The prestigious online journal "Words without Borders" has launched a new project entitled "Cross-Cultural- Dialogues in the Middle East” The dialog was begun by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, of Iranian Muslim background, and Chana Morgenstern, an Israeli fiction writer, who met as graduate students at Brown University in the United States.
Azareen writes: “We quickly developed a dialogue about literature’s potential to provide a space for confronting some of the more challenging questions of identity and politics that define the contemporary Middle East.”
Now in Jerusalem, the pair found themselves “ engaged in a boisterous literary conversation with Israeli and Palestinian writers and artists who come from a variety of religious backgrounds. Over the next few months we will be presenting a series of interviews and articles that explore Jewish and Arab relations within Israel and the Palestinian Territories as well as the larger Middle East. One of the guiding questions of this series will be whether or not literature and film can offer a fertile space for cross-cultural and religious dialogue in the region. The series, as we foresee it, will cover emerging guerilla poetry movements, collaborations between Israeli and Palestinian intellectuals and writers, interviews with international and local film makers, reviews of the Jerusalem Film Festival, as well as an overview of various grassroots cultural organizations in the West Bank.”
This is good news, right? Open dialog, mutual respect, cross cultural communicative are truly a path to peace. No. Things are never that easy in the Middle East. Instead, Morgenstern and Van der Vliet Oloomi’s project has been condemned by BDS proponents.
According to an editorial in the Electronic Intifada (forgive me if I don’t link to it) written by Associate professor of Cultural Studies at Gaza's Al-Aqsa University Haidar Eid on August 9 2010 :
“Indeed, the guidelines issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), explicitly warn against events or projects that promote "false symmetry or balance." All "events and projects that bring Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis together, unless framed within the explicit context of opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, are strong candidates for boycott" .
Yes. Projects that promote peace, dialog and co-existence, unless they meet the litmus test of political correctness are candidates for boycott. And the test remains (I’m paraphrasing) "Is Israel blamed exclusively and unilaterally for all the problems in the region? Are the Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole exonerated from any responsibility at all in contributing to the peace process? "
According to the EI, “Indeed, the choice is clear to the vast majority of Palestinians, and intellectuals must recognize that true "cross-cultural dialogue" is impossible when one voice is being stifled, silenced and erased by another. “ And that , Prof Eid, is exactly what the BDS movement is doing to the peace process.
The movement towards Boycotts, Divestment and sanctions (BDS)is not about promoting peace. It is about demonizing Israel. Real peace activists know that the path to peace is more dialog, more interactions, and closer political, cultural and economic relationship.