World to BDS: But you are losers!

Continuing with our run downof why the BDSers’ claim to being non-losers may be factually challenged, it’s time to move from critiquing their claims of success to listing some BDS stories they would prefer not be discussed.

While their own list of “successes” seems to break things down by B (boycott), D (divestment) and S (sanctions), I prefer to organize BDS success and failure (mostly the latter) by type of civic institutions, beginning with:

Colleges and Universities

This is the category divestment champions have been working the longest (since 2002), so we should begin with what the boycotters themselves seem to consider their most important audience.

Their only claim of “success” in terms of an actual college actually divesting in a stock on the BDS blacklist is Hampshire College which, as noted many times before, was a hoax. This highlights the most important fact with regard to this category: that despite a decade of effort not a single educational institution has sold a single share of stock at their urging.

Even if you judge BDS simply as a propaganda program (vs. a project designed to actually achieve its stated concrete goals), divestment efforts have primarily led to denouncement by administrators (notably at Harvard) which was also where anti-divestment petitioning among students, faculty and alumni outpolled pro-divestment petitioning by a factor of ten-to-one.

This left them battling to get student governments to pass toothless divestment resolutions, and even here their efforts have been 100% unsuccessful with schools like Berkeley and UC San Diego rejecting divestment resolutions soundly and repeatedly, a pattern we saw duplicated this year at Carleton, the University of Michigan and the University of Vermont. In fact, a recent analysis discovered only 14 schools in the last six years where BDS activity ever reached the point where it got the notice of student government or school administrators. And in all those cases the result was the same: BDS loses again.

So while nothing can prevent the boycotters from submitting their ugly little resolutions again and again, these efforts have pretty much been reduced to street theater, rather than a genuine political effort with any hope of success.


The high watermark of the BDS project was when the Presbyterian Church in the US (PCUSA) passed a divestment resolution in 2004, leading to efforts to get other Mainline Protestant churches to follow suit.

The trouble was, none did. The Episcopalians rejected divestment in 2005, the Methodists in 2008 (unanimously), and the United Church of Canada in 2009. While these loses were piling up, PCUSA itself rescinded its’ 2004 resolution in 2006 with a vote of 95%-5% in favor of leaving divestment in the dust.

While the boycotters continue to hammer at the churches at various levels, the latest trends are for local churches that, until recently, spearheaded BDS activity to move away from dragging the Middle East conflict into their communities. So the BDS momentum within churches (despite a near decade of divestment efforts) seems to be trending downward.


Municipal divestment lost big in Somerville, Massachusetts in 2004 and never got off the ground in other US cities such as Dallas, Seattle and Ann Arbor. (And let’s not talk about efforts to get divestment on the California ballot which barely got 10% of the signatures needed to force such a vote.) Overseas, divestment was passed then rejected at Marrickville, Australia, leaving international municipal divestment as devoid of victory as domestic.


actual retailers (such as Trader Joe’s) routinely reject requests to participate in political boycotts, the BDSers have been reduced to singing and dancing (badly) and smearing mud on themselves in department stores to get anyone’s attention. While these antics might help them feel like they are “doing something,” this type of stunt work increasingly feels like an excuse to act naughty in front of grownups (with success measured in YouTube hits, rather than actual boycotted Israeli products).

one category of retailer where the boycotters stood a chance for success was food co-ops which fit the profile of a BDS target (progressive organizations with loose governing structures). But even here, the only success they can claim was the Olympia Food Co-op in Washington where BDSers (true to fashion) got their boycott passed in the dead of night behind the backs of members. At every other food co-op where divestment has been proposed in the light of day (such as Sacramento, Seattle and Port Townsend), it has been soundly rejected.

Unlike the BDS “win list” that was dissected over the last two postings, the list of BDS failures above will easily withstand scrutiny, providing flesh to the bones of the contention that BDS is, in fact, a loser.


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