The changing face of Palestinian leadership : the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement : a thesis presented in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Politics at Massey University,Turitea, New Zealand

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The face of Palestinian leadership has developed and diversified greatly since the British Mandate period, with many groups claiming representation of the Palestinian people and the national movement. The unresolved matter of Palestinian leadership is central to Israeli occupation and any resolution. Established in 2005, the development and success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement represents a new chapter in Palestinian leadership building upon Palestine’s established history of popular resistance. This thesis examines the effects of the BDS movement on the direction and strength of Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian national movement. Using a distributed leadership framework, the research analyses how the grassroots, transnational nature of the BDS movement has modernised and globalised the Palestinian struggle. The difficult political environment of the occupation has caused formal Palestinian leadership to be greatly compromised through the restrictions tied to the Oslo Accords and formal peace process. The organisational structure of the BDS movement allows it to operate outside of these realms, counter-positioning itself against the failed US-led diplomacy. The thesis questions the use of the common comparison of BDS with the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa; the wider politics of the situation and relationships between Palestinian leadership bodies differs vastly from those of apartheid South Africa. The comparative thread throughout the research is two-fold: an objective comparison of the BDS movement with anti-apartheid movement in South Africa; and an analysis of BDS’s own use of the comparison as a strategic and organisational tool. The recent rise of protest movements present an alternative to formal political institutions. The BDS movement represents a broader trend in political leadership as the advent of new media has shifted an element of power into grassroots mass movements. This thesis finds that the BDS movement has reintroduced grassroots resistance and leadership to the Palestinian political system. Its distributed leadership model has provided an alternative outlet that circumvents the restrictive formal political process. However, as the BDS movement does not seek the institutionalised power that any future Palestinian state requires, formal Palestinian leadership must incorporate the movement’s grassroots elements traditional to Palestine.
Palestinian leadership, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), Palestine, Palestinian resistance, Protest movements