alestinian Civil Society
One reason that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is so widely celebrated and practiced by solidarity organizations is because it was called for by the seemingly monolithic “Palestinian Civil Society.” The uncritical acceptance of “Palestinian Civil Society” has mythologized the organizations who lend their name and resources to supporting the call for BDS, which has material effects that go far beyond BDS. This in itself is not the primary issue facing organizers in the US, although the NGO-ization of civil society has been written about in depth by a multitude of authors. Previous to the Oslo Accords, mass-based civil society had overwhelmingly founded their work on politics of liberation, rather than bread-and-butter issues which seek to disconnect themselves from root of these issues, the Nakba, which has determined all other factors in the historical development of Palestine. This process of depoliticizing civil society is a hallmark of the introduction of a capitalist-imperialist process into previously inaccessible markets, which creates conditions favorable to neoliberal exploitation by attempting to neutralize mass consciousness on liberation, and create a dependency on foreign capital flow. After the 1993 Oslo Accords, the international aid that streamed into Palestine was oriented towards developing a social welfare structure that acted independently from the resistance movement, going to “post-conflict projects”, leaving a political vacuum in their wake. By taking even a cursory glance at Palestine, it is abundantly clear that the reorientation of civil society has not weakened the resilience, determination and resistance of the Palestinian people. What it has done, however, is weaken the political power of organizations, institutions, and aspects of society that rejected the “peace” (surrender) process and continued resisting in whatever form they took.
Within the Palestine solidarity movement in the United States, the term “Palestinian Civil Society” is invoked with such reverence and awe that one would be led to believe that “Civil Society” is in fact a monolith with consolidated theoretical understanding of the settler-colonial reality in Palestine, with a coherent strategy to not just petition internationals to boycott and divest, but to build power in Palestine to lead a revolutionary struggle against Zionism. In reality, the actors within Palestinian Civil Society with the loudest and most powerful voices are the NGOs with the biggest pockets filled by international aid money, distributed by politicians within the Palestinian Authority or by international organizations themselves. When these supposed authorities on Palestine are questioned, too often is it dismissed as ultra-leftism, or even confused for a Zionist argument.