I had neglected one possible mutation of the BDS virus in the wake of dawning realization that the original goals of the “movement” (to get major civic organizations like universities and churches to embrace their “Israel = Apartheid” propaganda message) are growing ever beyond reach.
There have always been elements of threats, intimidation, and even violence within the range of internally acceptable activities carried out by BDSers over the years. While originally isolated to howling pro-Israel speakers off the stage at colleges like Berkeley and Hampshire, this tactic has moved from the periphery to the center of chosen BDS tactics as more and more people are rejecting their central message that BDS represents some kind of a “peace movement” worthy of respect.
When you look at what the BDSers brag about as “victories,” they include items like getting an landlord to not renew the lease for an Ahava store in London, largely by making life hell for Ahava’s retail neighbors through non-stop protests (including violent protests) that disrupted business activity for years. Today, you can see the same tactic being employed in Australia (although Down Under, Australian civil society has reacted by defending the target of these attacks and condemning the attackers).
Lately, the boycott brigade has moved from disrupting pro-Israel speakers (to ensure their voice never gets heard) to shouting and blowing bullhorns at artistic performances that dare to include Israeli dancers and musicians (most recently the nasty interruption of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra playing the Proms concert event in the UK).
This switch from trying to convince to threatening and intimidating has accelerated over the last several months, to the point where it is clearly becoming the central choice of strategy from the BDS playbook. And, in a sense, who can blame them for going down this route? After all, if you cannot demonstrate your relevance by actually achieving a political objective, you can still garner a headline by throwing a public tantrum, even if such effort simply turn more and more people against you and the Palestinian cause you claim to represent.
And property targeted, even the threat of violence and disruption can bend people to your will (as this example illustrates). The fact that such “achievements” convince no one means nothing as the BDS “movement” moves from trying to win actual victories to trying to keep its own members from realizing their own impotency and irrelevance.
I’ve noted before that Israel does not face a de-legitimization problem so much as it faces a propaganda problem (i.e., the well funded effort of enemy nation states and their allies abroad to besmirch the Jewish state’s reputation in every possible forum and at every possible opportunity).
But with this recent turn to threats and violent protest as the primary pillar of BDS strategy, I think I’ve got to revise that statement to say that Israel is primarily facing an asshole problem, i.e., the decision by the nasty, the brutish and the shortsighted to pursue the tactics of intimidation, regardless of how ultimately ineffective they have proven to be and how counter-productive these choices are for their own claimed cause.