Street Theater

A buddy took some video of the Boston chapter of “Israel is Wrong About Everything Always Forever” brigade as they “took to the streets” to picket a Motorola retail store in Harvard Square (an action somehow related to the fact that Motorola is one of the companies that commonly comes up as targets for Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS).

The most common company on this target list is Caterpillar Tractor, and my friend inquired why the protestors had seemed to move from this familiar target to a cell phone manufacturer. He suspected that it was because Palestinians had recently made use of tractors as murder weapons, which limited the BDSers interest in minimizing the number of pieces of Caterpillar equipment in Israel (and thus deprive Palestinians of the vehicles they have recently been driving into bus stops). But I would like to suggest a few alternatives.

First off, as has been stated here frequently, the job of BDS is to get an institution that is more well known and respected that the organizations pushing divestment (which pretty much includes everyone) to attach their name (willingly or unwillingly) to the protestor’s real agenda (i.e., to stuff their message that Israel is an Apartheid state into the mouth of a university, church or cub scout troop). With this in mind, both Caterpillar and Motorola are useful since these stocks are so widely held in nearly everyone’s portfolio that protesting these companies gives BDSers the right (at least in their own minds) to target any civic organization with any type of endowment (from universities to cities to unions to churches) for their nasty and dishonest little program.

The other reason can be gleaned from looking at the people who take part in these protests close up. Simply put, they haven’t looked well for years and every year I see them out on the streets, their decline (physical, intellectual and spiritual) seems to have accelerated. Unlike the “happy warriors” who tend to be on our side of the ramparts, the BDS crew seems to consist of oldsters whose eternally burning rage and hatred has taken its toll, and new recruits who are either struck dumb when their lies are confronted, or raging political or religious fanatics who are destined to appear as wretched as their older “comrades” as they approach their twenties.

For folks in such decline, who have seen Israel’s popularity among the American public soar (in direct proportion to the plummeting popularity of Israel’s Arab foes), it is critical to nurture a robust fantasy life to provide meaning to otherwise meaningless lives. After all, neither Caterpillar (which has voted down shareholder nuisance complaints over the Israel by margins of 98-2 for years) or Motorola are ever going to pull out of Israel because of complainers like the ones who appeared in Harvard Square. In addition to knowing where investment dollars are best spent in the region, these companies also have legal staffs that are fully aware of US anti-boycott regulations, which makes it even less likely they will ever take action against the Jewish state for political reasons, even if they wanted to (which, they have stated over and over again they don’t).

So why protest against a company that will never do what you want (worse, protest against a retail store where customers and employees won’t have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about)? Well if you live in the real world, you would realize that your political efforts (no matter how misguided) would best be put elsewhere. But if you live in a fantasy world where you are part of a righteous vanguard informing the ignorant masses of the wickedness of your political enemies (no matter how much those masses consider you a strange bunch of cranks), then these protests make all the sense in the world!

An aging gaggle of middle-class radicals consumed with hatred of the only state in the Middle East that honors the progressive values (tolerance of women, gays and religious minorities, for example) the BDS-niks claim to represent is a peculiar thing to watch. One can’t really accuse them of hypocrisy since that implies that they live in the same universe as those of us who actually embody the virtues (tolerance, dedication to truth, honesty) they merely pose at.

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