PennBDS: Mobilization

This is the first in a series of articles based on the program of the upcoming PennBDS conference.  Check out this new landing page to find out more.

With Palestinian workers defying boycott calls from their leaders, with those leaders investing twice as much in the Jewish state as they do their own proto-state, and with even Hamas sneaking Israeli goods through the same tunnels it uses to smuggle missiles to fire at the makers of those goods (or at least their kids), mobilizing the Palestinian homefront around BDS is an increasingly difficult task.

Putting aside the use of a military term like “mobilization” by an alleged “peace group” like PennBDS, one of the greatest challenges of making BDS a goal of the locals in the disputed territories (or anywhere else) is that it is not strictly a political goal.

It’s fair to say that Palestinian society is already mobilized around something that can be defined as a goal.  One can debate whether that goal is the destruction of the Jewish state, the creation of their own state, or the accomplishment of the second goal as a way to achieve the first.  But it’s hard to dispute that the political institutions (be they PA or Hamas-led) know what they want and are ready to use the machinery of the state to achieve it.

Even if within these societies there are individuals interested in other goals (such as peace and reconciliation with their Israeli neighbors and normal lives for their children), those with power (and guns) are more than ready to push those goals beyond the pale, either by branding those that advocate for them as collaborators and traitors or using the media and education system to teach the next generation that their “sacrifice” (i.e., dedication of more decades to needless war) will accomplish a goal that’s not been achieved by their parents or grandparents.

Within this consensus there are debates over strategy, with groups like Hamas preferring armed violence whenever possible and other groups (such as the PA and international supporters like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions “movement”) preferring political propaganda.  But just as BDS is not a political goal, it’s not even a strategy.

Rather, the strategy of the BDSers (the so-called “Apartheid Strategy” began at the 2001 Durban I conference, years before the BDS “movement” was allegedly even born), is to brand Israel an “Apartheid State,” implying that anything done to such a state (including its dismantling) is morally virtuous since Israel is alleged to be the global embodiment of the sin of racism as the successor to Apartheid South Africa.

Within this strategic context, BDS is a tactic, i.e., a mechanism or technique chosen to further the aim of the Apartheid Strategy towards the achievement of some political end.  And, as such, it’s a lot harder to mobilize or Unify or Synergize around than the achievement of a concrete goal.

One of the reasons why it’s so hard to get Palestinian workers or investors or even militants to comply with BDS demands (even with coercion added to the mix) is that these individuals are not ready to put themselves and their families through impoverishment (or even inconvenience) in support of a “movement,” the head of which leads a subsidized existence as a perpetual grad student at an Israeli university.

Outside the region, it is not so much the hypocrisy of its practitioners that limits widespread acceptance of the BDS agenda as it is questions about its effectiveness.  While die-hard BDS adherents have been trying to gin up excitement over the endless “triumphs” of their project (going so far as to use the very existence of this humble blog as an example of their success), truth is the BDS tactic has not gone very well this last decade.

In fact, if Israel’s supporters had to pick a tactic for their foes, they might very well choose to have them spend ten (going on eleven) years trying to gin up boycotts (that inevitably lead to wild sell-offs of Israeli goods) and divestment campaigns at places like US colleges and universities (which have yet to sell a single share of any stock based on the urging of divestment advocates).

Next time we’ll look at what PennBDS has titled “BDS Success, Challenges and Options for 2012.”  And if I were a betting man, I would put my money on the second of those three nouns.

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2 Responses to PennBDS: Mobilization

  1. fizziks January 5, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    If the existence of this blog is actually a boon for PennBDS, they are desperate indeed.

  2. Bella Center January 5, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    It's a star studded cast of the usual suspects insuring the echo chamber is absolutely air-tight. Yet to read their press release: 'Clarifications about the 2012 National BDS Conference', you'd think they were dying to host those interlocutors who don't share their views. I'm sure they'll make them feel very comfortable.

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