In the face of condemnations of their boycott pouring in from more and more members, and even the local press questioning a boycott decision that seems to have had so little input from the community, Olympia BDS champion have taken lately to feigning mock outrage over comments that their boycott project involved “outside agitators.” In one sweet (if inept) attempt at political jui jitsu, one such champion has even announced that the only real outside agitator in the conflict is me and this blog.
Where to begin unpacking the notion of who is “out” and who is “in” when analyzing this latest twist in the Olympia Co-op debate?
Let’s begin by noting that attempts to get food co-ops to boycott Israel products have been a major push for the US branch of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) “movement” for most of this year, announced on their Web sites and attempted in places like Davis California and elsewhere many months before the matter came up at Olympia.
Given this, are we expected to believe that the Olympia boycott campaign involved no one but local “grassroots activists” and co-op members? That no other members of the worldwide divest-and-boycott scene that the OlyBDS group proudly lists on their Web site were any way involved with activities leading to the recent boycott vote?
Since the boycott vote was taken, Olympia BDSers wasted no time getting individuals and organizations from around the planet to show their support for their campaign. They also seem to have gone into overdrive firing off press releases across the globe insisting, among other things, that other co-ops should follow Oly’s lead.
This is, of course, their right as it is the right of any political organization to try to capitalize on any momentum it generates. But at what point does an allegedly “local” program pulling in re-enforcements from around the planet to (among other things) condemn other members of the community lose its right to claim to be purely on the inside? And does a project like BDS, engaged as it is in butting into other people’s business on a global scale (most recently by insisting that food co-ops in other communities should do what Oly’s done) have a leg to stand on when complaining about “outsiders” criticizing it’s activities and behavior?
Pulling the camera back further, a boycott decision in and of itself is meant to reach a worldwide audience. If this was just a matter of denying members the ability to buy a few Israeli-made crackers, there would be no need for all those press releases. But, point of fact, the Olympia Co-op has decided to have its own publically declared foreign policy which it backs up with the moral weight of the institution.
Having publically declared that Israel is such a horrible place that it alone in all the Middle East deserves to be punished (with the corollary that those of us who support Israel are apologists for a criminal, racist, murderous state), it’s a bit rich to see people start complaining when the accused (including me) decide to respond.
Regarding that response, I should note that I have never posed as a member of the Olympia community, carefully pointing out in my posts and comments that my contribution to the debate is that of someone who has seen these conflicts play out before. In other words, I’ve presented myself as an experienced outsider, not a home boy.
Given that people seem to kvetching about I and other “outsiders” having their say, I’m curious as to just how “inside” these complainers truly are? In all their actions, they represent the global BDS program, not the Co-op, not the town of Olympia and certainly not the many other people in whose names they want to speak. And they are leveraging the voices they have hijacked (including 15,000 Oly Co-op members who never agreed to become part of the BDS “movement”) to get into the face of everyone in the world who in any way cares about the Middle East (including me).
Needless to say, it’s a time-honored political tactic to claim that your side is made up solely of grassroots community members while the other guy’s side is a global conspiracy of people who couldn’t find the community on a map. But in today’s Facebook Age, information travels freely. And if the BDSers consider themselves free to use this technology to play in a global sandbox, they can’t complain when others show up to, among other things, pull back the façade from their pose as representing nothing more than local interests.