Israelis explain why they joined the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement by Mya Guarnieri
'Renouncing my privileges'
Ronnie Barkan, 34, explains that he took his first step towards the boycott 15 years ago, when he refused to complete his mandatory military service.
"There's a lot of social pressure [in Israel]," Barkan says. "We're raised to be soldiers from kindergarten. We're taught that it's our duty [to serve in the army] and you're a parasite or traitor if you don't want to serve."
"What is even worse is that people are raised to be deeply racist," he adds. "Everything is targeted at supporting [Jewish] privilege as the masters of the land. Supporting BDS means renouncing my privileges in this land and insisting on equality for all."
Barkan likens his joining of the boycott movement to the "whites who denounced their apartheid privileges and joined the black struggle in South Africa".
When I cringe at the "a-word," apartheid, Barkan counters: "Israel clearly falls under the legal definition of the 'crime of apartheid' as defined in the Rome Statute."
'Never again to anybody'
Some oppose BDS because it includes recognition of the Palestinian right of return. These critics say that the demographic shift would impinge on Jewish self-determination. But Barkan argues that "the underlying foundation [of the movement] is universally recognised human rights and international law".
He emphasises that BDS respects human rights for both Palestinians and Jews and includes proponents of a bi-national, democratic state as well as those who believe a two-state solution is the best answer to the conflict.
He also stresses that BDS is not anti-Semitic. Nor is it anti-Israeli.
"The boycott campaign is not targeting Israelis; it is targeting the criminal policies of Israel and the institutions that are complicit, not individuals," he says.
"So let's say an Israeli academic or musician goes abroad and he is turned away from a conference or a venue just because he's Israeli ... " I begin to ask.
"No, no, this doesn't fall under the [boycott guidelines]," Barkan says.
"Because that's not a boycott. It's racism," I say.
"Exactly," Barkan responds, adding that the Palestinian call for BDS is "a very responsible call" that "makes a differentiation between institutions and individuals and it is clearly a boycott of criminal institutions and their representatives".
"Whenever there is a grey area," he adds, "we take the gentler approach."
Still, Barkan has faced criticism for his role in the boycott movement.
"My grandmother who went to Auschwitz tells me, 'You can think whatever you want but don't speak up about your politics because it's not nice,' I tell her, 'You know who didn't speak up 70 years ago.'"
Barkan adds: "I think that the main lesson to be learned from the Holocaust is 'never again to anybody' not 'never again to the Jews.'"