A decade of unrequited political activism (i.e., perpetual failure to get major institutions to buy into their program) has helped to create an occasionally-amusing, but often-disturbing “do-it-yourself” attitude among practitioners of BDS.
Can’t get a single college or university to divest a single share of blacklisted stock that allegedly benefits the Jews? (Whoops! I mean “The Zionists.” Whoops I mean “The Occupation.”). No problem, just storm a student council meeting and demand they pass an impotent divestment resolution (and then send out press releases declaring victory, even when you fail to win any votes).
Can’t get a single food co-op to follow the lead of Olympia and pass a boycott resolution (opinions and harmony of the membership be damned)? No problem, just get a few people to join a local co-op and demand a debate on the subject (and then send out press releases declaring you’ve won, even if a discussion – much less a vote – on the issue has barely occurred).
Can’t get a major investment house to do your bidding? No problem, just send out press releases declaring that they have, and when those claims are exposed as fraudulent, never mention that you’ve gotten caught with your hand in the cookie jar and instead break into bizarre dance sequences to give the world (or at least each other) the sense that you and your fellow BDSers are “doing something” and “having an effect” (even if only to create bewilderment on the faces of unaffiliated pedestrians).
But as the failures of BDS become harder to ignore (especially among anti-Israel activists starting to question if a strategy proven to be such a loser over the last decade should be continued for the next one), “do-it-yourself” tactics (i.e., attempts to create controversy where none exists solely to generate headlines that create the illusion of political momentum) can take a dark turn.
Case in point: Max Brenner, an international chocolatier with locations in the US, Asia and (notable for this story) Australia. And why is a seller of desserts and cocoa the latest target for BDS “activism?” Well, you see, Brenner is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Strauss Group, one of Israel’s largest food products manufacturer. And what’s wrong with the Strauss Group? Well, part of their corporate “social responsibility” mission is to provide support (in the form of gift packages and sponsorship of recreational facilities) for Israeli soldiers. And since Israeli soldiers are so Eeeeevillllll!, Willie Wonka (I mean Max Brenner) is on the target list.
If you are dazed by this bizarre set of linkages, it might be easier to realize that local Australian Israel haters have had a rough time of late, having recently seen their one municipal victory (in Marrickville, Australia) go down in flames and then be condemned across the political spectrum. So in order to re-seize the initiative (i.e., change the subject), they’ve seized on a local Jewish (I mean Zionist-y) business and do their thing.
And their thing in this case is a series of violent protests in front of several Max Brenner outlets in various Australian cities, complete with injured police, arrests and injunctions, followed by (you guessed it) BDS press releases declaring victory coupled with heroic resistance to repression.
As with their failed attempt to get the municipality of Marrickville to maintain the ill-conceived boycott measure passed and then reversed by local authorities, the latest Australian BDS adventure has been met with widespread condemnation from one end of the political spectrum to another. Not only that, but it has managed to cause major damage the Australian Green Party (fractured over whether or not to support the bully-boy tactics being used against Brenner chocolate shops), providing every other political party (Left, Right and Center) the ability to show their support for Israel, Australian Jews and common sense (at the expense of the Greens) by simply showing up to Max Brenner’s and enjoying a cup of nice, hot cocoa.
Now many readers unfriendly to Green politics may enjoy watching the party writhe under the spotlight of this needless, manufactured controversy. But for those who may have sympathies with left-leaning policies of the Greens or other similar parties, keep in mind that BDS cares as little for your party or those policies as it does for anything else other than their own agenda and desire for publicity and pseudo-martyrdom.
Before leaving the continent of Australia for the month, the aforementioned story of Merrickville deserves a case-study treatment, similar to the ones found in the Divest This Guide (which I hope all of you have downloaded and keep in the smallest room of your house, primarily for reading material). So next time, the story of municipal divestment’s greatest international defeat (sung to the tune of Waltzing Matilda).