Are boycotts emotional outbursts or practical political tools? The proposed paper looks at the emotional aspects of the public debate that raged in Jewish Palestine in the 1930s about the Nazi-Zionist agreement, in order to suggest a theory of boycotts as emotional scripts. The Ha’avara (“transfer”) agreement enabled Jews to leave Germany and take some of their assets with them, in the form of German goods to be sold in Palestine, therefore breaking the worldwide anti-Nazi boycott. Drawing on contemporary media and archival sources and comparative studies about boycotts and “buy national” campaigns, I analyze the discourse on emotions in the public debate about the agreement. Rather than so-called ‘practical’ politics, the debate focused on various emotions such as humiliation, fear, anger, and vengeance, their role in politics, and the right way to contain or release them. The emotionology (as defined by historians Peter and Carol Stearns) of Zionist pride prescribed ‘practicability’ as a demonstration of restraint and respectability, and denounced the anti-Nazi boycott movement as ‘exilic’ Jewish submissiveness. Nonetheless, this emotionology did not fit the actual ability of the Jewish public to contain the harsh emotions. Under the guise of “buy national” campaigns, anti-German feeling was channeled into an effective boycott of the Templers, a small German community living in Palestine since the nineteenth century. Based on Theodor Sarbin’s theory of emotions as cognitive schemes, the paper suggests theorizing boycotts as political dramas whose ‘effectivity’ depends mainly on their emotional scripting.
Hizky Shoham’s works consist of anthropological history and sociology of Zionism, the Yishuv, and Israel; and cultural theory. He is a senior lecturer in the Interdisciplinary Program for Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies, and co-director of the Center for Cultural Sociology, Bar Ilan University, Israel; and a research fellow in the Kogod Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies at the Shalom Hartman institute in Jerusalem. His publications include Carnival in Tel Aviv: Purim and the Celebration of Urban Zionism (Academic Studies Press, 2014); and Israel Celebrates: Festivals and Civic Culture in Israel (Brill, 2017).