Dear Dispatches,

Writers don’t need enemies, because writers are their own enemies. At least the good ones are. The good ones screw everything up—for themselves. What I’m flailing at saying is that a writer shouldn’t take, because he or she shouldn’t need to take, a stand against another writer or artist of any medium on the basis of nationality alone, which is what’s been happening lately with the BDS movement in its cultural-intellectual-academic guises. I’m all for boycotting Israeli products, Israeli businesses, and Israeli technical schools that do research for the government—in sum, for boycotting any and all exchanges with Israeli institutions that financially benefit from and/or materially advance the oppression of Palestinians and the obstruction of Palestinian statehood, but once this campaign militates against the uninstituionalized, or against the deinstitutionalized—(the writers, visual artists, musicians, and dancers who aren’t invited or have been disinvited from readings, exhibitions, and performances based solely on their country of origin)—I just give up. To disenfranchise Israeli writers, etc., is merely to punish the last remnant of moral competence and true secular curiosity that Israel has left. I might add that were it my policy to accept money only from American institutions that acted ethically or at the very least nonlethally I would’ve died broke already, long long ago. Such is the universal humanities dilemma: not whether to sell out, but whom to sell out to? As William Burroughs always said, “Wouldn’t you?”

So, go after the products, the businesses, and the technical schools, but leave the dreamers be. The translators who’ve been deprived of editorial positions (Dr. Gideon Toury). The artists who’ve been cancelled on, and forced to become the public faces of a politics they abhor—a politics they have done their honorable best, or more than most online petition-clickers, to dismantle (the great Esther Orner, the Batsheva Dance Company). The true fight is, and forever will be, between the humanities and the military-industrial race-state—not between, or within, the humanities.

Joshua Cohen

International Dispatch #2: