Don’t Panic…Don’t Be Complacent

I’ve been presented with two challenging questions in the last 48 hours, one in the comments section, one via e-mail. As it turns out, these two correspondents are both friends and allies (their challenges standing in sharp contrast to the deception- and pathos-laden arguments made by BDS proponents – a subject for another time).

Both questions pretty much amount to the same thing: could my characterization of BDS as a “loser” lead to supporters of Israel letting down their guard (why target time, energy and resources fighting against something that may not be such a big deal after all?).

This is an excellent point, one which requires more than just a stock answer (such as “I’m just telling them like I see ‘em!”). Not that describing the actual success and failures (mostly the latter) of BDS does not serve a purpose. For whenever one is confronted with an opponent (be it in sports, war or political debate), it is important to first gauge that opponent’s actual (vs. perceived) strengths and weaknesses. There are many things one can do with that information once it’s been accurately obtained and assessed, but there are few situations when believing a potential fiction (such as BDS being “on the march”) does much good with regard to thinking and planning strategically.

There are also tactical benefits to characterizing BDS (accurately) as a loser. After all, boycott and divestment proponents have a ready store of responses if they are charged with (for example) anti-Semitism. In fact, they will often mischaracterize any criticism of their position as an insincere accusation of anti-Semitism in order to tap into this bag of automatic responses (usually consisting of striking an indigent pose and accusing their accuser of “muzzling”).

But how does one respond to the charges, backed up by facts and figures, that BDS is indeed a loser? Only by claiming that “we’re not losers!” (a response only a loser would make). And so anyone looking to get off the defensive when challenged by boycotters seeking to play prosecutor and judge with Israel in the dock could do worse than pointing out how little success or support BDS has ever achieved despite a decade of tireless effort.

As for tamping down fears and possibly causing Israel supporters to lose interest or momentum in fighting against BDS, this is a legitimate problem but one which says more about the lack of militant thinking within the Jewish community (a blessing in most instances, but one which does not necessarily lead to good decisions when faced with a militant challenge, such as the propaganda campaign of BDS).

For in traditional military situations, when you’ve got your opponent on the run that is exactly the time to redouble your efforts and hit them again and again, making sure they lose as much momentum as possible and limiting (or, at least delaying) their ability to regroup. Now it may be that overstating the BDS threat is just the thing to keep supporters of Israel on campuses and elsewhere perpetually sharp and on the lookout for divestment threats to put down. But even if one is convinced that BDS is not an imminent threat, the best way to keep it from becoming one is to smack it down wherever it rears its ugly head (especially since there are so many resources – notably precedent of BDS being rejected over ten years – to tap into).

Then you’ve got the fact that divestment, while not a threat now, can become one very quickly if given even a small toe hold. After all, the “I hate Israel” crowd managed to leverage their brief support by the Presbyterians into two years of turmoil that Israel supporters had to deal with between 2004 (when the church passed its divestment resolution) and 2006 (when it overwhelmingly rejected it). Which is why my message has always been “Don’t panic, but don’t become complacent.”

Finally, it needs to be repeated that BDS is simply one part of a broader strategy of de-legitimization of Israel as a whole and any steps Israel takes to behave like a normal country (by defending itself from military attack, for example). And this broader de-legitimization strategy is not driven by a few goons shutting down an Ahava store in London. Rather, it is pushed by wealthy and powerful states that use their influence at forums such as the United Nations to fund and launch attacks on Israel (in the form of, among other things, the now-discredited Goldstone Report).

As I’ve noted earlier, within this panoply of de-legitimization efforts, BDS is actually the weak link, a program so loathed and unpopular that it has the power to turn neutrals (i.e., those with no dog in the fight of the Middle East conflict) into active allies of Israel supporters.

This being the case, the need to put the pedal to the floor when fighting against boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns serves two purposes. Firstly, it helps ensure these efforts are defeated and never find fertile ground to grow. But secondly (and more importantly) it helps expose the cynical and dishonest nature of all efforts to de-legitimize Israel and its actions. In fact, the embrace of a loser tactic like BDS by Israel’s opponents should be treated for what it is: manna from heaven in the form of a discredited project that supporters of the Jewish state can wrap around the neck of the entire de-legitimization effort.

16 thoughts on “Don’t Panic…Don’t Be Complacent”

  1. CUNY trustees vote to give Kushner award after all, as faculty union calls for Wiesenfeld’s resignation. Love it.

    This is not about Kushner's credentials but all about free speech and muzzling Israel critics.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/may/10/tony-kushner-honour-reinstated

    More muzzling tactics by Weaselfeld:

    “Wiesenfeld has a record of acting to forward what he considers the interests of the state of Israel. A former political fixer for the then governor of New York state, George Pataki, he was instrumental earlier this year in having a temporary lecturer fired from CUNY because of his views on Israel. The teacher was later reinstated.”

  2. Just out of curiousity, does your desire to talk about anything but the subject of this and previous pieces (from Middle East rumors to has-been playwrites) mean that you are in full agreement that BDS is, in fact, a loser?

  3. Let me ask the question again until I get the answer. Given the startling lack of success of the BDS movement after 5 (being kind, really 10) years of trying when do they think they will achieve their objective of ending Israel's existence as a Jewish State? I mean really — let's count the victories so far:

    1. Meaning honorary award given to aging playwright.

    2. Temporary lecturer (non tenure track) rehired at CUNY

    3. Ahava store has lease not renewed

    4. Coop removes Israeli goods

    Where is the momentum? In each of these “victories” is there even proof that a single mind was changed?

    That is why BDS as a movement (and not just its adherents) is such a loser — BDS proponents plainly have no idea how to persuade others or create a successful growing political movement. All they can do is posture, whine, bully, scream and participate in masturbatory self-congratulation — but they never persuade or convince anyone else.

    Absolutely — a bunch of losers.

  4. No Jon the real losers are you and your appropriately named friend uncle “yo yo”. BDS is a means not an end, the goal is to expose Israel for what it really is and not the lies the likes of you propagate (good example is in Andrew Sullivan's piece linked above). This has nothing to do with has-been playwrights or non tenured lecturers, but all about delegitimizing Israel and exposing it's so called “friends”. You can rest assured that Israel with netanyahoo and settler/thug Lieberman and their policies/actions as well as blind supporters of Israel (like Weaselfeld ) are doing a great job of delegitimizing Israel. People like me are just the messengers.

    Cheers

  5. “BDS is a means, not an end”
    Classic!!!

    If BDS and its supporters did not exist, supporters of Israel would have to invent them.

    How does it feel knowing that all your efforts are actually making Israel stronger?

  6. the 10:46 AM Anon is going to get a stern lecture from the BDS leadership. S/he obviously didn't remember that they are never–NEVER– to admit to American audiences that it is, indeed, all about delegitimizing Israel; that is has nothing to do with “occupation” unless you subscribe to their concept that ALL of Israel is “occupied Arab land”; that it is, at its core, a denial of the Jewish people's right to national self-determination. (I can't say “anti-Semitic' because it will get his/her underwear all tied up in a bunch of righteous denial, but draw your own conclusion….).

    On a more substantive note, BDSers should be proud that they have been able to bring unity to a wider range of Israel supporters than anytime in the past decade. From J Street to ZOA, there is agreement on opposition to BDS. Differences, legitimate as they are, between various groups are minor in comparison to the cooperation that can be generated across these groups in exposing the hatred and the underlying racism of the BDS movement.

  7. DrMike the delegitimization of Israel has everything to do with the occupation and settlements and apologists for Israel (case in point the weasel trustee at CUNY) who try to defend the indefensible.

    The posts above by these Israel apologists have tried to minimize the Kushner affair by stating that he is a “has-been” playwright or the other lecturer as only a “non tenured” lecturer. The point is that Kushner was to receive an award for his PROFESSION but he was denied it because of his POLITICAL VIEWS. That is called muzzling and silencing, I am not OK with it are you? I could care a less whether you (or I) like or dislike Kushner's plays.

    I will start regularly posting these muzzle tactics on this site for your edification.

  8. I believe there is another term for the denial of professional consideration (such as academic honors) to professionals due to their political views. That term would be “BDS.”

    Actually, BDS is even a worse form of the behavior you are condemning since (in the form of academic and artistic boycott), it extends these punishments to PROFESSIONALS solely based on who they are (i.e., Israelis, although just the Jewish ones), not just for (and sometimes in spite of) their political beliefs.

    So feel free to post other BDS-like behavior here that you don't like and I will continue to do the same.

  9. Jon

    Then maybe you and fellow Israel apologists should stop defending Israel's rogue behavior of occupation and settlements, otherwise don't whine.

  10. Cool – Just remember the prime rule of Palestinian hasbarah which is to constantly accuse Israel and its supporters of the crimes of its critics. So make sure to scream about “Israel apologists,” all the while apologizing non-stop for the most racist, sexist, homophobic, reactionary tyrannies on the face of the planet, land thieves with no rival in human history.

    Make sure you also scream your support of stormtroopers who shut down Jewish retailers and never mention thugs who routinely shout down Israelis and their supporters at public events, all the while hollering that you are perpetually “muzzled.”

    Looking forward to watching your performance.

  11. Jon

    Your repeated attempts to portray critics of Israel as solely Arab dictatorships and “the most racist, sexist, homophobic, reactionary tyrannies on the face of the planet, land thieves with no rival in human history” is typical, disingenuous and pathetic. Being the Zionist and racist fool that you are, you probably equate the Arab tyrants with the Arab population at large who are suffering under these tyrannies. Further, given your blind support for Israel, you must be completely blind to Israel's critics all over Europe. Unless you consider England, France, Sweden, Norway, Spain, etc. etc. as also dictatorships because they also are critical of Israel !

    I and everyone I know who is a critic of Israel have nothing but disdain for both the Arab dictatorships and Israel. The only difference is that the Arab regimes are being forced to change while the “only democracy in the ME” continues with its occupation, settlements, and other despicable behavior.

    cheers

  12. How has BDS “deligitimized” Israel in any way. Can you point to any person who has been convinced by your tactics?

    BDS is nothing but the world's most annoying echo chamber filled with the faith-based, impervious to logic rantings of a handful of true believers. In five (ten!) years, you have achieved nothing. You have convinced no one. You have had no impact on anything other than your own pathetic egos.

    Israel is 63 years old (young) today and will easily outlast every single one of you — with your efforts unnoticed, unremarked, and unremembered.

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