BDS Thought Experiment – 2

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Thought Experiments

As the previous piece demonstrated, there is really not much skill needed to play the kind of propaganda games we’ve grown accustomed to from those that advocate for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.  Mix one part loaded language with two parts projection of motivation onto others, string a few unrelated events and decisions together into a self-serving storyline and voila – you too can create a BDS (or DSB) movement that demonstrates “Astonishing Success!!!!!”

So the question arises (in fact, I’m asked this question at least once every 3-4 weeks) as to why Israel’s supporters don’t simply “turn the tables” on our foes and let them have to deal with the BDS treatment for a change?

I suppose we might simply not possess the talent required for this type of approach.   But, as I just noted, the skill needed to create this type of propaganda is pretty minimal (it simply requires understanding of a handful of propaganda techniques that take advantage of the human mind’s tendency to fill gaps in a narrative in ways that can be manipulated by the propagandist).

There are other skills needed to succeed in this kind of game, of course, notably the ability to not just craft a propaganda message, but to get it disseminated.  And, as I’ve discussed before, one of the few areas where the BDSers have a clear lead is in the use of Web 2.0 communications techniques to get their messages deployed and drive them to the top of search rankings.

But again, one doesn’t need to be a brain surgeon or rocket scientist to succeed in the social-media/PR game.  It simply requires mastery of a set of relatively simple (albeit time-consuming) techniques, and a willingness to commit to “feeding the maw” of an Internet insatiable for dramatic and/or controversial content.

And here we begin to see why our side might avoid dishing out the kind of campaigns we have been on the receiving end of for so long.  For creating and propagating this type of propaganda fundamentally requires dedicating a fair amount of time and effort to pushing out information we know to be of questionable truth.  And if telling one lie makes us uncomfortable (which it should), how can one develop a mindset that allows you to spend one hour crafting such a lie, followed by three hours a day repeating, retweeting, and reposting this lie over and over again in order to get it onto the first page of Google?

We also need to recall that the cornerstone of the BDS “movement” is to get the BDSers own accusations to come out of the mouth of some well-known or respected individual or institution (such as a school, church, union, municipality or performer/academic/artist), allowing the Israel haters to claim: “It’s not just us calling Israel an Apartheid state!  Hampshire College/The Quakers/the British Teacher’s Union/the city of Somerville/Elvis Costello agree with us!”

And if it turns out that some of these individuals or groups have never actually bought into the BDS program (definitely Hampshire, likely the Quakers) or abandoned it long ago (the British Teachers, Somerville) or were just bullied into a blowing off Israel by the BDSers themselves (Costello), what do the boycotters care?  Their job is to get their words to come out of someone else’s mouth, and dealing with the wreckage afterwards is that someone else’s problem.

So here we face another challenge with regarding to using our opponent’s own tactics against them.  For this would require asking, cajoling, tricking or bullying friends, neighbors, civic organizations or complete strangers into doing something we knew might cause them pain and harm for our own personal benefit.  And while the boycotters are clearly ready to insist others make these kind of sacrifices for the “higher good” (i.e., the furtherance of the BDS agenda), I’ve yet to see this level of callousness in anyone fighting against that agenda.

While it may seem that the boycotter’s relentless campaign of lies, manipulation and bullying are ends in and of themselves, we also need to keep in mind that people can  only sustain this type of activity over a long period of time if it aligns with overarching political goals.  And for all their talk of “human rights” this and “peace” that, the BDS movement is fundamentally based on the militant goals of seeing Israel destroyed (or weakened to the point where its destruction by others becomes easier).

So even if our side could manage to do the distasteful things required to give the Palestinians the BDS treatment, (create and disseminate lies, exploit and bully others, etc.), absent our own militant goals it would be impossible to sustain such an attack long enough to bite.  For even if an individual pro-Israel person or organization could get such an attack campaign rolling, because both Israel (and the wider Jewish community) wants to ultimately live in peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors (including the Palestinians), we lack the militant goal (the ultimate destruction of our enemies) required to dedicate ourselves to a relentless, community-wide, non-stop sliming of our foes.

If lies, callousness and militancy sound like a familiar package, it’s because this is exactly what defines the ruthless (along with the fantasy motivation that allows them to portray their own abominable behavior as virtuous).  And, as we’ve been talking about all year, it is this ruthlessness that is (and always has been) our actual foe.

So the answer to the question of why we can’t seem to turn the tables on our opponents should now be obvious.  For it is much easier for the ruthless to pretend to act in a civilized fashion than it is for the rest of us to drop everything in which we believe in order to act ruthlessly.

This does bring up one last question, however.  For if we now know where the BDSers propaganda message is coming from, why do we always rise to the bait?


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4 Responses to BDS Thought Experiment – 2

  1. Michael Behar January 29, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    Very much appreciating your insightful current series on the BDS thought experiment. Your thesis regarding ruthlessness explains much. We know what they are doing but we can’t bring ourselves to do the same. It remind sme of the conundrum faced by the Maccabees after suffering a terrible loss by refusing to fight their enemy on the Sabbath. They ultimately concluded that distasteful as it may be, they must fight by the enemy’s rules or die. They chose to live and the rest is history.

    • DrMike January 30, 2013 at 6:23 am #

      but as Jon has shown, the enemy’s rules in this case have not brought them success. Compare a similar strategy of trying to get governmental entities to divest from, and to get multinational corporations to boycott, Iran (against whom international sanctions are already in place). Even just the public disclosure of a company’s business dealings in Iran has frequently caused the company involved to cease that business. Yet the BDSers after years and years have ZERO governmental, institutional or commercial success.

      So (probably pre-empting Jon a bit here) the tactics of BDSers have created enemies in the organizations that they try to subvert. And they have prompted counter-efforts, such as buycotts, that have often resulted in INCREASED sales of those Israeli products.
      It’s not necessary to adopt their tactics of lying and bullying. But what WOULD help on our side is some of the persistence and dedication that the other side has. Even though Israel supporters far outnumber Israel-haters, the number of activists on their side outnumbers ours.

      • fizziks January 30, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

        I think that the persistence and dedication gap you refer to arises largely because the anti-Israel people are essentially full-time rabble-rousers. They have their entire lives – 8+ hours a day – to dedicate to it. Thinking back on all of the anti-Israel sacs I’ve known via the internet, I can’t pinpoint an actual career that a single one of them has had, other than one substitute teacher. The rest seem to be blistfully and permanently without work obligations.

        On the pro-Israel side, we tend to have careers such as pediatrician, astrophysicist, engineer, and so on (just to cite the regular commentators here), which necessarily means that our time commitment has to unfortunately be more limited than is typical of the other side.

  2. Stop BDS Park Slope January 31, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    OT: Maybe you saw this at Algemeiner, Israel Action Network or Israelly Cool. If you watch this video there was supposed to be a dialogue regarding Ahava boycott by Nancy Kricorian of Code Pink and Hindy Poupko of New York JCRC. Kricorian abruptly hangs up the phone, leaving Hindy to shine. Worth watching.


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