I’ll admit to being of mixed mind with regard to how to respond when Omar Barghouti (or any of his clones) comes to town.
On the one hand, if we just shut up about it, then he’s likely to draw a crowd no larger than the two dozen or so people who went to see him at UC Irvine earlier in the week.
And this “crowd” (made up primarily of the like-minded and the few brave souls who hope they can pin him down during Q&A) would quickly discover that he’s not just a bore, but a PowerPoint bore who, if stripped of clichés that have become part of the BDS catechism (“Apartheid, “Worse than Apartheid,” “colonialist imperialism,” “imperial colonialism,” “Gandhi!,” “King!” “99%”) would be rendered speechless.
On the other hand, when the BDSers do something that attempts to make their program, their agenda and their doofus of a speaker look like they represents the opinion of the wider community (vs. just their narrow cult), it seems perfectly reasonable for members of their wider community to say what they think about the subject.
True to form, the BDSers stand ready to nail themselves to the cross the second anyone begins to “suppress” them (even if such suppression consists solely of describing them accurately).
I’ll admit that in the current Brooklyn College controversy, a number of political leaders have gone overboard in calling for the school to face punishment for the irresponsible behavior of one department. But as we saw during the UPenn BDS event last year, the boycotters are ready to strike a pose of martyrdom, even if “attacks” upon them consist of nothing more than an angry letter written by a single middle-aged prof.
The role of free speech champion and martyr is particularly rich coming from groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) that policies its own events and shuts down any discussion (especially questions of its speakers) that get too close to the truth, or from Jewish Voice for Peace who have hermetically sealed off every platform they control from contamination by alternative voices (while simultaneously demanding immediate access to everyone else’s venue).
But here we are, with a sell-out crowd planning to listen to Barghouti bellow his tripe for an hour, followed by Judith Butler spewing post-modern gibberish to cover up the fact that neither really has anything to say, certainly not about the real human rights abuses in the region. (Did you know the number of Syrians killed in the last few years is now greater than the number of Palestinians killed in clashes with Israel since 1948? Don’t’ expect that topic to make it to the stage in Brooklyn tonight.)
And once the fawning has finished, the challenging questions from the audience shouted down and the book signing completed, Barthouti will cash his check and move onto the next locale in his tour. Nice work if you can get it (especially if you’ve got a nice safe, warm, comfortable perch at an Israeli university to return to when you’re done shaking down the crowd).