Having been directly involved with or covered all of the big BDS fights over the years, the specific observations I can bring to last night’s victory in Park Slope have to do with the repetition of certain important themes.

First off, there is the high drama of the lead-up to a vote with an unknown outcome. In theory, last night’s vote should have been predictable (and thus anti-climactic).  After all, whenever BDSers have had to face scrutiny in the light of day (vs. skulking around at night to secretly manipulate others into doing their bidding), their arguments are always exposed as hollow and self serving.  And when these issues get subjected to a genuinely democratic vote, BDS’s loss rate is pretty much 100%.

But as with most votes, outcomes are never assured.  That’s why we stay up so late on Election night every four years, waiting for that last set of returns that will put one of the candidates over the top (even in years such as 1984, 1996 and 2008 when everyone knew by 8 o’clock who would be the next President of the United States).  For hope (and fear) spring eternal, and the behavior of voters can still surprise us, which is why Park Slope was such a nail biter until all the votes were counted (even if yet another defeat for BDS now seems to have been inevitable).

A second theme derives from a quote Hussein Ibish made after divestment advocates failed to get their motion through the student council in Berkeley.  “…if you can’t get divestment through UC Berkeley, you’re done,” he said, indicating that with the number of potential targets for BDS activity so limited, if you can’t get that school to play along, what chance do you have in all of the parts of the country that don’t resemble Berkeley?

Remember that BDS only targets progressive communities who they hope have limited immune systems with regard to appeals to the manipulative exploitation of the language of human rights.  Which is why they don’t bother plying their wares to the thousands of colleges, cities, retailers or churches that don’t identify strongly with progressive politics.

In other words, places like the Park Slope Coop represent one of the few places in the country that might listen to what the BDSers have to say.  And even there, they had to game the system in order to force a vote the leaders and most members of the organization didn’t want.  And even after forcing such a vote, they still lost.  BIG (2:1 by the membership, and 5-0 by the Coop’s board that immediately ratified the membership’s decision).

This is why I’m not all that bothered by the fact that the pro-boycott forces received 500+ votes out of 1500+.  Some locals have looked at these numbers and wondered how so many of their neighbors could take a position that seems so ignorant and destructive.  And, naturally, BDS spin doctors are trying to present this number of votes as representing high levels of support (in the heart of New York, no less). 

But if you look at statistics representing general support for Israel vs. the Palestinians, this ratio tends to hover consistently at 3:1 (which is really an average of 2:1 support you find for Israel in many urban locations and a 4:1 ratio everywhere else).  So at the end of the day, last night’s 2:1 vote against a boycott simply means that even at one of the most progressive organizations in the country, support for Israel pretty much looks like it does everywhere else.

I’m sure there will be the chance to Fisk some of the aforementioned spinning that will be coming out of the BDS camp in the coming hours and days, starting with claims that last night’s vote was NOT democratic, despite the fact that the BDSers would have embraced the result and hailed it across the world had they won last night (defining democracy – as always – with them getting their way). 

But rather than go there now, I’d like to highlight one last trend that seems to repeat itself again and again in nearly every community I’ve worked with on this issue.  And that is the success that flows when people within an organization targeted by BDS take matters into their own hands.

One of the many ego-salving explanations as to why BDS loses all the time is the claim that vast and powerful Jewish institutional forces endlessly conspire against poor and pitiable BDSers who go into battle with nothing more than truth and justice on their side.  But, point of fact, whenever boycott or divestment has been trounced it has been because able leadership emerged from within the school, church, coop or other institution that understood BDS to be poisonous, regardless of the sweet rhetoric this poison pill was coated with.

Now just as BDS advocates tap into their own world-wide support networks, locals who oppose BDS will reach out to others for help, sometimes to individuals (such as myself), sometimes to organizations (such as local JCRCs or entrepreneurial groups like StandWithUs).  But success on our side has always come most easily when these groups followed the lead of people on the ground, rather than having to take the lead themselves. 

And how do these local leaders emerge?  They emerge spontaneously when people within a city (like Somerville), church (like the Presbyterians) or food coop (like Park Slope) realize that the institution is being asked to do something supremely unfair and supremely hurtful in their name.  That’s when something snaps and people who might have just been occasional pro-Israel activists (or done nothing Israel related) in the past, suddenly understand that they can no longer sit idly by and let the Israel haters own the discussion and dominate an institution with which they identify.

At Park Slope, ordinary people realized something needed to be done and did it.  And few things in politics are more powerful than that.

31 thoughts on “Themes”

  1. I thought the piece on THE DAILY SHOW was very telling. Although it played after the vote was taken, it was pretty clear that even Samantha Bee was taking the anti-BDS side's position more seriously…if seriously is the right word. It was clear from the cutting that Barbara Mazor of More Hummus, Please (and the lady who led the anti-BDS fight) represented the sane side of the argument.

    When Comedy Central makes you out to be “less” crazy, it's a clear win.

  2. “In other words, places like the Park Slope Coop represent one of the few places in the country that might listen to what the BDSers have to say. And even there, they had to game the system in order to force a vote the leaders and most members of the organization didn’t want.”

    This is a gross mischaracterization of Park Slope's political climate. While it may be true that the Coop's membership tends to lean to the left on a number of issues, views towards Israel are clearly influenced by and directly result from the Coop's large Jewish demographic. Activism is far more effective when one can appeal to his target audience's connectedness to the issue. For that reason, it's far easier to persuade Jews to vote one way or the other on any issue related to Israel-Palestine than it is to persuade any other uninformed American. For that reason, the anti-BDS forces at Park Slope had a clear advantage, and I would assume that the vast majority of the “no” votes at the Coop came from that very demographic.

    Having said that, Jon loves to portray BDS as an almost universally rejected phenomenon. The vote came down to 653 votes in favor and 1005 against (not exactly the most genuine of statements when you write “the pro-boycott forces received 500+ votes out of 1500+”). Garnering 40% of the vote is hardly an utter defeat when BDS' secondary goal is to inform others of the plight of the Palestinians and encourage political activism. Clearly, Park Slope BDS made a splash in that sense. Moreover, while Jon continually labels BDS as a fringe movement, it is hard to deny that the movement is growing in all respects (and this is what terrifies Jon enough for him to write this blog). With Beinart's op-ed, the mainstream news coverage of Park Slope's BDS referendum, PennBDS' conference, and a number of other important events (specifically in Europe, like this week's victory, BDS has grown exponentially over the past 5-7 years. Jon is scared, and he should be. This is the largest international Palestinian solidarity movement yet, and it is still in its infant stages.

    1. I tend to agree with you that the BDS is a force to be reckoned with. There have been many racist, morally bankrupt causes in history that have taken hold. While the Syrian government is killing its people, and the the rest of the Middle East is a homophobic, anti-woman, anti-freedom of religion and thought wasteland. Israel, the one Jewish state is the focus.
      There is no racist that will ever admit to being a racist. Even people like David Duke will give you a long winded explanation as to why he is not anti-black or anti-semitic. It is the exact same thing with the BDS people. They will give you every reason in the book as to why they are not anti-semitic. But like David Duke, they are simply adding delusion to their racism.
      You can keep your delusion if it lets you sleep at night. But when you wake up in the morning, the truth will still be there. BDS is a racist anti-semitic movement.


  3. Why do I feel that this decade+ of “infancy” -boasted about in the above anonymous comment – mirrors the developmental progress of this “movement's” supporters.

    Anon, may you find your desired privilege-offsetting “moral” identity. Hopefully in something more valid (and moral) than self-congratulatory Israel-bashing.


  4. Jon –

    Thank you for your kind words and all the support and assistance you provided throughout this effort.

    Anon @01:23PM –

    That is a lovely anti-Semitic comment that you make. Funny how all the sudden after the defeat, your interpretation becomes “the Jews all vote together.” But before the vote, the BDS promoters were all gung ho to show off that they were mainly Jews. And we had YJP outside lobbying for passage.

    You weren't there. I was. I can tell you that support and opposition was ethnically and racially diverse. I will be writing more about my impressions at my own blog. It will probably not for several days because right now I am busy acknowledging all the congratulatory notes.

    In the meantime, why don't you speculate on the things you know about.


    1. When did I say that “the Jews all vote together”? I said, “it's far easier to persuade Jews to vote *one way or the other* on any issue related to Israel-Palestine “. That is exactly the opposite of what you're accusing me of, so please pay closer attention next time before throwing around accusations of anti-Semitism.

      Moreover, while I fully acknowledge and wholeheartedly appreciate the presence of Jewish pro-BDS advocacy, it is no secret that the vast majority of American Jews are very pro-Israel/anti-BDS. Why is this a controversial statement?

    2. Guess what Anon?

      A lot of the people who voted against the referendum did so because they were saying, “BDS – leave my Coop alone.”

      Could it possibly be that we had an advantage because we organized early? or we had better arguments? or we were able to unravel the BDS propaganda? or people realized I/P is a bit more complicated and nuanced than BDS presents it?

      I was out there on the street, talking to people. I changed people's opinions.

      I resent your assuming you know about the people in my community. I resent you assuming non-Jews are uninterested.

      Your simplistic analysis of my community mirrors you simplistic understanding of the Middle East.


    3. One more thing, Anon.

      Very common refrains last night were:
      “I support a 2-state solution. This does not support a 2-state solution.”
      “This doesn't help the Palestinians.”
      “This is not constructive. It only punishes.”
      “Let's be involved in things that help build peace. Let's invest, not divest.”

      Smart people see through BDS.


    4. Nycerbarb,
      Yes,of course you had an advantage because you organized early. You spread the truth and got out the word. That's why BDS always fails,time after time.

      Except in Olympia ,Washington.
      They stole the vote there.
      And that is what BDS calls a “victory”.
      Their only victory….And they cheer that.

      Anon and company

      you are a bunch of losers!!

    5. Hey losers,lost your tongue?

      Can't handle being called out on your “success” in Olympia ,Wash.?

      You losers keep refering to that “success” with your talkbacks in major newspapers to deceive people.

      Like Norman Finkelstein wrote “stop being hypcrites and be honest”

      Noam Chomsky said that BDS is doing nothing to help the Palestinian people.

      Say it BSers: “We don't care if we hurt and fracture communities.We don't care about democratic process. It's OK to steal if it benefits us”.

      Honor, Respect and Peace are not part of the agenda.
      Which community will you try to destroy next?

  5. It can't be assumed that all of those who voted in favor of a referendum support the BDS agenda. Some indeterminate number of the 653 who voted in favor are opposed to BDS but were persuaded that a referendum is more democratic than the usual method of making decisions at the coop. One member spoke directly about this position at the meeting (anti-BDS, pro referendum) and during leafleting in prior days, countless others made it known that they oppose BDS but support holding a referendum.

  6. Gotta throw up a red flag at the notion expressed above that BDS is somehow nascent. As Jon has accurately reported earlier, BDS has tried to pretend that it didn't exist at all before 2005. Research shows that this is not the case: international calls for what BDS became emerged from the 2001 UN Durban conference, and THOSE were piggy-backing off similar efforts throughout Europe and the U.S. that reached back as far as 1967 (I can say that BDS has its roots in anti-Israel/pro-Arab activists losing their shit after their pet nations started the Six-Day War and got their asses completely kicked). BDS is not “5-7 years old”, which is unfortunate for its supporters because its track record of failure looks even worse when time is correctly added to it (and I'm being charitable by not dwelling on the failed Arab boycotts of the Cold War and beyond, which are certainly kindred spirits of sucking to modern-day BDS).
    Also, there is no fear involved in opposing BDS, because it's patently a failed movement. Some anger and disgust because its ultimate goals are genocidal and its currency is hypocritical and disghonest, yes. Not the same things. But I love the logic that BDS is winning when people confront it AND that BDS is winning when people ignore it, because with that kind of mindset, BDS wins most of all by losing. :-).

    1. As a method of political influence, BDS may be in decline. But as a venue for easy self-congratulation, it's hot.


  7. Hey Jon,

    FYI: You may want to delete the comment by Anonymous which contains a link to Mondoweiss, which is a confirmed hate site that parrots neo-Nazi rhetoric. Back when Daily Kos was more reasonable, we did a piece there where we placed quotes from front page posts (not comments) regarding Jewish influence in the country from Mondoweiss and Stormfront side
    by side and nobody could tell the difference.

    Idiotic comments are one thing, but links to hate sites are quite another.

    1. Yeah… The Jews who run Mondoweiss (and the many who read and comment on its articles on a regular basis) are clearly self-hating Neo-Nazis.

    2. When you can find the same crap on Mondoweiss that you can find on Stormfront, and on a regular basis, you don't get to pretend you're not a foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Semite anymore.

    3. What does it matter what ethnicity the people at Mondofront are? If they promote antsemitic rhetoric that is indistinguishable from that at Neo-Nazi websites, then they promote antisemitic rhetoric that is indistinguishable from that at Neo-Nazi websites. And if you agree with that rhetoric, you are an antisemite.

      I don't use the term self-hating because it is clear that these people love themselves (which is odd considering they are unemployed derangers who do nothing productive and have dedicated themselves to a vile agenda). But in any case, they don't hate themselves – they hate other people.

  8. Hi Barb – Congrats again on everything. Job really, really well done.

    Regarding other commentary above, I have a sneaking suspicion I know who our anonymous critic is, but even if I’m wrong I think it’s fair to say that it’s hard to trust statements by a “movement” that can’t even tell the truth about its birth date (having seen divestment campaigns in 2002 and 2003 and participated in one in 2004 – years before the BDSers claimed start date of 2005).

    Given that I just saw my 5-foot-eight-inch twelve year old read from the bema, I’m having a hard time accepting the notion of a political movement about as old being described as “in its infancy.” If after all that time, all the BDSers can claim is that members of the movement itself are yammering to each other at hall-of-mirror meetings, and that dime-a-dozen Jewish critics of Israel are writing as many op-eds and books as ever, this needs to be contrasted not just with Israeli economic success during the BDS decade but the success of other divestment efforts (such as those directed towards Sudan and Iran) during this same period.

    Regarding links to Mondoweiss (or whatever), I tend to avoid deleting any comments (other than spam) which both facilitates conversation and demonstrates the difference between pro-Israel sites (which allow conversation) and anti-Israel ones (which generally avoid comments or any other form of open dialog).

    And in this case, the story of some Norwegian not selling Ahava falls into that “is this the best you got?” category. If our anonymous friend wants to put this in his victory column, I’m more than happy to let him do so, as long as we can claim the hundreds of billions of dollars of investment flowing to Israel from Europe (including Norway) as a testament to support for the Jewish state.

    1. Yes,thank you Barb for all your hard work and I hope you get some rest now. I know it will take some time for this hurt to heal in your community so you guys could get back to selling health food .
      Thank you Jon for all your work as well.

  9. >>while Jon continually labels BDS as a fringe movement, it is hard to deny that the movement is growing in all respects (and this is what terrifies Jon enough for him to write this blog).<< Actually, it’s not that hard. For example: I believe the BDS “movement” is NOT growing in all respects. (See how easy that was?) Look, you lost in an open vote, just like BDS always loses in an open vote (which is why your “victories” tend to only take place when you work behind the scenes in places like the Presbyterian Church in 2004 or the Olympia Food Coop in 2010). And you will continue to lose, as long as people like Barbara are in place to make sure everyone knows what they’re really dealing with when BDS comes a knocking. As for me being motivated by terror to write this blog, I am simply someone who went through the experience Barbara just had several years ago when BDS tried to invade Somerville who has used whatever journalistic skills I have to cover your political project and whatever political skills I’ve developed to help people avoid the crap the people of Somerville and Park Slope had to deal with thanks to the BDSers. Unless you’re willing to accept my characterization that the entire BDS movement is based on stark terror of Israel’s unprecedented success over the last six decades, I suggest you avoid setting the precedent whereby one person gets to define the motivations of their political opponents.

  10. But Jon, the whole BDS enterprise is based on the belief that the BDSers, read non-Jews, have the right to define another group, read Jews. BDS requires this and it's what makes the movement racist.

    Abunimah and Co. (and all other major Palestinian groups for that matter) claim that Jews are not a people entitled to national rights but simply a religious group. So for them a Jew is no different from a Baptist or Catholic or whatever, and have no historic ties to the land. (Of course watch them whine and cry when somebody says the Palestinians aren't a people.)

    This is majority privilege. It's a BDS BS way of saying that there are a lot more non-Jews than Jews so you Jews have to be who and what we non-Jews say you are. That's racist. And even Abunimah admits that if Jews constituted a people with historic ties to Israel they would have national rights there.

    That of course won't do since the whole goal of BDS is to destroy Israel, so he labels Israel a settler-colonial enterprise and Jews as simply a religious group. That labeling and defining of another group is racist and that racism is essential for the every other argument BDSers makes.

    Given this racist genesis, it's not surprising BDS resorts to Brownshirt tactics like shouting down speakers and boycotts.

  11. BDS keeps stumbling from pyrrhic non-victory to pyrrhic non-victory and still they keep going. Why?

    Not for human rights or equal rights or an end to bloodshed. Although cynically (to gull the naive) it is clothed in that rhetoric, the BDS movement stands opposed to equality and rights and seeks to prevent the compromises and negotiation necessary for true peace for both sides.

    The BDS movement is founded on hate (mostly hate of the West and the omfortable lives they were born in, but oh so easy to make use of existing anti-semitism to pick on the soft-target of Jews). Its practitioners are always willing to fight to the last dead Palestinian to achieve a victory that will put those uppity jews (and the hated West) in their proper place.

    Truly, truly vile.

  12. Anonymous, seriously, get a grip.

    Who cares what ethnicity the people who run Mondoweiss are? If they propagate antisemitic rhetoric that is indistingusihable from Stormfront, then they propagate antisemitic rhetoric that is indistingusihable from Stormfront. Case closed. If you enjoy that rhetoric, then, oops, you're an antisemite!

    I do not view such people as “self-haters” because I am sure they love themselves. Which is odd considering they are unemployed keyboard warriors who have dedicated their lives to a vile political philosophy. But in any case, they love themselves. It is other people that they hate.

    1. Hello fizziks,

      I'd love to read the Daily Kos article you supposedly wrote. Would you please provide me with a link?

      A number of commenters here have demonstrated their willingness to label anyone with whom they disagree as a neo-Nazi or anti-semite. This tactic, in which one resorts to harsh rhetoric and claims of anti-semitism and god forbid, Nazism, only serves to dishonor those who suffered the very real horrors of the Holocaust and the many truly anti-semitic movements that occurred in Europe over the many years before (and after). It actually makes me wonder how you could truly understand how tragic those events were, given your inability to mentally separate criticism of a country's policies from rampant stereotyping, discrimination, ethnic cleansing, theft, and murder targeted at the Jewish people as a whole.

      Just because your views radically diverge from Mondoweiss', does not justify your claim that its writers are hateful or bigoted. Just because your views radically diverge from Norman Finkelstein's does not mean that he is hateful or a Nazi. And, just because your views diverge from mine does not make me a Nazi.

      The pro-Israel crowd is all about “dialogue”. But when anyone tries to actually engage with them, the substance of the discussion is lost when one arbitrarily accuses the other of anti-semitism. I hope that you'll be able to refine your ability to dialog. Maybe then there won't be a need for BDS 😉

    2. Interesting comments anon. But when I call BDS racist because at its core, it has to define another group, I'm relying on none other than Edward Said. He made the same point many times.

      So somebody like Abunimah who is steeped in Said, and by extension you, is by his own definition a racist. That you or he cannot comprehend that this defining of somebody else is a racist act show the deep sense of privilege both of you carry.

      I call BDS racist because it is racist in both theory, since it requires defining another group, and in practice. One leader of the BDS movement is a PhD. student at Tel Aviv University. SO that makes him an Israeli academic. Yet he speaks constantly at BDS conferences. He is an Arab. SO really, the boycott is aimed at Jews, not Israelis.

      Given the racism necessary for any of the BDS arguments, it's not surprising that BDSers themselves resort to tactic like shouting down their opponents and boycotting Jewish businesses that host speakers the BDSers don't like. These are the Brownshirt tactics from Weimar Germany. It also explains why BDSers like George Galloway ally with thugs like Assad and the SSNP, a neo-Nazi party.

      It is you who dishonor the Shoah victims. Your tactics are similar to those initially used by the murderers and your allies like Syria, Hamas and Iran share the same goal as the killers. I understand you don't like hearing this, but it is the truth and you can't escape it.

  13. Oh give me a proverbial break, Anon.

    Week after week, this site (especially the comments) provides a variety of challenges to the entire BDS oeuvre in terms political, logical and (eventually) musical. And (as best demonstrated during the entire PennBDS run in January), any point a BDSer does not have a stock answer to is strategically ignored.

    But once anyone here says something 1/100th as intemperate as what is said hourly at the very BDS conferences that are hailed as signs of imminent victory, folks like you show up insisting that any and all criticism of their “movement” consists of nothing more than strategic accusations of anti-Semitism and Nazism designed to shut them up (fat chance). Honestly, one can almost set one’s watch to your behavior.

    Yes, you will face challenges when you come to a site and criticize the opinions of those reading it and writing it. But these are the same challenges those who oppose BDS have shown themselves ready to take on, except for the fact that BDS sites have hermetically sealed themselves off from criticism and thus from fresh opinion that might challenge their narrow world view.

    You are free to show up here and challenge those of us who disagree with you. You are also free to not show up and simply share your opinions with the like-minded at places like Mondoweiss (or whatever it’s called). But swinging by only to pretend that each and every argument presented by the boycotters has not been smashed, and that all you encounter in terms of criticism are false accusations of bigotry is just another demonstration of why BDS always loses – out of sheer lameness.

    1. And when BDS did succeed at the Olympia Food Coop(their only “success”) to pass the boycott by essentially having the vote in secret with a back room deal with absolutely no forums and discussions,they jumped up and down and had celebrations all over world of BDSers.Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! announced the “victory” on her show the morning after that vote before anyone in Olympia,Wash. knew about the result,let alone that there was going to be a vote.

      With that happening in Olympia ,BDS had shown their true colors to anyone paying attention, that they will cheat and hurt and deceive and lie to get their way and then refuse to talk about the lack of process in the coop decision there.Hypocrites and bullshitting bullies with no interest in peace.

  14. Anon:

    Here's the link you requested to the Daily Kos article comparing front page editorial content at Mondoweiss with that at Stormfront:

    (as much as I am loathe to provide links to Moulitzas' money sponge)

    Now, as for your contention that people who oppose BDS are “always” pulling out the antisemite card, it is simply ridiculous. I pull out the antisemite card when people engage in antisemitic rhetoric, which BDSers and those opposed to Israel in general do quite frequently.

    It is not my fault that in general your movement seems to be incapable of arguing its points without 1) accusing Jewish people of conspiring to control the government and media, 2) charging Jewish Americans with disloyalty or dual loyaltiy, 3) minimizing and dishonoring the Holocaust by comparing it to things that are not comparable, 4) pushing the Khazar hoax, and 5) holding Israel to a standard that is not applied to any other nation.

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