The last big announcement I can see on the BDS Central web site has to do with the Quakers, and (as noted here), we have yet to hear from any of those crowing boycotters as to why – if their victory is so absolute – they needed to wrap it in the vaguest (and seemingly misleadingest) wording imaginable.
You know, at this point I think it might be time to formalize criteria for success of a boycott, divestment or a sanctions activity, just so everyone involve with either fighting for or fighting against such an action will know what they are dealing with.
And the best and simplest standard I can think of (one I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, albeit informally) would be as follows: we will all agree that a boycott, divestment or sanctions decision has been made when the people who are allegedly making this decision stand up and say that they (1) are boycotting, divesting from or sanctioning Israel and (2) are doing so specifically in protest of Israel or its policies (also specified).
This standard really shouldn’t be considered extraordinary in any way. After all, in every boycott and divestment campaign that has ever existed (from the Montgomery bus boycott to the protests against Apartheid South Africa), it was the people doing the boycotting or divesting that took center stage, announcing what they had done and why.
Certainly activists from inside and outside those communities (be they colleges, churches or other institutions) played a role in getting those organizations to join in a boycott or divestment campaign. But when it came time to announce success, it was the President of the College, the governing board of the church, or some other person actually responsible for the decisions that were being claimed to get up on stage, tell the world what they did, and announce in no uncertain terms that those boycott and divestment decisions were taken for specific political reasons.
In fact, the anti-Israel BDS program seems to be the only example I can think of where people who did not make these decisions insist on the right to make claims regarding someone else. Whether we’re talking about Students for Justice in Palestine pretending to speak for Hampshire College (while the real decision-makers at Hampshire were saying something completely different) or BDS Central interpreting for us a series of unrelated decisions made by the Quakers, time and time again we’ve been faced with self-serving external groups telling us what we should believe another institution has done while the institution itself is remains mum on the subject or is saying something that completely contradicts what the boycotters are saying.
So the next time you see a BDS press release announcing this or that retailer has kicked this or that hummus off their shelves, or this or that church or government council has cancelled a contract at the urging of boycott and divestment forces, everyone’s first response should be: Prove It. And in this case, proof can only come from one place: from a spokesperson from the organization allegedly doing this boycotting saying in no uncertain terms that they have done so for the specific political reasons assigned to them by the BDSers.
This new standard is really in everyone’s interest (including the Israel haters). For Israel’s supporters, it provides an objective standard to ascertain the real progress (or lack thereof) of the BDS campaign so that resources to fight it can be applied appropriately. For institutions being targeted by the BDSers, it provides them a way to clearly state what they are doing and not doing (to avoid being criticized for something they didn’t do, for instance). And for the public, it ensures they are getting honest and accurate information.
Even inhabitants of Planet BDS will benefit from such a standard since it would help them avoid another decade of being exposed as liars and frauds attempting to pass off one BDS hoax after another or trying to flummox the public through manipulative wording regarding other people’s choices. With such a standard in place, they will know exactly when an institution has joined their movement and will no longer need to hide their faces when their hoaxes are exposed (since there will no longer be any).
So what do you say, world? Shall we all agree that the only way we’ll know when Harvard or the Quakers or the sandwich shop down the street has BDSed is when they tell us they did? Seems an obvious choice for me.