And no divestment story I’ve ever encountered illustrates this phenomena better than this week’s hijacking of the University of California Student Association (UCSA).
If the BDSers were simply cynical, and not incompetent, the decision of the California legislature to pass a bill condemning their project (called HR 35) could have provided them political gold. For all they had to do was to publically press for a counter-condemnation of grown-up interference in student affairs and they would very likely have gotten their way (or at least generated publicity that would place them squarely in the camp of “sticking it to the man,” a powerful place to reside in student politics).
Instead, they over-reached (as always) and, desperate to claim to speak on behalf of the entire student body of the UC system (despite that student body having rejected divestment time and time again), they ended up demonstrating how right the legislators behind HR 35 were all along.
What could have possibly possessed them to write not just a bill condemning HR 35, but one that effectively made UCSA a partner in the entire BDS project, putting the organization in opposition to all of the individual UC Student Councils that have voted down BDS, Councils the UCSA is supposed to be representing?
The decision to lard the UCSA resolution with pro-BDS propaganda and anti-Israel smears both identified the text as having originated from the keyboards of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and forced its proponents to work in secrecy so that they could try to eke out a “victory” before anyone knew what they were up to. It never seemed to occur to them that their intentional decision to hide what they were doing and ram the whole thing through on the Shabbat right before the start of the High Holidays would not only become the story, but would demonstrate to all the boycotters’ understanding that they were destined to lose anything remotely resembling a fair fight.
Like night follows day, the BDSers justification of their atrocious behavior consists of an unrestrained attack against their critics, anchored with a peek into their fantasy world in which their loss at Berkeley in 2010 was the result of outside threats to ruin the lives and careers of BDS supporters.
Within this fantasy, there seems to be no room for what really happened during the 2010 vote (a vote which involved the boycotters – not their opponents – reducing student council members to tears through endless all-night browbeating). And as for outside forces, I seem to recall it was the BDSers who called in the troops to surround the student union with black-shirted supporters, and BDS Central that was beaming messages around the world to bombard student council members with demands they vote to support divestment.
Fortunately, the public and media long ago realized that even on those rare occasions when student governments have not rejected BDS and have instead passed some sort of impotent divestment resolution (which was immediately ignored or condemned by administrations that actually get to make investment and divestment decisions), these stories are not even newsworthy (much less politically meaningful).
And speaking of newsworthiness, while everyone’s heard of Berkeley and Harvard and MIT (all schools that have shown BDS the door), the same cannot be said for UCSA, an organization whose first public exposure outside the narrow world of UC campus politics has introduced it as an organization ready to trash its own principles to allow a narrow group of single-issue partisans to get their way at the expense of the students UCSA is supposed to represent.
Perhaps this should be a lesson to all of us what can happen if perform work (especially dirty work) on the Sabbath.