In re-reading the Globe piece on BDS last night, it occurred to me that a bit more research would have shown the weakness of the three examples (Elvis Costello, the SF Dockworkers refusing to unload an Israeli ship, and the Olympia Co-op boycott) being held up to demonstrate that boycott and divestment advocates have the wind at their back.
After all, the ripple effect of Elvis Costello’s decision to boycott the Jewish state didn’t extend to the rocker’s own bedroom (Costello’s wife Diana Krall played Israel this month). Nor did it prevent other aging pop stars like Elton John and Johnny Lydon (formerly Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) from flipping boycotters the bird as they traveled to Israel to play to packed audiences.
In San Francisco, the ship that local protestors demanded dockworkers refuse to unload turned out to be from the People’s Republic of China (not Israel). It was hours after the protestors left the docks patting each other on the back for a job well done that a ship containing Israeli goods arrives to be unloaded without incident.
And as for the Olympia Food Co-op, I’ve already extensively covered the exceptional nature of this boycott, given that other co-ops (notably ones in Davis California and Seattle Washington) gave boycott advocates a hearing before giving their proposals the heave ho. Interestingly, co-ops that refused to heed boycott calls seem to be doing just fine, even as Olympia has to hire professional facilitators to keep proponents and opponents of the boycott from tearing at each other while the organization’s leaders flounder around trying to justify why they bent (and possibly broke) the organization’s rules in order to make their boycott decision behind the backs of the membership.
But I believe the thing that struck me the most while re-reading the Globe piece was not anything the original author wrote, but the headline given the piece (a decision usually made by an editor): “Support Builds for boycotts against Israel, activists say”. Well they would say that, wouldn’t they? After all, what are their alternatives?
“Boycott and Divestment has been Failing to a Decade Now, but We Will Continue to Push It Since it Makes Us Feel Good, Activists Say”
“We May Have Gotten Caught Trying to Pass Off Another BDS Hoax Last Week, But That Won’t Prevent Us From Trying Again, Activists Say”
Or how about (God Forbid) a headline that actually reflects the facts such as “Israel Boycott Attempts Still Controversial after Ten Years”.
The whole “activists say” trope reminded me of a piece by Jonathan Cristol I read recently on the challenges of writing about a post-modern BDS movement that considers every success and every failure an example of its own unstoppable momentum:
“So an article or incident that is in favor of BDS is proof that BDS is gaining steam; and an article or incident against BDS proves that it is gaining steam so quickly that the writer or publication is nervous about it. A victory is a victory and a loss is a victory.”
So what does another newspaper article on BDS add up to? I’ll give Cristol the last word:
“BDS has had so few triumphs that every extremely minor victory is blown up as “proof” that the movement is gaining steam. I suspect that this phenomenon is the natural psychological coping mechanism of people who have devoted themselves to an ineffective, offensive, and hopeless cause.”