It has certainly been fun taking apart the list of “victories” that seem to be made up primarily of BDS hoaxes and puffery. And a rundown of the actual track record of BDS failure helps put the “wind at its back” claims of the boycotters into proper perspective.
But to get the best perspective on the whole matter of “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions,” it’s important to pull back the lens a little at a time so that we can place this whole discussion into a realistic context.
First, to give the “movement” its’ due, there are some advantages to the BDS tactic chosen by the Israel dislikers in our various communities. For starters, BDS is a simple program with a simple message, ideal for recruiting those hungry to “do something” about the Middle East conflict (whether they are motivated by animosity to the Jewish state or simple ignorance that requires them to find fault with just one party to that conflict).
And because the purpose of BDS is to drag a well-known civic institution into the divestment fold (by any means necessary), the ability to turn any college, church or retailer of its choosing into a war zone (claiming, for example, that owning a single share of Caterpillar stock means the institution is “taking sides” in the ME conflict and must thus divest) gives the boycotters an infinite number of targets to choose from.
But just as BDS is easy to organize around, it is equally easy to organize against (especially since it has proven so easy to defeat). And since victory (on our side) creates its own momentum, this has led to bigger and better organized pro-Israel activity on campus in the last two years than we’ve seen in the previous two decades.
The best example of this phenomenon is the Buycott counter-boycott tactic which turns any attempted boycott of Israeli goods into an immediate wild selloff of said goods. Which is why the boycotters avoid embarrassments like this one at all costs.
Pulling the camera back a bit further, we need to look at the goals of the BDS “movement” (to create economic and other pressure on Israel in order to get the Jewish state to cave to their demands) in the context of an Israeli economy which has doubled in size during the BDS decade. Now most people would claim that the unprecedented amount of investment being made in Israeli companies over the last decade simple shows confidence in Israeli entrepreneurs and inventiveness. But according to BDS logic, which says that investment equals political support, this must mean that the Jewish state must now be one of the most popular countries in the world.
And as Israel has become a first world economy, building projects, academic cultural exchanges, visits by rockers and other celebrities (and even the occasional Nobel Prize) have all flowed into the Jewish state as massive exports have flowed out. Indeed, the very fact that the boycotters have so many stocks, so many internationally available Israeli products and so many visiting artists to put onto their blacklist is that all of these have grown to unprecedented levels during the very decade the boycotters were trying to get all such investment, exports and visits to cease.
Taking yet another step back, we need to recognize that those who have chosen the BDS tactic are simply the same old Israel haters that have been around for decades, folks who choose to use different tactics at different times (with varying degrees of success).
And one of the main reasons they have such staying power (regardless of which tactics they choose) is that (despite what they will tell you regarding their dedication to justice and peace), the BDSers are allied with wealthy and powerful state actors that have been at war with the Jewish state (to varying degrees) for close to a century. Given this, the endless vilification of Israel by “human rights advocates” who can’t be bothered with the human rights catastrophe in the rest of the Middle East is simply an example of the wealthy and powerful (in this case the oil-rich, human rights abusing states of the region) getting what they want (again).
Within this context, then, BDS needs to be seen not as a “peace movement” but as a weapons system providing propaganda support for those militant actors who are ready to pull the trigger while the boycotters provide endless apologies and explanations for the militancy of their allies, only taking to the streets when Israel returns fire.
No doubt a BDSer would laugh in your face or scoff and walk away in disgust if you provided them with this accurate description of their behavior. But the fact that they have managed to delude themselves about their true nature in preparation to deceive others is really neither here nor there.
And so to modify my original thesis: BDS is a militant, hypocritical (and increasingly irrelevant) loser.