in full swing. However, the comprehensive British assault on Palestinian national institutions, coupled with the social pressures generated by a horrific counterinsurgency campaign, created an opportunity to cultivate collaborators, and to involve renowned political figures in the process.76 In the absence of strong unifying structures, such an outcome was likely to happen, as is evident throughout the course of counterinsurgency history in Palestine and beyond.

Nevertheless, the partition recommendation was too extreme for any national leader to publicly accept, and this enabled aspects of political boycott to continue. This was noted in the report of the Palestine Partition Commission: “More than a year has now elapsed since the Royal Commission’s [The Peel Commission’s] Report was published, but the Arabs remain inflexibly hostile to partition. During our stay in Palestine, no Arab came forward to submit evidence or to co-operate in any way with us: the boycott was complete.”77 Despite adopting a scorched-earth policy of destroying the Palestinian countryside and entire neighborhoods in major cities, the British recognized that the partition policy, along with the idea of a state for the colonists, must be abandoned for the revolt to end.78 This culminated with the passing of the 1939 MacDonald White Paper, which accepted the ultimate aim of “an independent Palestine State.”79 As for the question of Jewish immigration, the white paper recognized that the “fear of the Arabs that this influx will continue indefinitely until the Jewish population is in a position to dominate them has produced consequences which are extremely grave for Jews and Arabs alike and for the peace and prosperity of Palestine.”80 This resulted in the government resolving to limit “the influx” to seventy-five thousand over the following five years, which would bring the Jewish population to one third of the total.

Immediate independence was not secured, complete prohibition on further colonization was not enacted, and there were many provisions in the white paper that made the future of the country subject to the whims of the colonists. This led the military leaders of the revolt to pressure the mufti and the rest of the AHC to reject the white paper.81 Nevertheless, the revolt was able to defeat partition, and to force the colonial government to make significant concessions on immigration. Armed struggle played the greatest role in forcing this change of British colonial policy, but the role of popular struggle, including the general strike, non-cooperation, and the political and economic boycott played a considerable contributing factor. This success, however, came at a great price. The society of Palestine had been ravaged by colonial violence and its national leadership structures were severely weakened. In the meantime, the British policy of arming and training the colonists, and developing their independent infrastructure in the context of the revolt had produced a formidable alteration in the balance of power on the ground. The colonists were still a minority, but they now had a decisive military advantage.

The Arab League Boycott

This advantage grew over the course of the Second World War. Throughout the years of British occupation, Palestinian Arabs were thoroughly disarmed. In contrast, the practice of arming and training the colonists grew progressively, and the Zionist military capacity expanded through the contribution of fighters to the British war effort. Military strength was matched by growing colonist economic capacity. The arrival, throughout the 1930s and 1940s, of German and other highly skilled Jewish refugees escaping Nazism and the genocidal holocaust it unleashed in Europe further added to this economic strength. Most of these refugees would have rather gone to North America, but the doors to them were firmly shut by the hands of anti-Semitism, and they had no choice but to integrate into the ranks of colonist society and its institutions.

In the meantime, the Arab states were beginning to have far greater weight in Palestinian politics. This trend was already felt during the 1936–39 revolt, but it was further entrenched as the Second World War was winding down, heightened by the British boycott and exile of the Palestinian national leadership. Within the Arab states, solidarity with Palestine, already unmatched before the revolt, grew exponentially in tune with its vicissitudes. Popular boycott in solidarity with Palestine was one aspect of that process. For instance, in May 1936, leading merchants in Transjordan decided to boycott all goods produced by Zionists in Palestine and called on all merchants in other Arab countries to follow suit.82

Nevertheless, the volume of colonist exports from Palestine to the Arab countries was still massive, and the establishment of the Arab League on March 22, 1945 created a mechanism for reversing this trend. Although the question of boycott had been globalized as early the 1931 Islamic Conference, its enforcement had been left to individuals, civil society organizations, and political movements. The need for a more serious application of the principle was perceived clearly by Palestinian leaders. One of them, Awni Abdel Hadi, sent a letter to the Syrian prime minister in 1945, suggesting that the newly born Arab League officially consider a boycott.83

The subject was brought up during the meeting of the Arab League Council held on November 8, 1945. While some ministers called for an immediate general decision to boycott, Egyptian Finance Minister Makram Obeid declared his support for boycott in principle but expressed his fear that it could suffer from deficiencies that were witnessed in Egypt in 1919, when the boycott of British goods failed due to incorrect implementation. A successful approach, in his view, required using tariffs against Jewish goods produced in Palestine, rather than declaring a general boycott. Each Arab government would be responsible for raising these tariffs, after carefully studying production patterns so that Arab Palestinian goods could be exempted.84

This proposal, among others, was further deliberated in subsequent sessions of the second ordinary meeting of the Arab League Council held in November and December of 1945. At this stage, the prevailing view was that boycott should take a more comprehensive form that would go beyond raising tariffs as suggested earlier by Obeid. The legal dimensions were deliberated extensively, with the participation of the distinguished Egyptian jurist and minister of education Abdel Razzaq al-Sanhuri. He called for specifying the goal of the boycott, delineating its limits, and articulating its extent. The goal, in his view, should be the prevention of the establishment of a Jewish state on the Arab land of Palestine. When it came to limits, the boycott should not extend beyond the Zionist enterprise, and it should be clarified that it is not targeted at Jews and does not affect Jewish citizens of Arab countries. As for the extent of boycott, it should take a comprehensive economic form that is officially enforced by Arab governments.85

Such discussions culminated in the formation of a committee that was responsible for drafting a final boycott decision.86 The formulation it arrived at was adopted on December 2, 1945:

Jewish products and goods manufactured in Palestine are not wanted in Arab countries, due to the fact that their entry to these countries would serve Zionist political aims. Until these aims change, then each member country must take all necessary measures to prevent the entry of these products and manufactured goods into its territory, whether they arrive directly from Palestine or from any other destination. Member countries are also required to resist Zionist industry by any means possible.87

This text was supplemented by two clauses, the first calling for Arab peoples who were not currently represented in the League to participate in the boycott; and the second decreeing the formation of an official committee that would be entrusted to “coordinate and oversee the implementation of this decision” and to study proposals that it receives or that it considers relevant for “achieving the Arab aim of evading the danger that the Zionist economy poses against them.”88

With this decision, a new phase and a new type of boycott were born. Economic boycott was previously a popular affair, relying on the initiative of merchants and consumers alike, and on the ability of the national or civic bodies calling for the boycott to mobilize these individuals and to put moral and material obstacles in the path of those “crossing the picket-line.” The sustenance of boycott therefore depended on two interlinked mobilizational factors: the strength of morale and the vibrancy of national or civic structures at any given point. The shift from popular to state boycott changed the equation. States were sovereign within their borders, possessing an established bureaucratic and policing machinery. Accordingly, their boycotts could be enforced comprehensively, and without the need for mobilization.

For enactment, state boycotts only required adequate consideration of geopolitical, legal, and economic factors along the lines described above. They did not need the years of preparation, debate, calibration, and build-up of the sort that Palestinian national structures had to initiate between 1922 (when economic boycott was first proposed on a national scale), and the 1936 revolt (when boycott achieved its broadest impact). Finally, the potential economic effect of the state boycott was immediately visible. In its official report of 1947, the United National Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) noted, “In 1946 exports to Arab countries were adversely influenced by the boycott of Jewish products. Although it is not possible to determine how effective the boycott is, there can be no doubt that it could seriously hamper industrial development in Palestine if it were indefinitely maintained.”89

As much damage as it caused to colonist exports, boycott on its own could not change the facts on the ground. The colonists were already in a strong enough position to demand the withdrawal of the British. The Irgun and Lehi units been engaged in revolt against them since February 1944, and they were joined by the Haganah between October 1945 and July 1946. At the end, Britain referred the case of Palestine, against native Palestinian wishes and in a reversal of the white paper of 1939, to a United Nations dominated by the United States, the Soviet Union, and the European powers. This body established the aforementioned UNSCOP on terms that were favorable to the colonists. Having tried, and failed, to change these terms, the AHC resorted to boycott, believing that the dice were loaded.

UNSCOP recommended giving the minority colonist population the majority of the land, including most of the fertile and coastal areas. This was justified on the basis of “historical association” and prior “international pledges,” which were deemed to balance the fact that “Arabs” were “for centuries the indigenous and preponderant people.”90 This was the first and only time in its entire history that the United Nations (UN) had awarded recently arrived colonists lands at the expense of the native population, and as to be expected, the Palestinian leadership rejected the decision. The details of what happened next have been studied exhaustively. Referred to in Arabic as the catastrophe (al-Nakba), they amounted to nothing less than the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.91

In the wake of the Nakba, the Arab League boycott was developed in fundamental ways, becoming more bureaucratized and efficient. In August 1950, the Arab League Political Committee met and instructed the Secretariat to establish a special authority for boycott. It was to be headed by a commissioner general overseeing liaison officers from each member state.92 By May 19, 1951 the infrastructure was further elaborated, and each country was expected to have its own bureau to oversee the operations of the boycott. All of the bureaus were to report to a central headquarters that was established in Damascus. A complex machinery developed whereby the headquarters, and all the local bureaus associated with it, liaised with Arab ministries and governmental entities. The whole operation was staffed professionally and at the highest level, established and overseen by General Wahid Shawqi, the director general of the Egyptian Coast Guard and Customs Authority.93

Three types of boycotts were put in place: a primary boycott by which Arab states and nationals were prohibited from dealing with the Israeli state and its nationals; a secondary boycott blacklisting non-Israeli concerns contributing to “Israel’s economic and military strength”; and a tertiary boycott prohibiting “trade with those concerns that are blacklisted.”94

The boycott had its greatest impact after the 1973 oil boom, as the Arab economies started to play a more significant role in global markets. One may gauge its scale and importance, as well as the ways by which Israel tried to circumvent it, with reference to US antiboycott legislation of the mid-1970s. As a result of pro-Israeli lobbying toward the end of the Ford administration, six states enacted local antiboycott laws, the US Department of Commerce began to require filing “antiboycott reports,” and the US Congress enacted in 1976 an unprecedented international boycott amendment to the tax code, building on earlier anti-Arab boycott laws it had passed since 1959. In 1977, a successful push for further legislation took place.

Under the Ford administration, Congress pushed for these laws against the wishes of the US Executive Branch. Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon made clear the Executive’s opposition to antiboycott legislation, which was, in his estimation, bound to harm US economic interests and was unlikely to force the Arab countries to abandon the boycott.95 In even stronger terms, Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Joseph Greenwald noted, “We are the only country (other than Israel) to take a strong position in opposing the boycott of Israel.”96 However, under the Carter administration, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Secretary of Commerce Juanita Kreps took a much milder stance. They supported the legislation in principle but merely sought some amendments.97

The antiboycott legislation received the most resolute opposition from the American business and manufacturing sector. Representations opposing the law were provided by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Petroleum Suppliers Association, the Machinery and Allied Products Institute, and the Agricultural Trade Council, among several other major bodies operating on a national scale.

Senators were indifferent to their complaints that tens of thousands of manufacturing and other jobs, and billions of dollars in trade, were on the line. To give but one example, when the president of the Associated Contractors of America earnestly pleaded with the words “don’t put us out of business,” he received the following response from Senator William Proxmire: “When you say, ‘Don’t put us out of business,’ there is no gain without pain. . . . I realize we are perhaps losing some commercial advantage, maybe losing some profits, maybe losing some jobs by following legislation which is moral and right, but maybe it is going to be very painful for individual firms.”98 When it came to Israel, Congress was clearly willing to go against some of the most entrenched business interests. This did not, however, deter even the United States’ closest Arab allies from continuing the boycott. Saudi Arabia, for instance, made its position clear in a speech delivered by Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal in Houston: “The Arabs cannot and will not forego the boycott because it is essential to their security; and it is of the upmost importance that this fact be recognized and not ignored or belittled. It is much more difficult to rectify a mistake after it has been made than to prevent it.”99

Despite US pressure and although the Arab League witnessed many periods of rupture and internal conflict, the boycott was fully enforced by all its members until the Egyptian signing of the Camp David Accords. Even after that event, the boycott continued strong, its pace only significantly slowing down after the start of the Madrid process and the subsequent signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, and the Wadi Araba peace agreement in 1994. Since then, the enforcement of the boycott has been sporadic. For example, the Maghrebite countries do not currently enforce the secondary and tertiary boycott, whereas the Gulf Cooperation Council states announced in 1994 that they would restrict enforcement to the primary boycott. Nevertheless, a 2017 US Congressional Research Service Report noted that “U.S. companies continue to receive requests to cooperate with the boycott from GCC member countries.”100

Afterward: From Revolution to BDS

The Arab League boycott experience illustrated the extent to which a carefully arranged and officially enacted long-term state action coordinated by a regional body can withstand the ebbs and flows of political immediacy. Out of all the initiatives that the Arab League had ever adopted, this was the most successful by far.101 As in the case of South Africa, which benefited from the African and tricontinental (including Arab) isolation of the apartheid regime, the isolation of Israel was largely successful within the Arab and broader anticolonial sphere.

But the limits to the Arab boycott were clear: the economic basis of colonization was not ultimately dependent on relations with the native Palestinian population, surrounding Arab markets, or even Western companies that wished to operate in the Arab region. Its lifeline was the aid, reparations, and investments mainly pouring in from Western Europe and the United States, as well as the access Israel was afforded to these giant markets.

This was similar to the situation in South Africa, whose apartheid regime continued to have strong relations with many Western economies and governments until its very demise. The fundamental difference, however, between South Africa and Palestine was that, throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, there was far more fertile ground in the West for building a genuinely broad solidarity movement with the South African revolution than with its Palestinian fraternal struggle. For much of this period, there was sympathy for Zionism across the Western political spectrum. This was not solely an outcome of lobbying, which was an important but not a singular factor. The colonization of Palestine was viewed through the lens of Europe’s anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, from the perspective of restorationist evangelical Christian beliefs, or on the basis of Eurocentric ideas of civilizational progress abounding both on the Left and the Right.102 These frameworks were prevalent in Western political parties, press, bureaucracies, and educational institutions, not to mention churches and synagogues. They were, accordingly, to use Gramscian language, hegemonic. The Palestinian people hardly fit into the equation, erased from the picture and rendered invisible.

The Palestinians, however, were not waiting for solidarity from the West. Throughout the 1950s, they engaged in popular mobilizations, largely as part of broader transnational Arab formations, and boycott featured in these as an important demand. In the face of the 1953 Johnston mission that aimed at the integration and normalization of Israel in the Arab region, grassroots movements operating in the Palestinian arena, such as the Movement of Arab Nationalists (MAN), mobilized widely for a variety of demands, including the intensification of the economic boycott of Israel. In the same context, the “Kul Muwatin Khafeer” (“Every Citizen Is a Guard”) committees were established in several Arab mashriq countries, and one of their central roles was to ensure the enforcement and expansion of the Arab boycott, as seen in the decisions of their March 25, 1956, general conference.103 Movements with a large Palestinian membership also utilized boycotts as a tool of solidarity with other struggles. During the 1956 tripartite aggression they boycotted British and French goods in solidarity with Egypt, and throughout the period of the Algerian revolution, they engaged in a boycott of French goods.104

There was consensus at this stage on boycott as an appropriate tactic of struggle, but the real debate was on the question of strategy. Between the 1956 tripartite aggression, and up to the dissolution of the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1961, pan-Arab parties such as the MAN and the Ba’ath tied the strategy for liberating Palestine to the question of Arab unity. For example, the MAN’s “Plan for the Liberation of Palestine,” passed in 1961 just before Syria seceded from the UAR, envisioned a situation whereby Egyptian-Syrian unity would be expanded, incorporating Jordan and Iraq. As the capacities of that state would grow, the balance of power would shift in its favor. This would coincide with developing the military capacity and organization of the Palestinian people. Once the objective conditions ripened, the latter would start an armed struggle that would receive strong backing from a much bigger and invigorated UAR.105

A different strategy was advocated by the formations that eventually coalesced into Fateh in 1957–59. They called for an immediate initiation of a Palestinian revolution, akin to the Algerian one, and the provision of Arab support for it in a similar manner to that given to Algeria.106 This led to Fateh beginning the armed struggle in 1965. Clandestine movements such as the MAN’s Palestinian wing and Fateh brought to the Palestinian arena a new mechanism of conducting politics and effectively led to the creation of an extensive underground infrastructure of popular and military struggle. Emerging formations had immense access to a tradition of global anticolonial thought and practice; boasted a much clearer conception of organization and strategy than ever before; and were rooted in refugee communities that had little to lose and much to gain from the prospect of revolution.

As these groups were beginning to implement their strategies, and with a vague mandate from the Arab League and support from Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Palestinians established in 1964 a parliament in exile: the Palestinian National Council (PNC). This in turn decreed the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). For the first time in their modern history, the Palestinians now had a functioning and active national representative structure accorded official status by states in the surrounding region.107 By 1974, this body would gain Arab and international recognition as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” Prior to its establishment, Palestinians were not allowed to represent themselves, and various states competed over representing them in accordance with their respective agendas. This was no longer the case.

Structurally, this development afforded Palestinians the capacity to build institutions that were sovereign, in the popular if not the territorial sense of the term. For the first four years of its life, there was a tension between the PLO’s official bureaucratized and national structure and the popular underground movements that had preceded its establishment. After the 1967 war, however, these organized movements began to enter the PLO, and fully took the helm within a year. Thus emerged a political system composed of a unified structure and its constituent divisions, the PLO (the munazama) and its member movements (the fasa’il).108 The system was pluralistic; while each faseel retained its decision-making process and its capacity for pursuing its own tactics and strategies, the national as opposed to the partisan space for deliberating, adopting, and implementing coherent strategies and tactics was the PLO.109

By the time the new Palestinian National Charter was passed in 1968, the PLO’s overall strategy rested on four axioms: the development of armed struggle; the expansion of popular struggle, which was understood as the mobilization of all the different sectors of the Palestinian people into unions and civic bodies that were capable of utilizing a broad spectrum of resistance tools; engagement in revolutionary diplomacy on the level of individual states, liberation movements, and international fora and organizations; and the development of an extensive international solidarity network wherever and whenever possible.

In this context, the position of the PLO and its constituent movements toward boycott initially took two forms: reinforcing and expanding the existing Arab state boycott and pursuing the isolation of the Israeli state in international fora as well as tricontinental and Eastern Bloc settings. After the 1967 occupation, a vigorous program of mass popular struggle in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) emerged, in which boycott held a prominent place. The ninth PNC of 1971 explicitly resolved to focus on “all aspects of mass struggle side by side with revolutionary armed struggle on the path to a total people’s war of liberation.”110

Boycotting and confronting Israeli governance plans, ranging from rigged municipal elections to village leagues, in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza became a permanent feature of that policy for much of the 1970s.111 So was the building of self-reliance and resilience (summoud). The resulting infrastructure of popular struggle eventually allowed for carrying out the first intifada (1987–92), and it was amid that intifada that boycott reached its zenith.112 Among many other initiatives, the PLO’s Unified National Leadership (UNL) in the Occupied Territories called upon “workers to solidly boycott working in Israeli projects, factories and farms,”113 to “move towards seizing tax payments,” to boycott “collaborationist” newspapers, and to “boycott Israeli products.”114 Once again, boycott regained its character as a mass and popular tactic carried out by the Palestinian people on its own land rather than a principally official effort pursued by “sister and friendly” states.

Nevertheless, both the Arab state boycott and the PLO and popular organization initiatives that had reached their height with the 1987–1992 intifada precipitously declined after the launch of the Oslo process in 1993. Oslo entailed a radical development: the recognition of colonist control over 78 percent of historic Palestine in exchange for the prospect of sovereignty over the remaining 22 percent. This required instituting a policy of demobilization outside of the 1967 OPTs by means of freezing the PLO, and the restructuring of mobilization inside the OPTs through rechanneling national energies into a state building rather than a resistance project. Resistance strategies were shelved by the national leadership, and there was a return to the pre-1922 practice of diplomatic appeals to the dominant power of the day, in this case the United States. Despite security and other forms of cooperation on the part of the recently created Palestinian Authority, Israelis refused, with American backing, to allow the emergence of an independent Palestinian state in the 1967 OPTs.115

This resulted in a popular and increasingly militarized uprising: the second intifada of 2000, and this event was accompanied by a reactivation of solidarity movements, including in Europe and North America. These movements had gained greater following in the context of the first intifada but quickly lost momentum during the Oslo years. Many activists within these movements had cut their teeth on the South African anti-apartheid struggle, and had now shifted their energies to Palestine. As the Palestinian second intifada ended, failing to achieve independence in the OPTs, old tactics of struggle, including boycott, returned. The formal launch of the latter began with the issuance, on the part of Palestinian civil society, of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) call of July 9, 2005.

The spread of BDS relied on the expansion of solidarity networks beyond the Arab and tricontinental worlds to Europe and North America. Besides drawing on decades of solidarity building during the PLO’s Palestinian revolution years and after, Palestinian solidarity benefited from new and steady rise of activism on the Palestinian cause among a variety of western constituencies. It gained sustenance from the growth of Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and other Afro-Asian migrant communities; the spread in pro-Palestinian solidarity among sectors of the Jewish intelligentsia and progressive Christian faith groups, and increasing awareness of the Palestinian cause within the broader European and North American Left. Given the fact that Europe and North America were the primary investors in the Israeli economy and its main suppliers of military and economic aid, the demand for boycott was now supplemented by a call for divestment and sanctions.

While economic targets were identified, the primary orientation was on undermining the moral foundations for Western support of Israeli policy as it pertained to all sections of the Palestinian people, and not just those residing the 1967 OPTs. This is certainly understood by Benjamin Netanyahu, who consistently emphasizes that the battle over boycott has less to do with immediate material losses than with long-term legitimacy. Much could be written about his recent campaign to “delegitimize the delegitimizers” through associating them with either terrorism or anti-Semitism.116 Many pages could also be filled with the details of the elaborate anti-BDS apparatus the Israeli state has constructed before and after Netanyahu, spanning entire ministries, intelligence networks, embassies, and informal coalitions tied to the Israeli State.117

What is more immediately pressing for our analysis here is that the Palestinian solidarity movement is currently engaged in what could be referred to in Gramscian terms as a “war of position.” Its foremost concern, at least in North America and Europe, is to challenge the prevailing political and cultural hegemony in the societies, states, and communities most crucial to the perpetuation of colonial policies and systems of oppression. The sites of this war of position have ranged from student societies to local councils to refrigerators at home. BDS has so far played an essential, though by no means singular, role in this process.

Conclusion: BDS between Past and Future

As was suggested from the outset, the 110-year history of Palestinian boycott can best be considered in the context of a long colonial continuum. This continuum extended well beyond the four decades that have been closely examined here. While thinking in terms of continuums carries the risk of obscuring moments of rupture, the “boundaries” within the story told in this article are too prominent to be crossed unawares. One way of structuring this story, as well as its aftermath, is to think of boycotts as appearing in waves, five of which had distinct features in modern Palestinian history.

The first wave of Palestinian boycotts took place under Ottoman sovereignty, at a time when Palestinians were citizens who possessed political rights. Boycott calls were mobilizational in aim, making use of the new post-1908 Ottoman public sphere to counter an expanding colonization program. As of yet, there was no coherent strategy to counter colonization, nor was there an organized leadership that could devise such a strategy on a national, rather than a simply local or sectoral, scale.

The second wave of boycotts, extending from 1918 to 1945, was led by newly formed national structures at a time of colonial disenfranchisement. Taking both political and economic forms, it was used in combination with several other tactics to confront the arrival of British occupation and its explicit adoption of a demographic and political transformation program whose summum bonum was the facilitation of European Jewish colonization and the establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. It started with early ostracism of collaborators enforced by local social networks, but its three main axioms were constructed over the course of the fifth and sixth Palestinian Arab National Conferences: political boycott of British colonial schemes and commissions, economic boycott of colonist production, distribution, and retail coupled with self-reliance, and a policy of non-cooperation.

The launch and suspension of different boycott tactics was connected to the ebbs and flows of national organization and its shifting mobilizational patterns and capacities. Boycott generally gained centrality in moments when national structures were seeking an alternative to timid diplomacy and negotiations but were unable or hesitant to carry out a more comprehensive extralegal strategy. This explains the ascendancy of boycott, alongside other variants of popular struggle, in the aftermath of suppressed risings such as those of 1921, 1929, and 1933. But it is not to suggest that boycott did not play a role in times of outright revolt. In the case of the Great Palestinian Revolt of 1936–39, boycott was not at the center, but its influence was far from negligible.

At any rate, boycott regained its centrality in the years that followed the suppression of the revolt. In the absence of the military or political capacity to end colonialism through armed revolution or military intervention from outside, boycott featured as one of the foremost tactics of the 1940s. This third wave of boycott was characterized by state support from surrounding Arab countries. Even when it took this highly institutionalized and organized state-sponsored form that directly harmed the colonist economy, boycott on its own did not constitute a strategy that could plausibly overthrow the entire colonial order, but it raised the economic cost for the Israeli leadership and its external supporters of continuing its colonization program.

In the post-1948 Nakba period, the Arab boycott played another significant, and more political, role, which was ensuring the regional isolation of recently created Israeli state structures. Despite a major counterassault led by the United States, the boycott flourished until the Oslo period, and continues to survive to this very day, albeit with less resoluteness and with greater variability in application. The Arab boycott coincided with a fourth wave of boycott, lasting from roughly 1964 to 1992, and led by the PLO and structures associated with it in the OPTS. This was a time when the Palestinians were organized into an ideologically and organizationally pluralist but nevertheless unified national structure, carrying out a multifaceted revolutionary anticolonial program relying primarily on full national mobilization.

BDS, and the fifth wave of boycott it represented, came at a time when national structures were frozen along with any sense of strategic vision. Boycott was transformed from a tactic serving a revolutionary strategic vision to a tactical solidarity response led by Palestinian civil society addressing the absence of a comprehensive national anticolonial strategy. Without active national structures and strategies, tactics such as BDS provide a focal point for resistance. At the same time, and as explicitly argued by some of its most prominent organizers, such as Omar Barghouti, BDS cannot on its own address the structural deficiency arising from the failure to reconstitute and reinvigorate the PLO and the PNC.118 Historically, even in those struggles where boycott, divestment, and sanctions were exceedingly important, there was a clear understanding of their limitations. ANC President Oliver Tambo regularly emphasized that sanctions “will not and cannot be expected in themselves to bring down the apartheid system. They are not an alternative to struggle by the South African and Namibian people, but an important complement to it.”119 Naturally, that assessment was also applicable to boycott.

In a similar vein, leading South African revolutionaries warned against conflating the tactic of boycott with principle. As Walter Sisulu reminds us in an important piece he wrote in 1957, a sober vision gives rise to the need of differentiating “between the principle and the tactic”; the need to “know that the boycott is a tactic and the rejection of reactionary political institutions is the principle.”120 An anticolonial strategy is, almost by definition, concerned with the overall steps with which an ultimate principle can be attained: the eradication of the colonial order and the relations of oppression it perpetuates. In South Africa, boycott was conceptualized in relation to that broader strategic objective. Far from constituting one of the famous four pillars of the ANC struggle, it was an important tool deployed in their service.

Contemporary Palestinian BDS, which in is large measure diachronically influenced by the South African model and currently draws on many of its veterans, has much to learn from that experience as well as from the Palestinian experiences that coincided with, and preceded, the anti-apartheid movement. This is not to diminish BDS’s major role in the unfolding war of position in the global solidarity sphere, but to highlight the need for the rejuvenation of national structures in which the Palestinian people are sovereign, mobilized, and capable of devising long-term strategies as well as tactics.

I would like to thank Ussama Makdisi and Diana Abouali for their sharp insights and extensive comments on previous drafts of this article. Many of the thoughts expressed here arose out of years of discussion with Karma Nabulsi. To her, I am always grateful.

Notes

2.

Tilly first proposed the concept of repertoire in Tilly, “Getting It Together.” This idea developed over a long period of time as he transitioned from structuralism to “relational realism.” See Tarrow, “Charles Tilly.” For Tilly’s last attempt to “test” the concept, see Tilly, Contentious Performances.

6.

Herzl was referring to Baron de Rothschild’s patronage of the earliest colonies in Palestine as well as Maurice de Hirsch’s Jewish Colonization Association efforts in Argentina.

12.

The standard study of these themes is Shafir, Land, Labor.

13.

As Ze’ev Sternhell notes, “The special contribution of the Second Aliyah . . . was the ‘concept of labor as the key idea of the Jewish revival.’ The search for a way ‘to guarantee Jewish labor’ led to the birth of communal settlements, and not any theory.” Sternhell, Founding Myths, 74.

15.

For a discussion of this theme, see Lockman, “Land, Labor.” 

16.

For Ottoman voting in Palestine, see R. Khalidi, “1912 Election.” 

17.

For the efforts to subsume these communities into the Zionist program and the tensions surrounding these efforts, see Patrick, “Zionist Commission.” 

19.

Cohen, Army of Shadows, Kindle: Chapter 1, In Search of Political Cooperation.

20.

Cohen, Army of Shadows, Kindle: Chapter 1, In Search of Political Cooperation. A broader discussion of Kalvarisky and his activities is found in Jacobson and Naor, Oriental Neighbors.

22.

“A Brief Statement of the Demands of the Arab People of Palestine (Moslems and Christians) Submitted to the Honourable Mr. Winston Churchill, M.P. Secretary of State for the Colonies, by the Arab Palestine Delegation in London.” August 12, 1921. In al-Hout, Wathaiq, 118.

25.

These events are often referred to as “riots” in British colonial sources, counterpoised to colonial peace and order. See for example the Palin report FO371/5121/E9379. “Report of the Court of Inquiry Convened by Order of H.E. The High Commisioner and Commander-In-Chief, Dated the 12th Day of April, 1920.” Zionist sources were keen to portray them as “pogroms,” so as to connect them with the long history of anti-semitic massacres in the Russian Pale of Settlement. Posthumous Arabic sources tend to refer to them instead as revolts (thawrāt) or risings (habbāt), emphasizing their anti-colonial character. At the time of their occurrence, these events were referred to by the Arabic press, often interchangeably, as “revolts” (thawrāt), “disturbances” (idtirabāt), “tumults” (fitnas), or “events” (ḥawadith). See for example “al-Nata’ij wa al-‘Ithāt”. Filastin, May 14, 1921 and “Lajnat al-Taḥqiq ‘an Asbab al-Thawra”. Filastin, May 17, 1921.

26.

The stick was raised when Musa Kazem al-Husseini was removed from the mayorship of Jerusalem, and twenty-three individuals, including Haj Amin al-Husseini (the future mufti), were given long prison sentences. But a carrot was offered soon thereafter, when Haj Amin was pardoned and was given access to the immensely powerful positions of mufti of Jerusalem and president of the Supreme Muslim Council. Although this did not change the patriotic leanings of the mufti, it meant that he was contained, at least until 1936. For the dynamics of the Husseini family, see Pappe, The Rise and Fall.

27.

Factional politics had of course existed in Palestine long before and there were considerable continuities between the Ottoman and British periods (see Khalaf, Politics in Palestine, 31). However, continuities shouldn’t blind us to fundamental elements of change. After the British occupation, the divide and rule policy was not only geared toward serving the interests of an imperial center (as it had been before), but was also concerned with weakening resistance against an ongoing colonization program.

34.

For national capital initiatives in the 1930s and 1940s, see Seikaly, Men of Capital.

37.

Fear of colonial violence loomed so large over the Sixth Conference that it prompted an intervention by its president, Musa Kazem al-Husseini, who spoke to the effect that “while some [delegates] had hinted at what the government could resort to along the lines of violence, force, arrest, and exile, such policies would not be carried out by the government so long as we demand our rights through legitimate means” (“Al-Jalsa al-Thalitha”).

40.

Despite the fact that it was written by a participant, one of the best assessments of the effects of the rise of an “opposition” that sought proximity to British power was written by Mohammad Izzat Darwazeh in his memoirs. See Darwazeh, Muthakarat, 579–84.

59.

See al-Hout, Al-Qiyadaat, 263–73; Matthews, Confronting Empire, 171–98.

65.

For the details of the high commissioner’s warning, see “Balagh al-Sulta al-Rasmi,” 

66.

“Report by His Majesty’s Government . . . For the Year 1933.”

67.

“Al-Fatwa al-Sadira ‘An al-Ijtima’a al-Dini al-Mun’aqid fi al-Quds bi Sha’n Bayi’ al-Aradi li al-Suhyuniyeen.” January 26, 1935. In al-Hout, Wathaiq, 388.

69.

“Al-Qarat al-Sadira ‘an al-Ijtima’a al-Awal li al-Lajna al-Qawmiya fi Nablus.” April 19, 1936, in al-Hout, Wathaiq, 410.

70.

“Risala min Amin Sir al-Lajna al-Arabiya al-‘Olya ila al-Lijan al-Qawmmiya bi-Sha’an al-Imtina’a ‘an Daf’ al-Dara’ib,” May 2, 1936, in al-Hout, Wathaiq, 426.

71.

“Bayan Ahali Madinat al-Quds bi al-Da’wa ila al-Imtina’a ‘an Daf’ al-Dara’ib,” May 6, 1936, in al-Hout, Wathaiq, 427.

72.

“Mutamar al-lijan al-Qawmiya,” May 7, 1936, in al-Hout, Wathaiq, 428.

76.

The same usual suspects were on display, with the Nashashibi leaders playing a paramount role, raising “peace bands” across the country that aided the British in their war on the largely peasant rebels. See Hughes, “Palestinian Collaboration.” 

78.

For British counterinsurgency methods, see Norris, “Repression and Rebellion.” 

81.

R. Khalidi, Iron Cage, Kindle: Chapter 4, General Strike and Revolt.

86.

Reflecting the seriousness of the task, this committee was staffed by prominent figures: Nouri al-Said and al-Sayyed Abdul Mahdi al-Muntafiji from Iraq, Hamid Franjieh and Habib Abu-Shahla from Lebanon, and Arab League Secretary General Abdul Rahman Azzam (al-Durayni, Dawr Misr, 28).

95.

US Congress, The Arab Boycott: Hearings before the Subcommittee on International Finance of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. 95th Cong., 1st sess. (1977), 142.

96.

US Congress, Arab Boycott, 142.

97.

US Congress, Arab Boycott, 142.

98.

US Congress, Arab Boycott, 161.

99.

Saud al-Faisal. “Address by Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in Houston, Texas, on September 23, 1976,” quoted in US Congress, Arab Boycott, 143–44.

102.

This could be seen most intensely in the attitudes of the European and US Left, large sections of which had traditionally supported Zionism. For an excellent detailed study of this theme see Kelemen, The British Left.

104.

To give but one example, the 1950s boycotts in Kuwait, a country with a massive Palestinian presence, were extremely effective. See Barut, ‘Harakat al-Qawmyeen, 110.

107.

The All-Palestine Government had achieved some limited recognition before, but it was largely defunct, reduced to a small bureau in Cairo.

108.

Fasa’il are generally translated as “factions.” This is not an accurate term in this context. In Arabic faseel suggests a division of a unified structure.

109.

For a discussion and primary sources of the PLO and its functioning see Nabulsi and Takriti, Palestinian Revolution.

110.

“Qararat al-Mu’tamar al-Watani al-Filastini: al-Dawra al-Tasi’a.” Cairo, July 7–13, 1971.

111.

For Palestinian political activism in the West Bank during that period see Sahliyeh, In Search of Leadership. 

112.

The literature on the intifada is extensive. See, for example, Lockman and Beinin, Intifada; Nassar and Heacock, Intifada; Collins, Occupied by Memory; and Finkelstein, Rise and Fall. 

113.

Munathamat al-Tahrir al-Filastiniya- al-Qiyada al-Wataniya al-Muwahada li al-Intifada fi al-Manatiq al-Muhtala. “Nida’a Raqam Khamsa.” January 27, 1988. info.wafa.ps/atemplate.aspx?id=3973.

114.

Munathamat al-Tahrir al-Filastiniya- al-Qiyada al-Wataniya al-Muwahada li al-Intifada fi al-Manatiq al-Muhtala. “Nida’a Raqam Sita.” February 2, 1988. info.wafa.ps/atemplate.aspx?id=3973.

116.

For Netanyahu’s rhetoric, see for example Rudoren, “Netanyahu Lashes Out.” 

117.

A recent examination of how this apparatus is used to stifle debate on US campuses can be found in Jewish Voice for Peace, “Stifling Dissent.”

118.

Among numerous Palestinian political and civil society leaders, Barghouti has signed petitions calling for the urgent need for direct elections to the PNC and has consistently highlighted the importance of that demand.

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