I promised to post some news on the BDS comings and goings abroad, and the two stories that have made the international press of late include boycott and divestment attempts at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa and at the municipality of Marrickville in Australia.
Regarding the former, I wrote last year on the importance of South African support (whether genuine or simply alleged) in the Apartheid Strategy of which Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is merely a tactic. After all, how better to brand Israel an “Apartheid State” than have those who lived through the real thing supposedly echoing your claims.
As that series pointed out, support for the Apartheid slur among actual Apartheid survivors is mixed (Tutu yes, Mandala not really). And in the US, African Americans are starting to get resentful of having a cause they fought for hijacked for the needs of narrow anti-Israel partisans. And despite the fact that the University of Johannesburg (UJ) as recently as last year refused to back a proposal to break ties with Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel, the relentless BDS brigades finally found a mechanism (a vote by the university’s Senate) to end the school’s relationship with their Israeli counterparts.
Now the leadership of UJ was quick to deny that the school is now participating in an academic boycott of Israelis (even as those that pushed the break with BGU claim just the opposite). But to get a true sense of what the cost of BDS can be for a community, one need only look at the specifics regarding the vote that gave the boycotters their desired “win.”
For in this case, the vote simply ended a contractual arrangement whereby BGU provided their South African colleagues access to Israeli expertise in the area of water purification technology, something direly needed by South African’s poor struggling with limited, and often polluted, water supplies. So in this case the BDS “victory” came at the expense not of those who decided the matter (who no doubt have access to all the bottled water they want or need), but of less-well-off (and mostly black) South Africans who may care more about quenching their thirst with unpolluted H2O than in allowing a group of academics to strike a pose and brag to their international colleagues that UJ is now on the cutting edge of the BDS “juggernaut.”
The second story covers less serious ground (“preposterous” is the word that comes to mind). In a Back to the Future moment, the first municipality since Somerville, MA decided to create its own foreign policy, in this case the local government of Marrickville in Australia voting to begin a boycott and divestment campaign targetting products on the BDS blacklist.
The vote was initiated by the Green Party who (as with most successful BDS votes) got their measure passed before the community knew what was happening. And like all similar divestment stories, holy hell broke loose the moment word went out on the “Israel-is-always-wrong-about-everything” wires that another great boycott “victory” was achieved.
In this case, holy hell involved someone pointing out that for the locality to actually live by these newly voted “principles,” it would have to cancel contracts and end use of (among other things) IT equipment that would, in the end, cost the town more than $3.5MM (Australian).
Once an actual price tag became involved, the appeal of BDS grew decidedly less bright. And once this financial cost got bundled with a political price (politicians supporting the boycott proposal went down in flames at a recent election) it wasn’t long before those noble divestment advocates started scrambling for the exits trying to put a brave pose on their rapidly crumbling cause.
Fortunately for Australians, this boycott blow up only led to the pinch-faced, Green Party generalissimo responsible for this mayhem having to struggle to find some way to save punim (by crafting a proposal that will allow them to claim the alleged moral high ground of boycott without actually having to boycott anything).
But unlike Johannesburg, at least at Marrickville this preening hypocrisy is not likely to cost anyone their life.