Because BDS activity tends to follow the academic calendar, I thought it might be useful to determine how the “movement” is doing as it finishes up Year 10 of its ignoble existence.
First off, good news seems to be coming in from North America where BDS hoped to replicate last year’s student government “victory” at Berkeley (otherwise known as a defeat) with similar student council resolutions across the country this year.
Now divestment proponents have long ago given up on getting colleges and universities to actually divest (which is why they had to rely on fraud to just get one school in their “win” column – even if only to fool themselves). But with student governments, they at least stood a chance of convincing a dozen or so undergraduates to strike a pose, rather than getting grown-ups who manage a major institution and its investments to do their bidding.
Unsurprisingly, BDS student government resolutions have turned out to be as big a flop as anything else they’ve tried in North America. UVM said no, as did Carleton and UC San Diego. In fact, the latter was one place where BDSers (who had high hopes for their cause last year) couldn’t even maintain the momentum needed for a vote this time around. One student petition seems to have passed (at Evergreen College in Olympia Washington), but other petitions (which targeted American-made hummus based on some typically convoluted BDS logic) flopped in Princeton and DePaul.
As we have discovered again and again, BDS just doesn’t do well when exposed to daylight. And after last year’s Berkeley fiasco, student governments seem to now know how to avoid being manipulated for someone else’s gain.
On the retail front, it’s been surprising that boycotts (mostly a Canadian phenomenon, which have found little traction in the US) have nevertheless made it to the lower 48 over the last year. But as in Canada, the Buycott phenomena means that anytime an anti-Israel boycott is even threatened, it leads to an immediate massive selloff of the Israeli goods in question.
Food co-ops (still considered the “great green hope” for boycotters) have but one taker for the BDS program (once again, in Olympia Washington). But Olympia too proved to be a Pyrrhic victory since anyone fighting similar boycotts at other co-ops need only point out the misery such a boycott created in Olympia to demonstrate why similar decisions should be avoided at all costs.
While I could go tit for tat on celebrity boycotts (actually tit for tat-tat-tat-a-tat since celebrities are now not just keeping their commitments to play Israel, but dissing those that cave to the boycotters loudly from the stage), or point out that BDSers have decided to substitute temper tantrums for political activity, I think the most positive sign this year comes from within the Jewish community itself.
As anyone familiar with the multi-faceted (and multi-alphabetical) Jewish organizations knows, one thing that characterizes them is their near universal inability to claim that someone is outside the tent.
As controversy here in Boston demonstrates, the ability to not give someone a seat at the table (much less to kick someone out) is something people who inhabit this world can barely conceive of, much less act upon. And yet, for the first time since I can remember, this highly diverse community has been willing to draw a line with BDS.
I’ve speculated in the past about what makes BDS so loathsome that it has managed to unite parties across the political and religious spectrum against it. But suffice to say, it’s good to see the notion of “Don’t Panic, Don’t be Complacent,” turning into a description of what is happening, rather than simple hope or advice.
Now all news is not good news in the land of BDS and, as I’ve described previously, Europe is a continent where ideas that would be rejected out of hand in North America have managed to convince some. And no country on that continent has been more infected by the BDS virus than the United Kingdom, the subject of the second part of this “state of the union” run down on the fate of BDS at the end of its first decade.