At the start of the 21st century, the year of butterfly ballots and hurricanes, some people speculated whether Florida was the new California, i.e., the one US state whose daily news triggers smirks and eyebrow-raising in the other 49. Well all I can say is that in the last week California has come roaring back, at least as far as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is concerned.
The week began with the historic decision of the Davis California Food Co-op to unanimously reject attempts by local BDS activists to turn the store in to the first voluntary Israel-free retailer in the country. The BDSers had put months of effort into trying to get their propaganda campaign made the Co-op’s mission. Needless to say, once the grown-ups who ran the organization read the boycotters the riot act before kicking them down the stairs, the divest-niks have not had much to say about what once seemed their top priority.
Unsurprisingly, they have been less reticent about bellowing the results of a vote taken a few days later by the Berkeley University Student Senate which at 3:15 AM on Wednesday voted 16-4 to pass a resolution requesting the school divest in companies doing business with Israel.
Needless to say, the two events are quite different in their significance. At Davis, the organization had to make an actual decision regarding whether or not it would partake in a boycott. Berkeley, in contrast, consisted of 16 students striking a pose by demanding someone else (i.e., the university as a whole) do their impotent bidding.
The fact that the university has already rejected divestment again and again over the last decade does not seem to diminish the divestors thrill at their own “success.” This starts to make sense if you read over their actual resolution, which can be seen in its entirety here, but basically boils down to:
* Whereas we agree that the Middle East conflict is too complex for a student government body to judge;
* Whereas every Israeli crime against humanity we can dredge up, imagine or pull out of our rear end (contained in the following 16-paragraph indictment) is absolutely and unconditionally true;
* Resolved: The 16 of us (or .045% of the 35,843 students enrolled at the university) have decided that Berkeley is now part of the BDS movement;
* Resolved: the textbook example of taking sides in the Middle East conflict represented by this resolution should not be interpreted as taking sides in the Middle East conflict (because we just said so)
In short, in the minds of the BDSers, victory is not measured by actual wins (of which they have none) or losses (such as Davis). Rather, their success is self-defined as getting their words (all 1700 of them in the case of this resolution) stuffed into the mouth of an organization that is more well known than the boycotters themselves (which pretty much includes everyone).
It was particularly amusing to read this crow that links the Berkeley vote to the BDSers Hampshire “victory,” which – in Pinky and the Brain fashion – is interpreted to mean that their movement now has unstoppable momentum. The fact that Hampshire divestment was exposed as a hoax over a year ago seems to have not sunk in with them, nor has the fact that the students who overplayed their hand at Hampshire helped send a warning signal to every college administration in the country about what to expect when BDS comes knocking at the door.
Now I could be cruel and use the divest-niks own formula (which says that investment in = political support for the Jewish state) to claim that Berkeley’s continuing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Israel (despite demands that they divest) demonstrates the true political position of the university (a position that likely involves the decision of more than 16 undergraduates).
But instead I’ll be generous and agree with the Berkeley-16 that the opinion of a dozen-and-a-quarter people must be considered sacrosanct. In which case, I’ve decided to play with a new widget that comes with Blogger, a poll (which you’ll see to your right) that lets you, my dear reader, weigh in on the issue of Berkeley’s divestment resolution. And remember – according BDSers themselves – only 16 votes are needed to make this non-binding “resolution” legitimate.
Vote early, (but preferably not often)!