Courage

Now and then (usually in response to comments) I’ve posed the question: what if the world is NOT as the BDSers perceive it? What if there’s even a one-percent chance that the suffering in the region is NOT fueled entirely by Israeli villainy directed at pristinely innocent Palestinians (with no role played by the rest of the nations in the Middle East)?

What if these non-Israeli players (including, God forbid, the Palestinians) have agency and what if their decisions (including decisions to reject one peace offer after another) contribute to the suffering of themselves and others? And what if there is even the smallest of chances that BDS (like other propaganda campaigns) send a message to the Palestinians that “help is on the way!” “Don’t compromise,” the message continues. “Don’t give up your hope of total victory. For eventually our activity (be it BDS or some other form of de-legitimization) will so cripple the Jewish state that you will get everything you want without having to give up a single thing.”

Even if you reject the premise that someone other than Israel has primary responsibility for the misery in the region, accepting that there is even a tiny chance that my counter-narrative might be true means accepting there is a non-zero chance that BDS is contributing to the very suffering it claims to be fighting to end.

Which brings up the question of what is the mindset of those who blindly follow the BDS route and refuse to consider any possible negative consequences? It’s easy to accuse BDSers of pure cynicism, of claiming to be battling for peace, but secretly longing for war (whatever the cost to, among other people, the Palestinians the boycotters claim to care about). But I’ve generally been of the mind that the primary factor behind this phenomenon is not cynicism or secret longing for violence (at someone else’s expense, of course), but fantasy.

As I’ve described before, in the BDSers mind they are part of a bold, far-thinking, virtuous vanguard, the only people who see the world as it really is and act accordingly. Under that framework, why should it matter if BDS might cause an increase in suffering of Israelis or Palestinians or fellow church, school, city or co-op members? After all, these individuals are not really people, but are merely props in a drama taking place in the boycotter’s own head (or, more accurately, in the interaction between BDSers who are simultaneously indulging in a common fantasy).

I ran across two examples to illustrate this concept, both drawn from the recent dust up at Olympia. I first stumbled on this piece while looking for confirmation that the boycott decision was made by the Olympia board with only members from the BDS community (and no opposing voices) in the room. But reading this piece more closely, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. No doubt I will be accused of insensitivity to someone’s heartfelt confessions about how the boycott has impacted him personally. But in reading this piece over again, the two words that spring out (since they’re repeated more frequently than any other item) are “I” and “me.”

For this writer, the Middle East is not about Israelis or Palestinians, it’s about himself or, more specifically, his own feelings about himself as a ‘white, owning class, straight, Christian, able-bodied man” contending with his own courage in speaking truth to power despite feelings of his own vulnerability. Yes, stories of alleged Israeli atrocities dot his narrative, but only to demonstrate why he has chosen to act so selflessly. There is no need to confirm that these stories are accurate, or to put them in context since the subject is not Israelis or Palestinians or the Middle East or the US or the Olympia Food Co-op, but the all-encompassing, all-critical, all-important “I”.

In a second example, local BDSers have taken recently to discussing whether or not their participation in a boycott constitutes a great act of bravery. While some commenters (again, demonstrating their own selflessness) point out that their courage is nothing as compared to those confronting repression directly, at least one person has dug out the old “death threat” trope to give the impression that someone taking an anti-Israel stand in Olympia Washington is doing anything other than making the safest choice imaginable.

Given that a few Olys occasionally comment on this site, I strongly suspect that we’ll soon be re-visited by some of these valorous fantasists angry over my refusal to accept at face value their accusations of having received uncountable death threats. To which I would simply reply that every time I attend a publically advertised pro-Israel event in Boston, part of the evening always seems to involve walking through a metal detector. And never, in all my years of activism, have I heard any of my friends who also partake in these events bragging about their courage for joining programs where such security measures are necessary.

When BDS meetings in Oly start requiring similar security, then perhaps their claims of being under siege can be taken seriously. Until then, their alleged courage (like their alleged virtue) – while dripping from every pore of the BDSers fantasy selves – is in remarkably short supply here in the real world.

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13 Responses to Courage

  1. Zachary September 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

    Such bravery!! Standing up to the 1 Jewish state out of 200 independent countries, of which 50+ are Moslem, and to 14 million Jews out of 7+ billion humans on earth. If John Kennedy were alive, he would add a chapter to his book “Profiles in Courage.” Some people would think these heroes were taking a cheap shot at Israel, but that is because they do not understand the terrible inner struggles the BDS people go through.

  2. Anonymous September 2, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    From the BDS'ers blogpost:
    “How often are we forced to reconcile internal doubts or consider personal process for people that destroy our houses, kill our livestock, burn our harvest, poison our wells, steal our water and humiliate us in front of our families? “

    “Poison our wells?????” Is it my just my imagination or do the same reoccurring themes of anti-Semitic imagery from medieval times keep re-occurring with the BDS'ers?

    At least we should be relieved he didn't claim “Use our children's blood for their holiday crackers”

  3. George September 3, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    Does anyone know Rachel Corrie?

  4. Anonymous September 3, 2010 at 4:38 am #

    Who is Emily Henochowicz and how did she lose an eye?

  5. Anonymous September 3, 2010 at 4:44 am #

    Jon-

    You must really have strong stomach to read this stuff, and spend so much time and energy on it! Kudos.

    This was an interesting psychological speculation. I have often wondered what makes these people tick.

    Nycerbarb

  6. Anonymous September 3, 2010 at 7:29 am #

    Does any one know Marla Bennett? How about Daniel Wultz? There were just innocent Americans killed while eating their lunch, targetted solely because they were Jews in Israel. They were not interferring with army activities in a war zone. They were eating their lunch.
    So, anonymouse, did you know their names? And if not, why not?

  7. Anonymous September 3, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Marla Bennet was a student from UC Berkeley who was killed in teh bombing of teh cafeteria at Hebrew Unniversity, around the same time as Rachel Corrie.
    danial Wultz was a 16 year old boy fromFlorida, killed in a suicide bombing while eating falafel with his father.
    Abu Nasser, a senior leader of the Al Aqsa Brigades in the West Bank, rejoiced in Wultz' injuries, saying ” American and Zionist – this is the best target combination we could dream of. This is the ideal target.”

    So, anonymouse, did you know the names of Marla bennett and Daniel Wultz?

  8. Anonymous September 4, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Ooops another music band, Massive Attack, decides to boycott Israel.

  9. Anonymous September 5, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    Jethro Tull just played in Israel. Oops.

    They play with Shlomo Gronich – Bouree and he plays the opening chords to Hatikvah. I could be wrong, but it seems to me he is delivering a great big hearty fuck you to all the BDS'ers out there!

    Oh, yes. LCD soundsystem also played in Israel last week. Ooops. Way to go, James Murphy!

    Johnny Rotten, former singer of the British band the Sex Pistols, issued the following statement to the Independent newspaper about his concert in Tel Aviv: Oops.

    “But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won't understand how anyone can have a problem with how they're treated.”

  10. Michael September 6, 2010 at 7:11 am #

    Jon, I think I know the BDSer who claims he gets death threats. I wrote to Noah Sochet to tell him that his boycott has split our Olympia community for he personal political cause. He wrote back and said, “Frankly, after receiving hundreds of death threats for my position on this boycott, my patience for the shame-on-yous is wearing very thin.”

    I wrote back and said,”Noah, please send me some of your death threat messages. Take your time – it will take you a while to write them.”

    Here was his reply: “Please do not contact me again.”

    I have the feeling that he has put me on his list of “hundreds” who as sent him death threats for calling him out on his phony claim. LOL!

  11. Anonymous September 6, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    Who is Emily Henochowicz and how did she lose an eye?

    That must be the Israeli soldier who lost an eye after being hit by a stone during a non-violent demonstration against the security barrier

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/soldier-hit-by-stone-during-anti-fence-protest-loses-eye-1.160373

  12. Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 3:48 am #

    Who is Tristan Anderson anyone?

  13. Jon September 7, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    Michael – Up until now, I've chosen to give the Olympia BDSers the benefit of the doubt regarding receiving threatening phone calls in response to their boycott. It's certainly within the realm of possibility that somewhere in the world there's a deranged individual who thinks they're doing good by attacking boycotters in such an ugly and unproductive way.

    But “hundreds of death threats” directed at one person? Coming from whom? And how do they know who Mr. Sochet is and how to contact him? And have they been directed at Mr. Sochet alone, or has everyone in the organization received the same 100+ “death threats” Sochet refers to?

    Since this would mean that the number of “death threats” directed at the organization was numbered not in the hundreds but in the thousands, where are the police reports and security arrangements at the Co-op and local BDS meetings to reflect this threat level? We get metal detectors at Israel-related events in Boston based simply on the assumption that violence is a possibility. Is Sochel saying that Oly has received hundreds or thousands of threats yet has implemented no security at all?

    I've been doing the BDS thing for upwards of five years now and I don't think the number of threats (real or alleged) directed at anyone on any side of any debate adds up to something higher than single digits total. So unless an obscure co-op in Washington somehow gets more attention from deranged anti-boycott activists (presuming they exist) than every other institution in the world that has flirted with BDS, I believe it is now in the Oly BDSers court to prove that these threats are genuine, rather than it being our responsibility to prove their unlikely accusations are false.

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