With the recent choice by Greenstar Food Coop to reject a boycott of Israeli products, I decided to stop by the organization’s web site to see if there was any fallout from the decision. After all, if BDS was a pressing concern for many members of the organization, protests of the decision would be ringing out in whatever forums Greenstar provides for community discussion. Yet, surprisingly, the site is bare of any follow-up (indignant or otherwise) from the Coop’s choice to give BDS the boot.
Perhaps the group’s site is not the place where such debates play out. But a quick Google news search (which should suck in news from the wider Ithaca community) seems to be similarly empty of responses to the Greenstar boycott decision – a strange quiet, given that the BDSers have told us for years that the Middle East conflict is a burning issue and that progressive communities like Ithaca have no choice but to accept their solution.
To investigate the phenomena of post-BDS quiet further, I stopped by the site of other coops where boycott debates raged over the last several years, including coops in West Coast locations like Davis and Sacramento in California and Port Townsend in Washington State. But automated searches of those sites turned up nothing or (in one case) records of decisions to say “No” to boycotts going on five years old.
In fact, the only coop I could find where arguments continue on the subject after anti-BDS votes were successful is the Park Slope Food Coop whose monthly newsletter, The Linewater Gazette, still dedicates at least a full page per issue to letters to the editor continuing this fight in perpetuity. But, as I wrote about over a year ago, this ongoing letters war is not about the community’s need to continue “dialog” on the matter. Rather, it is a result of BDSers who refuse to accept “No” for an answer taking advantage of the openness of the organization to present arguments that have already been rejected in issue after issue.
The fact that members have been able to tune out a segregated BDS-related letters section may explain why the boycotters decided to put their program on the organization’s official meeting agenda yet again, causing another round of mayhem when other members who though the issue had been put to rest years ago were forced to sit through one more presentation of fact-free “analysis” of the Middle East that effectively cast those who did not embrace BDS as friends and allies of racist murderers.
What this (admittedly quick-and-dirty) research seems to demonstrate is that, contrary to what the boycotters keep telling us, BDS is NOT something every progressive community agrees with, or even wants to argue over. At Greenstar (and Davis and Sacramento and Port Townsend and virtually every other coop community that has shown BDS the door) the immediate result was not bitterness and controversy, but peace and quiet where conversation could return to exchanges over Kale recipes, and arguments could be over ham and GMOs vs. Hamas and the IDF.
Even at Park Slope, the only reason peace and quiet has not returned to the organization is that the BDSers refuse to let it happen, choosing instead to abuse the open mindedness and good nature of their neighbors to ensure the Middle East conflict is never out of people’s faces.
It would be difficult to perform a similar analysis of other BDS targets like college campuses since, in those environments, groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are committed to keep the pot boiling, ensuring that the Arab-Israeli conflict will always be at the top of a school’s political activism agenda (just as the Palestinian issue sucks up all the human-rights Oxygen on the planet, leaving dying or homeless Syrians, Kurds and Tibetans gasping for air).
But even on campus, we seem to be looking not at an issue that the community has decided is a pressing concern, but one which a group of ruthless, single-issue partisans has fought to keep front and center at all costs. In other words, the endless film series and Apartheid Walls one finds appearing and reappearing every year does not mean the bulk of students are more energized about this issue than they are about other international human rights challenges. Rather, they reflect the fact that Israel’s enemies are willing to stick with their propaganda campaign, despite the fact that students are unwilling to be swept along in the faux momentum generated by SJP antics on campus.
I suspect that if you reviewed goings on in the 4000+ US colleges and universities that don’t have SJP chapters, you would discover the very peace and quiet my recent informal research discovered within the food coop movement that is also thought to be a hotbed of BDS activism. Which means that even the conflict on college campuses many of us are dedicated to battling represents a fight against manufactured vs. genuine controversy.
Those who point out that BDS projects are designed to provide a steady drip of anti-Israel venom into the American bloodstream, regardless of their scope or practical impact, have a strong argument. And even if it turns out that this propaganda has no long-term effect on the majority of students graduating from colleges and universities, it only takes a few people – or even one (like a US President) who has imbibed false narratives to cause havoc on a massive scale.
Yet as we participate in discussion over why this or that community organization should say “No” when confronted by BDSers insisting they say “Yes,” it is worth pointing out that everyone who has embraced the boycott and divestment agenda has suffered as a result (from anger and defection of members, or general disgust raining down on them from the wider community – a la the Presbyterians). Meanwhile, those who have rejected BDS seem to all be enjoying some well-deserved peace and quiet as a result.