It’s easy to criticize someone who you think took too long to recognize what the rest of us have known for years, especially with regard to the BDSers lack of honesty (particularly when it comes to talking about their ultimate goals).
But we should not ignore that this type of critique packs far more persuasive power when coming from someone like Michaelson who inhabits the same world as do many of the people the boycotters would like to reach. So while I’ve got some thoughts regarding where the author’s realizations must lead, this is not meant to minimize the contribution he has made to help others better understand what is truly being asked of them when they are invited to join the BDS “movement.”
The first thing that came to mind after re-reading his piece is that notions such as “peace” and “justice,” are not abstract principles when they are applied to a specific political situations. Rather, they become concrete claims made by real human beings who are engaged in an actual political project.
What this translates to is that if the BDS “movement” is fighting for an ultimately unjust cause (the destruction of the state of Israel) and are doing so dishonestly (by not stating their true goals, or obfuscating regarding the unquestionably negative consequences – for Jews, anyway – of their “one-state solution”), then we are dealing with a political project that uses virtuous words such as “peace” and “justice” to sell something that will ultimately lead to injustice and war.
Remember this is not the first time that people with nefarious goals not only shielded themselves behind such “virtue words,” but also built a campaign around aggressively insisting that anyone claiming to represent those virtues must bow down before them.
In fact, the 20th century’s most successful totalitarian movements spent much of their time demanding that anyone who felt that poverty, inequality and war were unjust must subscribe to the Marxist or fascist faith or be branded a half-hearted, all-talk-no-action “squish” or a closet traitor. (This is something I suspect Michaelson will shortly find familiar as soon-to-be “former friends” start to wonder when he became a right-wing, hasbarah-spouting, Likudnik.)
But keep in mind that despite all of the blandishments and threats propagandists for totalitarianism made over the last century, that there always remained a core of genuine liberals who understood that their concerns for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized did not mean they had to join the party or consider themselves “part of the problem.”
In fact, these brave progressive souls recognized that totalitarianism (left or right) was the problem, or at least one of the major problems preventing the causes of justice that they cared about from being genuinely addressed. For the totalitarians (as history has proven) only really cared about their own power (with “peace” and “justice” only serving as weapons used against anyone who pointed out how warlike and unjust totalitarian societies were in real life).
The endless attempts made by such totalitarians to subvert and claim the Left of the political spectrum made it that much harder for genuine liberals to fend off challenges to their moral authority from their traditional rivals on the right. Although, to be fair, the responsible left was able to find common cause with the responsible right (that part of the right that didn’t march to the siren song of Father Coughlin or Joe McCarthy) to forge a consensus that understood totalitarianism – both Left and Right – as the enemy (even if every other political subject was up for debate).
It’s actually much easier for today’s wannabe totalitarians to convince others to do what they want since they are no longer insisting that people living in comfortable societies abandon everything they’ve grown used to in order to engage in a dangerous political experiment. Rather, they are just asking them to abandon a bunch of Jews in a far off land.
But just as some people showed the courage to stand up for what was right during an era when the aforementioned purveyors of propaganda were armed with nuclear weapons, today we find even more true progressives who understand that the loudmouths and thugs are just singing an old song that they are not required to dance to.
Let’s hope that Jay Michaelson is able to join this band of happy (and, so far, successful) warriors.