It’s astounding how rapidly the mask comes off the minute the divestment brigade doesn’t get what it wants.

For weeks, the BDSers invested countless hours into writing, phoning and pressing the flesh with delegates to the soon-to-be-finished 2012 Methodist General Conference, quoting scripture, telling teary (and context-free) tales of Arab suffering, and generally playing their traditional pre-BDS-vote role of Dr. Jeckyl.

But once the vote was taken and BDS lost yet again, out came snarling Mr. Hyde, storming the stage at the conference and marching up and down in an impotent rage, resembling nothing so much as a collective four-year-old throwing a temper tantrum after discovering he really wasn’t going to get his way.

You actually didn’t have to wait until the vote was cast to begin to get a sense of what would happen the minute the Methodists didn’t do as they were told. On blogs, on Twitter, and on countless Web pages it was all smiles in the run-up to the conference, and even through committee hearings (which ended up transforming the original anti-Israel divestment petition into a neutral pro-peace, pro-investment initiative).

But once divestment became the minority opinion (requiring the plenary to reject the majority anti-divestment position in order for BDS to pass), suddenly panic laced with hostility began to creep into the online conversation.  The quotes from scripture and John Wesley were still there, but they were attached to finger wagging and threats of holy retribution if the Methodists didn’t do what the boycotters were telling them was the only choice God himself would permit.

Years ago, a friend and I used to collect videos (on VHS!) of wacky television preachers from various Evangelical denominations pouring forth threats of fire and brimstone which would strike down all non-believers unless they repented immediately.  But none of this prepared me for the holy fury that enwrapped the Internet during the hour-long final plenary debate when actual voting Methodists finally put the whole divestment mishagas to rest (at least for another four years).

Suddenly Methodists and non-Methodists BDSers were ratcheting up their holy hysteria up to 11,000, insisting that only a vote to reject the majority opinion and immediately embrace divestment would have any meaning, with options for investment and peace-making condemned as a betrayal of everything the Methodists stood for (at least as far as the BDSers were concerned).  And when the vote finally went against them they marched, both literally in the halls of the Tampa Convention Center and across the Web, demonstrating to all (including, one hopes, the Presbyterians scheduled to ringlead the same circus in a few months time) the true face of BDS.

Given this video and paper trail, it’s kind of amazing that the boycotters are even trying to put a brave face on the conference results, highlighting a few pebbles they can pick from the rubble (notably, routine and toothless condemnations of Israeli settlements that have been repeated at various Mainline conferences for years – along with similar votes condemning Hamas and other forms of Palestinian militancy such as suicide bombings).  Given that none of this impressed Team BDS when they were claiming that the divestment vote was the only genuine issue, I’m not entirely sure why they should be taken seriously now that they are trying declare victory after losing the one fight they had already insisted was the only one that mattered.

But, then again, it’s never been clear to me why the divestniks should be taken seriously about anything, especially since their behavior clearly indicates that to them the Methodist (and Presbyterian) churches are not centuries-old institutions with a wide range of critical issues to deal with, but rather are simply playthings that exist only to pass BDS resolutions and – failing that – to absorb the level of abuse usually reserved solely for the Jewish state and its supporters.

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