Outside of responding to the occasional comment, I tend to avoid talking about general political matters (domestic and international) on this site, if for no other reason than there exist an infinite number of places to fight the Arab-Israeli conflict online, but only a few places where the specific subject of BDS can be analyzed and dissected.
But while the focus on a seemingly narrow subject (like BDS) is often a good way to reveal wider truths, there come times when political matters become so large and looming that they must be addressed in the context of everything. And with upheaval sweeping regimes across the Middle East, with spillover already reaching Israel in the form of renewed rocket fire and bombings, we are now living through such times.
Surprisingly, it is often my friends and political allies who take the most convincing that everything we do in support of Israel and everything BDS champions and other home-spun Israel defamers scheme really don’t matter much beyond the proverbial “hill of beans” when governments fall and quasi-government militant groups sitting on giant stockpiles of weapons decide to start making use of them.
BDSers could, for example, map out their entire year of baba gunoush boycotts or nursery school protests, and we can plan our own counter-attacks and activities. But if the rockets start flying from Lebanon or Gaza (again) or if a new government of Egypt decides to set the clock back 40 years, than all bets (and all of both side’s plans, well-laid or otherwise) are off and our agenda will be set by events and people over which we have absolutely no control.
This type of powerlessness is not the easiest thing to accept by political activists of any character, which is why we often inflate the significance of this or that BDS victory or defeat (for example) because the alternative requires a scale of humbleness that diminishes one of the primary benefits of taking part in political activism: a feeling of empowerment.
Not that preparations are not being laid for the next inevitable war on of Israel’s borders. In fact, from here in suburban Boston I can almost hear the BDS cru licking their lips in anticipation of such a clash since it gives them the chance to really ratchet up their numbers and their noise level at rallies that will inevitably spring up the moment Israel decides it must respond to attacks against its citizens (a la the West Bank in 2002, Lebanon in 2006, and Gaza in 2008). Not that you ever hear a peep from them during the months or years of rocket and terror attacks that make these ultimate clashes inevitable. On these subjects, they are as silent as they are about anything currently happening in the Middle East that can’t be easily fit into their narrative of Israel-o, American-o, Zion-o imperialism against the forces of righteousness of good (symbolized by them and communicated on hand-written signs scrawled together in their parent’s basements).
Again, I don’t see the “Israel-is-wrong-about-everything” club having much (if any) influence over organizations like Hamas and Hezbolah. But couldn’t they make even a small show of protest against militant assaults that will inevitably lead to the death of hundreds (if not thousands) of the people they claim to love so dearly? But that would only make sense if BDS actually represented the “peaceful alternative to war” they claim to be, rather than the propaganda arm of military confrontation that they actually are.
In all of the mayhem sweeping the region, it is surprising when the simplest and most obvious solution to a problem seems to be the most fantastically utopian. And, in this case, this simple, obvious answer is provided by Benjamin Kerstein, an Israeli writer who I discovered during our common anti-Chomsky days who continues to be one of the most insightful political commentators working in this area.
In his Open Letter to the Arab Street, Kerstein calls for something so simple and profound it almost seems the fantasy of a crazed Pollyanna: why don’t these new (and, hopefully better) governments we see being born across the region simply call off their war against the Jewish state? After all, this war has cost the world trillions, it has impoverished nations, killed off generations and turned others into monsters. The darker forces involved with toppling old regimes have been fed anti-Semitic paranoia with their mother’s milk and may soon act on the hatreds they have been raised with, raising the specter of more death, more squandering of human and other resources, more darkness, in short more of everything we don’t want in the world.
Israel’s neighbors (and their friends and supporters abroad) have spent the last 60+ years giving war a chance. Would it be too much to ask to give actual peace a whirl (even if only to see what good might come out of it)?
In the interest of humility, fifteen people have recommended Kerstein’s sage advice on Facebook. In the meantime, a Facebook group calling for a Third Intafada to begin this May is closing in on the 300,000 mark.