What’s Behind BDS?

I’m still waiting for more news on the latest apparent BDS hoax coming out of Canada, but in the meantime a commenter’s point about previous hoaxes involving, among other organizations the Red Cross, alerted me that it might be worth mentioning one of the main theses of this site (especially to the many new readers who have joined us in the last few days).

I’m ready to admit that there are strong arguments for and against the use of boycott and divestment to solve political problems. But whether you’re talking about divestment programs launched against South Africa, Iran or Sudan, or boycotts that go back to their origins in 19th century Ireland, there is one thing that distinguishes these political projects from the anti-Israel BDS program we’ve seen over the last decade: truth in advertising.

There is no question that when people signed up to divest from South Africa (or when institutions are lobbied to pull funds from Iran or Sudan), that those campaigning are being absolutely clear about what they are advocating. While there is serious and legitimate debate about the effectiveness or efficacy of such campaigns, these projects are not being carried out in secret or behind anyone’s backs.

Not so BDS which only achieved its limited successes in the mid ‘00s by secretly negotiating with leaders of institutions like the City of Somerville or the Presbyterian Church whose citizens or members only discovered divestment from Israel was being carried out in their name at the last minute or when it was too late. And once these citizens or members discovered that their institutions were being manipulated, they revolted and rejected divestment by overwhelming majorities.

Remember that divestment is all about stuffing the political message of divestment advocates (that Israel is an “Apartheid State” alone in the world at deserving economic punishment) into the mouth of an organization more well known that the BDS advocates themselves. And given the tiny minority the BDS crew represents, the list of better known institutions includes just about everyone.

Thus divestment becomes a way to attach the BDS message to an institution by any means necessary. In the past, this involved manipulating people behind the scenes. But once initial BDS successes achieved in this way were defeated or reversed, a new strategy emerged involving outright fraud.

Adding false signatures to divestment petitions seems to have happened in both Canada and the UK, but before this practice came to the fore you had countless examples of BDS advocates pretending that decisions that had nothing to do with Israel were in fact anti-Israel divestment successes. Hampshire, TIAA-CREF, Blackrock and Motorola come to mind, but – as my commenter pointed out – there are other examples across the country of such divestment hoaxes.

It’s an open question as to whether these fraudulent campaigns are part of a deliberate strategy to deceive the public (in hope of creating momentum for the BDS “movement” based on fake success) or whether divestment advocates are primarily deceiving themselves in order to imbue their lives with fantasies of political importance and success.

But ultimately, it does not matter if the list of people BDS-niks are trying to deceive includes themselves or not. The result is the same: a political movement that bears no resemblance to boycott or divestment campaigns against South Africa or anyone else, a campaign of failure and fraud that has achieved nothing in ten years beyond poisoning the atmosphere of colleges campuses, churches and other civic organizations who have been slow to understand the true nature of the snake oil BDS is selling.

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