BDS’s Latest Victim

21 Jul

OK – Another institution has decided to take the plunge into the BDS waters. So let’s all set our watches for what is going to happen next.

The Olympia Co-op story is similar to Somerville and Berkeley in that the decision to join the world-wide boycott movement against Israel was made by a group of leaders (the co-op’s board) working closely with BDS activists to craft their decision, but taking into account virtually no one else that the board was supposedly elected to represent.

Now co-op rules apparently say that the board can boycott anyone they like without consulting the membership. So if we are to get into a debate about the board’s responsibility (which we will on another day), it will be a discussion of propriety and judgment vs. breaking the law or the organization’s own rules.

For now, however, we can classify Olympia as comparable to those other BDS “victories” where members of an organization, church, or city wake up one morning to discover that a community in which they’ve been a member for years is now being touted on Al Jazeera as holding a political opinion (such as the BDS Israel=Apartheid analogy) that many members finds abhorrent .

Apparently a meeting will be held in early August to discuss the decision the Co-op has already made regarding handing their reputation over to the boycott brigade. If history is any guide, this will lead to a second meeting and then finally a third when the co-op (which by now will have realized the consequences of their original decision) will have to vote to reject or double-down on this ill-conceived boycott project.

So I predict three meetings in August and September that will be increasingly populous, increasingly long, and increasingly shrill, with people who once smiled at each other in the food aisles shoving photos of bloody babies into one another’s faces, after giving many speeches that include such phrases as “blood on your hands,” “international law demands” and (of course) “Speaking as a Jew…”.

You can all get a little taste of what the Olympia Co-op’s board has wrought unto the organization by scanning the comments section of the Co-op itself, the local newspaper and this poll. As usual, comments on this subject outnumber any other discussion by a factor of 10x heading to 30-50x. And (equally as usual) those comments have degenerated into accusations of bad faith, apologia for murderers, bigotry and criminality (directed against Israel and its supporters, and the boycotters and their supporters). Given the small size of the Olympia community, I predict these comments will top out at the 100-150 mark (vs. the usual 300-500), but it should give everyone a taste of what delightful topics of conversation are in store for the community for the rest of the year.

And so BDS injects its toxins into another institution. And, as usual, it’s a friendly, welcoming organization that prides itself on its commitment to justice and human rights, even if its political choices are based more on moral vanity and political fads than an understanding of facts and issues.

While I’m no fan of politics based on striking poses, I must say there are worse sins in the universe than vain overreach. Which is why I’m left feeling kind of sorry for the Olympia Co-op over what is about to hit their community due to the ill-conceived decisions of a few, acting at the behest of a not-so-innocent BDS “movement” that is smacking its lips at the thought of dragging the circus to another community, no matter what the cost.

19 Responses to “BDS’s Latest Victim”

  1. Anonymous July 21, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    Excellent comments. I have Jewish friends in Olympia and they are heartsick.
    The comments about the glares in the grocery aisle and waving pictures of dead babies are all too right on.
    Way to go, Olympia Co-op, you've pitted neighbor against neighbor.

  2. Jon July 22, 2010 at 2:17 am #

    Feel free to have your Olympia friends contact me if they're interested in how campaigns like this have been reversed or blunted in similarly abused communities in the past.

  3. Avni July 22, 2010 at 4:57 am #

    I found the comments by the coop members particularly surprising. There are apparently a lot of intelligent and thoughtful people in Olympia. Chalk up one for them. Israel still has some friends.

  4. Clare Kinberg July 22, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    While I agree with you regarding the wrongheadedness of the BDS movement, I think you should also point out the possibility of using the crisis the coop board created as an opportunity to educate folks about other ways to be peace activists on this issue. I live near Ann Arbor, MI, where this scenario has been playing out for several years (before even this recent spat of BDS campaigns). Also, since members of my family are among the Jewish leadership in Olympia, I've been following all this with horror, but also trying to apply and practice lessons from the past. Supporters of J Street, as I am, share an urgency to end the violence and see a resolution of the conflict, but of course we believe Israel and the Palestinian people both must be supported toward this end. The many coop members who aren't motivated by hate but by genuine concerns for peace, will appreciate learning of other ways to be active on this issue.

  5. Anonymous July 22, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    To the first anonymous commentor:

    There is a time for being heartsick, and a time to organize and mobilize.

    You know what time this is.

    This is not about finding a different source for your Israeli feta and Israeli couscous. The entire goal of the BDS movement is the de-legitimization of Israel- the denial of our people self determination in our native homeland. Therefore, every battleground is significant.

    So tell your friends to mobilize.
    1. Check letters to the editors online and in print. Any articulate advocates for our side? Contact them. Arrange a meeting

    2. Call the synagogue and Chabad (yes, there is a Evergreen Chabad) even if they don't want to get involved in “politics”, they might be willing to get involved behind the scenes. They might be willing to announce events or meetings on their mailing list.

    3. Call or email Rob and Seattle Stand With Us. SWU has resources you can use. And the writer of this blog who offered to help? Take him up on it. Really.

    4. Organize, organize, organize. Go into the Co-op meeting prepared.

  6. Berd July 25, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    I have Jewish friends in Olympia who are happy about the boycott decision.

  7. Jon July 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm #

    Berd – I’m sure that this is true and I have no doubt that some of these Jews are your best friends.

    The sociology behind Jews and even Israelis involved with efforts to demonize their fellow Jews (such as BDS) is well known enough that I won’t go into it here (although you can read my thoughts on the subject at http://www.divestthis.com/2010/05/jew-vs-jew.html).

    The only additional point I would make is that given how little the boycotters care about the opinion of Jewish members of the Olympia Co-op as a whole (not to mention the vast majority of Jewish opinion which supports Israel and condemns BDS), it’s never been clear to me why we are constantly being asked to fall down before the opinions of a tiny minority of Jews who share your opinions on the Middle East.

  8. Berd July 28, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    Tiny minority?

  9. Jon July 28, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    >>Tiny minority?

    Nice to meet you, Tiny.

    And I'm Jon.

  10. Berd July 28, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    Jon,

    Are you sure it's a “tiny minority” of Jews that oppose what Israel is doing to Palestinians?

    Do you think it's possible that there actually might be a majority of Jews who oppose the policies and practices of occupation and apartheid?

  11. Jon July 29, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    I don't know Berd, do you think it's possible that there actually might be a majority of Jews who believe that vulgar accusations of Apartheid are simply a form of propaganda warfare, used by people who hide their militancy behind a pose as peaceful humanitarians?

  12. Berd July 29, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    vulgar accusations of apartheid. Jon, that is incredibly invalidating of the well-documented suffering that Palestinians are experiencing as a result of Israeli hostility.

    Do you really think that people who work for peace are hiding their militancy?

    I don't hide my militancy. I am highly militant. I am militantly opposed to lying, for example. I am also militantly opposed to people hurting each other.

    I am militantly opposed to this harmful system.

    And I am militantly supportive of people's efforts to support each other for social change, to work for a world that works for everyone, where all people are treated well, and equally—where all people treat each other well.

    I am militantly in support of liberation from oppression, for all people, forevermore.

    Of course, I should give you the benefit of the doubt here, Jon, and assume that you're talking about some hidden quest to dominate and subject, and exert control.

    And to that, the answer is no. And frankly, I am sorry that you question the motives of those who work for peace, and I encourage you to get to know people.

    Work to build relationships and friendships. Take some risks. Tell the truth about your feelings. Be vulnerable, tell people how you have been hurt. People may come to better understand you, and there may be opportunity to build trust, and real peace.

    As far as accusations of Apartheid go, I am also sorry that those seem vulgar to you, but it is clear to me that apartheid conditions exist, and that Palestinians are a subjugated group, and that the situation must change, for the good of all people.

  13. Jon July 29, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    The term “vulgar” is really a catch all for the type of inversion represented by the Apartheid accusation thrown against Israel by its critics. After all, it’s common knowledge that those very critics provided Apartheid South Africa with the oil it needed to run its repressive state, even as they were hurling accusations of “Apartheid” against Israel. And the repression of women, homosexuals and religious minorities throughout the Middle East are the greatest examples in the world of gender Apartheid, sexual Apartheid and religious Apartheid.

    Now I’m not bringing up these uncontestable facts to point fingers, after all it was you who brought up the subject of Apartheid, not me.

    But it does beg the question as to why accusations of Apartheid are always on the lips of those who practice it the most or those, like you, who choose to ignore it where it really exists.

  14. Berd July 29, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

    Jon, do you think it's possible that I might interpret you accusation of peace activists harboring some hidden agenda to oppress and subjugate badly?

    So I understand what you're saying here. The point is that the facts on the ground tell a story of Palestinian suffering.

    I think that you're not coming at this very rationally, and that you need to admit that you harbor resentment toward Palestinians and Arabs.

  15. Jon July 30, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    Berd – If you actually read any of the things I’ve been posting both here or at the various Oly forums (rather than just pretending to acknowledge them and then repeating your same accusations over and over again), you would know where I stand vis-à-vis BDS and alternative explanations to the origins and nature of the problems in the Middle East.

    In truth, I’ve gotten so used to the arsenal of rhetorical tricks used by BDS advocates and Israel bashers generally (never acknowledge alternative arguments, repeat accusations endlessly, use terms like “international law” as though they signify settled disputes rather than controversies, tap into sympathies for Palestinian suffering while never acknowledging the suffering of others or the suffering of Palestinians at each other’s hands, stuffing your messages and tag lines with “peace-loving” gobbltygook to allegedly establish your credentials as a “peace activist,” rather than a narrow partisan, etc.) that I rarely feel the need to even acknowledge them.

    The trouble is, Berd, your use of these well-worn devices is so laughably amateurish that it’s getting painful to watch you in action. I realize that within BDS ranks, people tend to grade one another on a pretty steep curve with regard to virtue, bravery and intelligence and within a small BDS community such as the one in Olympia, I suspect you would find yourself treated as a Philosopher King. So while you are free to continue to repeat the same message you’ve posted here several times ad infinitum, perhaps you’re better off sticking to forums where what passes for your “technique” is not so embarrassingly transparent.

    Just a friendly suggestion.

  16. Berd July 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    Jon, if that's what you call friendly, I think that there is a vast gulf that exists between us.

    Basically Jon, it's pretty simple. People deserve to be treated well.

    Your ad hominem attacks on BDS are illogical and based not in reason, but in irrationality and fear.

    I wish you would stop, and apologize for the ways that you hurt people.

  17. Jon July 30, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    Berd – Your critique implies that my comments are unfair or somewhat hostile, but point of fact I've done nothing but state truths that some people (including you apparently) don't want to see the light of day.

    And as for hostility, that too is far from the case certainly with regard to your contribution to this debate which I find quite dear. The childlike way in which you ape more sophisticated rhetorical tricks that you clearly have not mastered reminds me of interactions with my own kids, although I certainly hope they gain a better sense of audience than some people I can name before they hit adulthood.

  18. Berd July 30, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    Jon, you insult me—you call me and my argument names—rather than provide a substantial argument.

  19. Jon July 30, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    >Jon, you insult me

    Is that a request? OK – You smell!

    >you call me and my argument names—rather than provide a substantial argument.

    Technically speaking, you have yet to provide any arguments, above and beyond pleas to stop being mean to you (a fairly rich “argument” from someone who spends so much time accusing his neighbors of being apologists for racist murderers).

    Now, paraphrasing one of fiction's greatest characters: Eclipse yourself, moon!

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