Judith Butler and the Cause of the Other

Olivia Harrison in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

ScreenHunter_65 Dec. 09 22.11Israel's recent military assault on Gaza serves as a reminder of the continuing urgency of the Palestinian question, which has been a topic of worldwide debate since the June 1967 war and returns to the center stage of global politics whenever Palestinian or Israeli blood is spilt. Something has changed in recent years, however, particularly after conflicts so disproportionate (the 2006 Israeli invasion of Southern Lebanon, the 2008-2009 Gaza war) that it becomes difficult to speak of two “sides” in a conflict involving a military force, on the one hand, and a majority of unarmed civilians on the other.

But the increasingly uneven balance of forces is not the only thing that has tipped the scales in favor of the Palestinian people (if not their leadership) at dinner tables across the world. Palestinian civil society has also made itself heard more forcefully, particularly through non-violent protest actions (represented in films such Bil’in My Love and 5 Broken Cameras) and the 2005 West Bank-based call for an international campaign ofBoycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Modeled after the South African boycott campaigns, the BDS movement has received wide support from luminaries including Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, and Alice Walker. It has also garnered the support (sometimes partial or qualified) of an increasing number of Jewish activists against Israeli state violence, including groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace or intellectuals such as Judith Butler and Naomi Klein. The growing legitimacy of the BDS movement is a symptom of the changing fortunes of the Palestinian question. It also reveals the extent to which it has become a Jewish question.

More than 60 years ago, a similar evolution in public opinion occurred at another historical juncture.

More here.