Well results are still coming in, but as far as I can tell the 600 protestors and 30+ anti-Israel organizations who signed up for the “Battle of Couscous” this weekend managed to hold one minor protest OUTSIDE a Trader Joes in Northern California.
No in-store vandalism has been reported, but even if it had been attempted the couscous warriors may have had trouble finding anything to attack, given that Israeli products flew off the shelves of Trader Joes over the last 72 hours once those of us in “screw divestment” camp got wind of their impending “operation.”
So chalk up one for civilization. Given how idiotic the whole idea of boycotting a retailer for stocking Israeli-produced foods seems, it feels a little ridiculous trying to read deep political meaning into the failure of the boycott. But allow me to try (and not only because the other side, had its boycott been successful, would have been tweeting its triumph between here and the moon).
Remember that divestment (and boycott) have as their primary goal the recruitment of a well-known civic institution into their camp, turning their assertion that “Israel is an Apartheid state” worthy of economic punishment into a statement not by “Citizens for Peace, Justice, Hope, Dignity and Virtue” (i.e., the same six nutcases who howl at children trying to ride a camel at Israeli Independence Day celebrations), but into a statement they can claim is supported by a well known university, church, city, union or other respected organization.
Attaining this goal requires the Middle East conflict (with all of its complexity and bitterness) to be imported into an organization, be it Hampshire College, the Presbyterian Church or Trader Joes. Whether bringing such a divisive matter into our civic space is also a goal, or just a byproduct that the divestment crew doesn’t care about, it means that all civic institutions are a target (given that it only takes ownership of one share of Caterpillar or stocking one box of Israeli couscous to bring BDS to your doorstep).
The strategy for achieving this goal is always the same: (1) pinpoint an organization with principles and conscience; (2) provide them a distorted “narrative” where any information not related to Israeli villainy and Palestinian pristine victimhood is dumped down the memory hole; and (3) demand that their principles require them to join the divestment call to signal out Israel for punishment.
Now when this strategy was applied to one of America’s most respected retailers (Trader Joes) the response was as quick as it was unpressured: buzz off BDS, we’re not buying what you’re selling. And once rebuffed, the boycott crew got ugly (as usual), but found the popular food seller more than ready and willing to call their bluff.
And what was the result for Trader Joes? While not privy to their store-by-store, product-by-product sales figures, at least the two TJs I visited on Saturday were either running low or out of every Israeli product. I know I shopped there twice this weekend out of sheer appreciation for their doing the right thing. And so the organization did the right thing all on its own, and as a result was rewarded with both respect and well-earned financial success.
Like universities and colleges, retailers do not exist in a vacuum. Just as the shenanigans at Hampshire College has put college administrators across the country on notice what can happen if you trust divestment advocates to keep their word, so retailers who look up to Trader Joes as an example will get the message that there is no punishment, and in fact ample reward, for showing courage and doing good.
Not a bad job, then, my fellow couscous commandos. And now, it’s back to the cookbooks to figure out what I’m going to do with all this stuff.