It’s usually this time of year that a shoe drops with regard to a surprise BDS story becoming national news.
Last year, it was Berkeley where a student government vote led to a BDS fight that engulfed the campus for weeks, leading inevitably to anger and needless rancor, followed by the usual defeat for the forces of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Given the heat of that battle, it seemed to make no difference that the vote was over a divestment recommendation that Berkeley (like all schools in the country) have rejected for over a decade. And so, a lot of heat (and precious little light) was generated all over whether or not one group of students could strike a pose in a way that would allow BDS champions to travel the world bragging of another “victory” (despite a decade of defeat).
That story repeated itself last week at Carleton University in Canada, albeit in a truncated and farcical format, when the local chapter of “Israel is Wrong About Everything Club” (in this case, known as Students Against Israel Apartheid or SAIA – charming) showed up 200 strong to a Student’s Association Council meeting demanding that the student government group pass SAIA’s own impotent resolution calling on the school to toss Israel-related investments from the faculty pension plan.
Instead, the student council chose to vote on a general recommendation regarding taking human rights into account when investing school pension monies. And, as you might expect, this reasonable compromise that acknowledged that there might just possibly be someone on the planet who is suffering outside of the Gaza Strip was met with a riot.
This type of banging on walls, shouting and intimidation seem to be in vogue among the Israel dis-likers these days. Until recently, such tactics seemed localized to the West Coast where pro-Israel speakers are routinely shouted off the stage, but just this year you’ve seen similar bully-boy tactics tried at Hampshire College and elsewhere, leading to condemnation by students, faculty and administrations of the political punks parading under the banner of BDS.
Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this type of behavior (which, like disrupting cultural events or breaking into song at BestBuy, only brand BDSers as self-indulgent bullies, cretins and kooks) might represent an acknowledgement by the boycotters of their actual true nature as losers.
After all, successful political projects do not require this level of stunt work or fist waving to cover up ten years of defeat. Martin Luther King never had to don an orange fright wig to get people to pay attention to his cause and Gandhi was on the receiving (not the sending) end of bullying tactics.
Even the anti-Apartheid movement the BDSers like to compare themselves to used political theatre sparingly, and in conjunction with other political tactics and tools to build on real success to create real momentum towards real victory. They didn’t pretend Hampshire College had divested from South Africa, they got the school to actually divest (proudly). And they didn’t show up at student council meetings waving their fists if their demands were not met, they built consensus towards a worthy cause.
Ah, but there’s the rub. What if the BDS cause is not a worthy one, but is simply acting as a parasite on successful political movements of the past in order to push forward its own narrow, self-centered, immoral political positions?
As the Israel-hater’s S&M fantasies of peaceful Arab protestors being attacked by tanks, fighter jets and helicopter gunships continue to play out not in Gaza or the West Bank, but in Cairo, Tripoli and Tehran, it’s worth asking if the failed shakedown and nervous breakdown of BDSers in Carleton represent a new phase or a last desperate gasp for the “movement.”
Only time will tell.