Tactics – Language

Continuing on the topic of tactics (hey! alliteration!), one of the main elements of the “even-when-we-lose-we-win” tactic of the BDS “movement” is their declaration that even when they lose (which is always), they have actually “won” because the subject of their choice (Israel’s guilt) has become a topic of conversation within the community or organization upon which they have inflicted themselves.

Putting aside any value judgments one might make about such behavior, as a political tactic this way of operating has some merit. For if the long-term propaganda goal of BDS is to brand Israel the new Apartheid South Africa, what better way to accomplish this than refusing to talk about anything else?

Anti-boycotters have seen the effectiveness of this tactic whenever they have tried to put BDSers on the defensive by bringing up issues such as Hamas rocket fire, repression, or the general human rights quagmire of Israel’s neighbors, especially with regard to the treatment of minorities (both religious and racial), women and homosexuals.

But hopes to use such accusations to put the divestniks on notice that two can play the accusation game inevitably runs into the problem of the BDS cru absolutely refusing to listen to matters outside their agenda, much less respond to them. Thus, accusations against Hamas, the PA or the Arab states are either ignored, dismissed with a scoffing laugh or insincerely accepted and then immediately met with another broadside of accusations against the Jewish state.

This same tactic is used when Israel’s friends and supporters, or even just people seeking reconciliation between conflicting parties, try to find common ground between warring factions in a BDS war dragged into a college campus or other civic institution. This behavior reached a perverse highlight at Columbia University where petitions calling for dialog were met with a refusal by Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (CSJP) to engage in any dialog that does not begin with an acceptance of all of their arguments regarding who is right and who is wrong in the Middle East conflict.

In one sense, it is a risk for organizations like CSJP to be perceived (accurately) as refusing to participate in attempts to find common ground. But the value of maintaining control of the language is so valuable that BDS advocates will go to almost any length to avoid having to acknowledge that another point of view even exists, much less has merit.

This leaves us with an interesting challenge of what tactics to pursue that must take into account that BDS champions, as part of their founding principles, will never allow other opinions into the conversation. Is there a way to gain control of the language in such a situation?

Perhaps… (to be continued).

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6 Responses to Tactics – Language

  1. Anonymous December 13, 2010 at 2:37 am #

    There are two realities. First, Israel's policies “on the ground” consist of a brutal occupation, check points, land thefts in east Jerusalem, settler violence and sabotage of Palestinian farms. Second, Then the SJP on campuses and the reaction of some of the jewish members of these campus communities. Suddenly the issue is “it's complicated” or “let's talk” or we the Jews “don't feel safe in this environment”, I saw this first hand in Berkeley. The reality on the ground is not complicated at all. Here's an idea to my Jewish friends on campuses: get the facts, take a trip to the region and see the “facts on the ground” and you will see firsthand and for yourself what goes on in the territories and what israel's rhetoric is. You will be shocked.

  2. Jon December 13, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    While I've made good use of false choices when interacting with my kids (at least until they turned 6), trying to use this technique with grown ups tends to deliver sameness and lameness seen so clearly illustrated in the comment above.

    Perhaps there is another alternative to (1) Israel the unquestionably brutal aggressor guilty of every imaginable charge and 100% to blame for all problems in the Middle East and (2) “It's complicated”.

    Perhaps the real problem in the Middle East is simply dysfunctional politics in the Arab world (which, as an aside, consists of the world's most brutal dictatorships, not to mention the last remaining vestages of state-sponsored apartheid-style bigotry, sexism and homophobia).

    Perhaps as these countries try to navigate between military dictatorship and violent religious theocracy, it is in their interests to ensure that the Arab-Israeli conflict is never solved. And thus they kill off or ostracize any Palestinian leader actually interested in peace. And thus they fund militant organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah to ensure there is perpetual war, etc., etc.

    Now I'll grant you that Israel's friends tend not to highlight these FACTS as incessantly as the BDSers harp on their accusations, despite the fact that (unlike what Israel's foes routinely spit out), this description of the Arab world and its responsibility for the Palestinian problem is 100% true. But that is simply because, unlike you, Israel's friends continue to hope for peace (which limits their desire to lead with accusations – regardless of how accurate).

    But given your false choice strategy, perhaps it is worth pointing out that as long as you continue to lie about Israel, someone will eventually be forced to point out the truth about you.

  3. Anonymous December 13, 2010 at 9:09 pm #

    Jon a few more lies for your reading pleasure:

    Israel's treatment of Palestinians prisoners.


    Arab League peace initiative (those homophobic dictators actually want peace with Israel)


    Israel's illegal (and immoral) separation wall and settlements.


    Israel's bullying of the press (one of my favorites)


  4. Anonymous December 13, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    Jon Hubris says “While I've made good use of false choices…”

    I wasn't talking about “choices” but about two realities: 1 on the ground in the region and 1 on campuses where pro-Israel Jews want to “talk” and say “its complicated”. (I might add that a significant number of BDSers and SJPers on campuses are Jewish).

    Hubris says “Perhaps the real problem in the Middle East is simply dysfunctional politics in the Arab world”

    Yes Jon Israel has nothing to do with it. Not the occupation, not the settlemebnts, not the racist and apartheid policies ..none of it. OK then moving on…

    Hubris says “And thus they fund militant organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah to ensure there is perpetual war..”

    And how did these militant organizations come to being? I know I know above your pay grade … Let me guess Israel had nothing to do with them.

    Hubris says ” as long as you continue to lie about Israel, someone will eventually be forced to point out the truth about you.”

    I criticize Israel but you attack me. This is not about you and I. Get a grip Jon boy

  5. Jon December 13, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    Gosh! Internet links supporting your positions. It never fails to amaze me how you manage to find such things! (Why do I suspect that if I responded by repeating my positions with associated links you would choose not to bow down before me as you clearly hope others will bow to you.)

    You know, the interesting this is that if there is even the tiniest chance that Israel is not responsible for all the ills in the universe, that others (including the Palestinians themselves and their allies) have the smallest percentage of responsibility for their own suffering, then it is your efforts and the efforts of fellow BDS champions that are making the greatest contribution to the continuation of misery in the region.

    You would think after 62 years of telling the Palestinians to hold off, to never negoatiate sincerely for peace, to forever hold out hope for victory vs. compromise and seeing the results that “Friends of the Palestinian People” such as yourself might take responsibility for other people's suffering. But then again, it is other people who have to do the suffering so that you can feel good about yourself, so I guess that's a price you are willing to pay.

  6. Anonymous December 14, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    Just a very important fact to the retard above (because the other links completely ignores the other side's behavior- terror and violence only, or misleading information, and so don't reflect anything)
    non of the members of Hamas participated in the Arab Peace Initiative. they were there but did not comment to the ideas. It is exactly like making a conference about peace between south and north korea without any speaker from south korea and without north korea. that is NOT negotiation (you wrote “those homophobic dictators actually want peace with Israel”? no, they never said that.) Saudi Arabia offered a solution but without even regarding the main issue: the right of return, which is the reason for not having peace (no, not the settlements). accepting over 3 million palestinians to Israel is simply impossible.
    Will you ever get tired of lying?

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