NOTE: I was getting set to respond to some questions/comments from earlier this week and it looks like some comments have disappeared from the last few posts. They’re not showing up in the Blogger spam filter, so I’m suspecting they may be related to a Blogger technical outage yesterday morning. If you think something was lost here and you want a response from me, please re-post it on this or one of the newer blog entries since I’m not that good at keeping current with discussions going on at previous postings. Now back to our regular broadcast…
As mentioned previously, there is a growing trend to replace general boycott and divestment calls with ones that specifically target “the Occupation,” an approach that seems to have found some traction, at least in Europe, a continent serving as a kind of incubator for new BDS tactics.
While researching this issue, I discovered a pretty exhaustive list of reasons why this so-called “targeted BDS” is a bad idea. And though there is not much to add to this well thought-out run down, there is an overarching framework for understanding (and hopefully rejecting) this new tactic, namely, that “targeted BDS” is a scam.
First, we must never lose site of the ultimate goal of the BDS “movement:” to get well-known and respected organizations to attach their names and reputations to the BDS message that Israel is an “Apartheid state,” worthy of the same economic punishment visited upon Apartheid South Africa. But as the last decade of BDS failure at major institutions has demonstrated, these institutions are not interested in having their names attached to someone else’s propaganda campaign.
Which is why you see the behind-closed-doors and dead-of-night deals being struck in places like Somerville, the Presbyterian Church and Olympia Food Co-op where BDS advocates have met with leaders behind the scenes in order to get a boycott or divestment resolution passed quickly and quietly before members of the organization have any knowledge of what is being discussed.
Now when the boycotters approach such institutions, it is important for them to maintain a façade of reasonableness and decorum in order to present their case for BDS being obvious and fully fitting into a human-rights or other appealing or acceptable framework. This is what I call the “all smiles” phase, during which divestment activists try to mask their true intentions which only get revealed after an organization “signs up,” to some simple “human rights measure,” only to discover 24 hours later that their name is being broadcast around the planet as being 100% onboard the Israel=Apartheid bandwagon.
But as we’ve seen over the last ten years, this strategy has either led to immediate rejection (by institutions now wise to the BDS game) or, at worst, temporary victory after which someone (usually the membership of an organization) reverses a boycott or divestment “win,” insisting that no one (and certainly not the Israel-haters) speak in their name.
Given this background, the BDS message needs to be constantly retailored. And targeting “the Occupation” gives its proponents a way to say that they are not attacking Jews or Israel (heavens no), but some amorphous entity known simply as “the Occupation.”
Putting aside the fact that use of phrases such as “the Occupation,” or (more frequently) “Israel’s illegal Occupation” is a matter of opinion and subject of negotiations, rather than an unquestioned fact, it’s clear that BDS proponents themselves have a near-infinitely elastic definition of what falls into this category.
After all, I have yet to see champions for this new improved “targeted BDS” turn around and reject or condemn their fellow BDSers who have not yet gotten the message and are working to boycott companies as far away from the “Green Line” as Taunton, MA (where Tribe hummus – target for a boycott – is located).
For one of the great skills of the BDS project is its ability to make a connection between any company or product they decide to put on their blacklist and their ultimate target (be it Israel proper or simply “the Occupation”).
Why target Tribe hummus? Well the company was acquired by an Israeli food manufacturer that supplies snacks to Israeli soldiers and they contribute to the Jewish National Fund, an organization with is traif to the boycotters because it plans trees in “the Occupation” (whatever that means), blah, blah, blah.
This ability to concoct a connection between any company and their ultimate target found its ultimate expression last summer when BDS activists were pushing their short-lived “Harvard has divested from Israel” hoax. In that case, Israeli companies whose stock was held in certain emerging market funds owned by Harvard were removed from those funds for the simple economic reason that Israel was no longer considered a developing but a developed company. And once that happened, BDSers tried to spin this purely economic decision as a politically motivated divestment activity.
During the 48 hours that this fraud was making headlines we were exposed to a list of Israeli companies that had never once been mentioned in the context of any previous BDS campaign. In this case, the divestment champions simply made on-the-fly connections between the companies leaving Harvard’s emerging market fund and “the Occupation” in order to flesh out their fictional tale of Harvard selling off these stocks for political reasons.
In other words, “targeted BDS” is simply a new opening line, a new marketing campaign that boycotters hope will get them into the door of organizations that are wary of the widely rejected, broad-based divestment calls that have been part-and-parcel of the BDS project since its inception in 2001.
To date, civic organizations seem have been able to see through the various facades the Israel-dislikers use to mask their true goals. So there is hope that people of good sense and good will shall be able to see through this latest variation on their long-standing bait-and-switch tactics.