A few months back, I wrote about what an end to the BDS “movement” might look like. And one of the telltale signs I identified was the marginalization of those individuals and organizations who continue to push the BDS tactic, whatever the costs.
In a way, Norman Finkelstein recent tirade (whether motivated by politics or whatever psychosis he chooses to manifest this week) demonstrated awareness that criticizing BDS as ineffective and cult-like is now fair game outside of this blog.
And the increasing number of Palestinians who are ignoring that supposed “Call from Palestinian Civil Society” for boycott and divestment, a program devised by a University of Tel Aviv graduate student who refuses to live by the creed he demands of others, also points to increasing recognition that maybe, just maybe, BDS is not “on the march” and racking up “spectacular successes.” Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s such a political loser that even die-hard Israel haters are starting to wonder if they’re really obliged to double down on it for another decade or three.
Keep in mind that the historic precedent for BDS going away (or, at least going into remission) happened within recent memory. In 2006, after a string of embarrassing defeats, advocates for the BDS tactic had trouble answering troublesome questions as to why a project they claimed would lead to success instead ended in failure time and time again.
More importantly, the Palestinian Solidarity Movement (or PSM), the moving force behind BDS activity (at least on college campus), fell apart right around this time. And when evaluating the strength and weakness of a political “movement,” looking at the organizations that lead or make up that movement is a better barometer of strength than lapping up or picking apart Omar Barghouti’s latest bombast printed in the International Herald Tribune (or any of the other many papers he manages to get himself published in, despite perpetual BDS claims of victimization and censorship).
And if you look at the BDS project that that was resurrected in 2009, you can see how it inherited all of the contradictions and weaknesses of the original divestment campaign, with a number of additional flaws added to the mix.
In addition to Barghouti’s PACBI organization (which has accomplished little other than intimidating certain parts of Palestinian civil society so they could claim to speak for them), you’ve got the successor to the Palestinian Solidarity Movement – Student for Justice in Palestine (SJP) whose claim to fame is the hoax that they succeeded in getting Hampshire College to divest from Israel. And as unpleasant as the PSM was during its heyday, it never relied on fraud to get into the headlines. In contrast, those responsible for ensuring BDS stay in everyone’s face in the coming years base large parts of their effort on deception and lies, not just the usual lies about the Middle East, but easily checkable and debunked lies about their own success and failure.
So while they might be able to get the same bunch of Israel haters to spend a weekend in Philadelphia (just like they got them to show up at Hampshire two years ago), once those kids get back to campus they are likely to face the same wall of opposition that their predecessors faced over the last decade. And if another academic year passes and SJP has nothing to show for itself other than failed hummus boycotts and increasingly ignored Israel Apartheid Week events, even the most hysterical or self-congratulatory letters to the editor cannot mask the fact that BDS seems to be going nowhere.
It was exactly three years ago that the Hampshire story broke, triggering the start of the current round of boycott and divestment activities across the country and around the world. And if you look at the original divestment campaigns that began in 2002 and died out in 2006, it’s an open question as to whether BDS 2.0 is going to make it as long as the original.
Time, as it usually does, will tell.