It once seemed obvious that the significance of BDS and related battles always take a back seat to events on the ground in the Middle East. After all, whenever violence breaks out in the region (whether in Lebanon, Gaza, or in boats off the Gaza coast), that tends to drive the agendas of Israel’s detractors and supporters rather than our activities driving what happens “over there.”
I’ve been rethinking that premise as news of the recent clash at the Israel-Lebanese border and the slowly but surely escalating rocket attacks from Gaza testify to the fact that Hezbollah and Hamas are, once again, testing their limits; trying to find out how far they can push before inviting a military response.
Certainly the dynamics related to being a militant organization (or, more accurately, part of a network of militant organizations) drives decisions on whether or not to pull the trigger every now and then. After all, a Hamas or Hezbollah leader with thousands of missiles at his disposal who constantly brags about past and future victories (real or imagined) against the dreaded Zionists will always face challenges by those posing as being even more militant. And how better to prove your challengers wrong than by lobbing the occasional rocket, even if this frequently leads to events spinning out of control?
Thinking through the calculations militants in Lebanon or Gaza must go through when deciding how far to push, it occurred to me that the response they have seen during previous clashes (which included thousands of anti-Israel protestors taking to the streets whenever Israel finally responded to an attack) must play a role in such an analysis.
After all, when war broke out in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008, leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas learned that their job was to hold out long enough for protests abroad to drive international calls for a cease fire, one that might leave militants battered but not defeated. Seeing this dynamic play out twice (three times, if you count the recent brouhaha over the Gaza Flotilla attack) may have finally confirmed that such activity can and should be taken into account when making military decisions.
Now most anti-Israel campaigners (who wrap themselves thickly in the mantle of “peace activists”) would violently reject the notion that they serve the role of a military implement (even unwittingly), something generals take into account alongside weapons, logistics and personnel considerations. They could be forgiven such an attitude, but for the fact that they always seem able to hold their tongues while militant organizations prepare for war, only taking to the streets after such a war has been started (or, more accurately, after Israel decides to respond militarily to attacks).
Even a seemingly trivial event such as the Olympia Co-op boycott (which could be dismissed as just another example of how BDS can’t seem to score a win anywhere beyond a ten mile radius around Rachel Corrie’s house) can be viewed in this light. You will, after all, not see any boycott of Lebanese products at the store, even though last week’s attack was so brazen that even the UN has fingered Lebanon as the culprit. And Palestinian “Peace Oil” will stay on Oly’s shelves no matter how many missiles Hamas decides to fire into Israeli territory.
But if the situation ever gets so bad (as it did in ’06 and ’08) that Israel unsheathes its sword, you can expect the Oly BDSers to link arms with like-minded activists around the planet to protest Israel’s response in the same assertive and aggressive way they have done in the past.
In their minds, “war” (defined only as Israeli military action, not the military action of others that might have triggered it) must be protested in the name of “peace” (defined as Israel not taking military action, even if as its self-avowed enemies continually rearm and test their limits).
This being the case, Israel’s detractors begin to look more and more like a weapon system than the heirs of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Perhaps it is this reality that makes them so vociferous with regard to hailing their own virtues and peace credentials. For if your foundational premise is your own unquestionable goodness, how much simpler it is to befog the air with the rhetoric of peace (and lash out at critics) than to step back and ponder how you ended up on the military balance sheet of those preparing for the next war.