Olympia BDS: Inside Out

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.

, , , , , , , ,

8 Responses to Olympia BDS: Inside Out

  1. Berd August 4, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    BDS—IS a nonviolent tactic of persuasion.

    BDS—Does NOT seek to demonize Israel.

    BDS seeks to persuade Israel to change—to stop its destructive behavior.

    Israel needs to change, for the good of all people, including both Palestinians AND Israelis!

  2. Jon August 4, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    I'm afraid making the same claims for the upteenth time (with exclamation points this time) is still not a substitute for providing a genuine argument.

    As an aside, your “non-violent tactic of persuasion” seems to have been used quite a bit of late to attack Palestinians “guilty” of the crime of trying to find means of peaceful reconciliation with their Israeli neighbors. In other words, BDS is not simply a propaganda tool in and of itself, but a means of pressuring those who truly seek peace to stop doing so.

    Perhaps it is you and your fellow BDSers that needs to change for the good of all people, especially the Palestinians who you are doing so much to harm while claiming to be their champions.

    Just a thought.

  3. DrMike August 4, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    actually Berd is right on one point:

    BDS does try to persuade Israel to change–into the 23rd Arab nation.

    Berd, next time you post, please provide some actual reference (from the BDS movement itself) that they will accept peace with a Jewish state of Israel. Until then, please desist from promoting the fiction that this is just a nonviolent way to pressure Israel to make concessions for peace.

  4. Anonymous August 5, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    Berd, nothing more needs to be said than this ….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifZLk6Ei9-U&feature=player_embedded

  5. Jade August 6, 2010 at 4:29 am #

    Since I have known these people for years in the context of small town life, and have seen the other activist work they have done, I know they were not working with “outside agitators”. They have been working on BDS-related issues for a few years now. These are not career activists, but a group of local parents, faith community members, volunteers, students, and other ordinary people who care about the Middle East. As you probably know, the call for BDS was issued in 2005 from 170 Palestinian organizations. Since then many world leaders have endorsed it, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Naomi Klein, Richard Falk and others who are respected leaders for peace and justice globally. Some people in my town became interested in honoring it, and started working on that in 2007. Since the Coop made its decision, they have asked for endorsements for our community's work from world leaders who have already said they support BDS. This was a local group that formed purely out of humanitarian and altruistic interest. These people have nothing to gain personally from BDS or from anything that happens in Israel. Since they are well-known community members in our town, it does not benefit your argument to try to raise suspicions about them or their motives.
    We all know them, and agree or disagree with BDS, we know they are not working for some conspiracy or making a bunch of money on this.
    The worst you can say about them without telling outright lies is that they may be misguided.

  6. Jon August 6, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    As a matter of fact, the BDS movement did not start in 2005 with PACBI (the organization and resolution you are talking about when you describe “a call for BDS issued by 170 Palestinian organizations,”) but in 2001 at the NGO meeting associated with the Durban I “anti-racism” conference. It was only after BDS was in action for several years (at Harvard-MIT, the Presbyterian Church, etc.) that PACBI was organized in 2004 and called for BDS in 2005.

    I don’t bring this up to pick nits, but to point out that the narrative under which you are working in which BDS welled up from the Palestinian grassroots and was then embraced by peace-loving individuals and organizations throughout the world is, at best, a self-serving construct, a storyline which allows you to somehow marry your desire to be declared a local, grassroots project (which justifies hostility to criticism from “outsiders”) and simultaneously part of an international movement free to bring in any names, people or resources you like to support the BDS cause (even if that’s at the expense of your neighbors who disagree with you) while simultaneously trying to export your boycott to other communities around the globe.

    Again, I have no doubt that you believe with every fiber of your being in a narrative that places you squarely on the side of the angels. Which may explain the desire to push “outsiders” like myself (who possess information – such as the fact noted above – that would conflict with such a satisfying, if inaccurate storyline and self-characterization) beyond the pale.

  7. Anonymous August 16, 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    The BDS itself is fueled by “Outside Agitators”. Anti-Israel groups across the world sent out a call to support the Boycott and sign the petition

  8. Berd August 24, 2010 at 5:37 am #

    After what the Jewish people faced in Europe during the holocaust it is sad to see Jews in Israel treating Palestinians so poorly, in many cases the very same as Jews were treated by Nazis.

    The conflict between Jews and Palestinians is a key obstacle to world peace.

    Here are some more of my current thoughts on this matter:

    Boycott and BDS are good not only for Palestinians, but for Jews as well, who are also suffering as a result of the harmful policies of the government of Israel.

    It seems to me that the State of Israel (and Jews by proxy) are being used as a tool of the US policy of global dominance.

    So, pressuring the State of Israel to change via BDS, considering the international state of political affairs, seems to be the most nonviolent approach.

    I also recognize that many Jews are experiencing very real fear of annihilation—fear over the survival of their family, culture and loved ones.

    Many Jewish folks feel threatened, and those feelings are very real.

    And it seems that cultural identity for many Jews is strongly connected to Israel, and I appreciate people's desire to make our local community safe for Jews, no matter what happens in the wider world. I think that's important.

    And I think it is the policies of the USA and the State of Israel that are the greatest danger to the survival of the Jewish religion and Jewish cultural identity(s).

    Bottom-line, the State of Israel needs to change. And this also must include an analysis of the imperialistic/hegemonic policies of US global dominance.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes