Since the “financial crisis” of 2008, a range of protest tactics, including blockades, boycotts, marches, strikes, and sit-ins, have once again become a palpable/visible element of everyday politics in the United States. Social/protest movements, such as Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Moral Mondays, Standing Rock, and even the Tea Party, have helped millions rediscover the fact that political engagement does not begin and end in the voting booth.
While these specific social movements have certainly played a role in the revival of protest culture in American politics, Donald Trump’s election is translating them into a mass movement of resistance and civil disobedience.
On January 21 2017, millions of people in over 600 cities participated in the Women’s Marches, leading some political scientists to declare it the “largest day of demonstrations in American history.” Following Trump’s executive order freezing refugee admissions to the United States and banning immigration/travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, thousands protested at airport terminals across the country, while others staged mass strikes.
A series of boycott initiatives targeting companies in support of Trump have overwhelmed the Twitter-sphere. Meanwhile, a small (but vocal) movement (antifa) is reintroducing the American public to a tradition of militant resistance, historically associated with twentieth century anti-fascist and anarchist movements, where horizontally organized networks physically confronted institutions of creeping authoritarianism.
This shift has pushed lawmakers across the United States to introduce anti-protest laws in their respective states. Donald Trump himself has signed executive orders to protect and strengthen police powers.
But, these moves are likely to embolden, not deter, the growth of a mass movement for social justice. For organizations and individuals fighting injustice, now is the time to seize the moment, and that includes the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement.
The BDS movement, which is a global campaign urging individuals, companies, and states to apply economic pressure on Israel until it complies with international law in its treatment of Palestinians, has faced a barrage of legislative initiatives in the United States over the past year. The purpose of these initiatives is to prevent public bodies from doing business with entities supporting the movement. Nonetheless, these legal challenges, while significant, point to the fact that BDS is gaining traction beyond college campuses.
More recently, a number of NFL (National Football League) players made public their intention to boycott a White House meet-and-greet with Donald Trump, in protest against his policies and in support of social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter. While this is in itself unprecedented, a growing number of players, who have recognized that different systems of oppression are related and overlap, are also publicly boycotting an Israeli propaganda initiative organized by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.
The aim of the Israeli propaganda initiative is to turn American football players into “ambassadors of goodwill for Israel” by sponsoring (and guiding) a group visit to Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv. Six of the eleven players invited (Martellus Bennett, Michael Bennett, Kenny Stills, Cliff Avril, Carlos Hyde, and Justin Forsett) have declined the invitation, while others are re-evaluating their attendance.
At the same time, even the most ardent supporters of Israel now recognize that Trump and the Israeli government, if left to their own devises, will swallow what remains of Palestine in the occupied 1967 territories. It is becoming increasingly difficult to deny that BDS is the only game in town.
Considering the heightened receptiveness of the American public to a variety of political tactics and social justice initiatives, as well as growing skepticism towards the U.S.-brokered “peace process,” BDS activists should create “maximum unity and action” in the fight for Palestinian rights.