The sociopathic nature of the BDS movement, which makes it impossible to work with, and challenging to confront using the normal tools of politics, also explains the nature of the tactics they use in their own political operations.
Strategy and tactics have been such an important concern at this site that I made an effort to aggregate postings on the subject into a single ebook (one which should be supplemented by this series on the rhetoric of BDS debate).
And one of the first things to keep in mind whenever talking about tactics (theirs and ours) is that tactics exist at the end of chain of political decisions that begins with having specific goals (an endpoint that you want to reach), followed by a strategy to achieve those goals. Only after goals and strategy have been articulated can tactics be chosen to further that strategy with ultimate goals always providing guidance as to where you want to end up.
And if you ignore all of the fluffy, progressive, humanitarian rhetoric the boycotters use to obscure their true nature, the goal of the BDS “movement” is the same as the goal of all militant Israel-hating movements (since BDS is simply the tactic these broader movements are using right now): the elimination of the state of Israel (or, at least, weakening of that state in order to make it easier for men with guns to do the actual deed of “rectifying the mistake” of a Jewish state having come into being).
Since Israel is one small state surrounded by many large ones (states which contain the aforementioned men with guns), its survival depends on support from outside the Jewish state itself. And support from Diaspora Jewry and the United States have been correctly identified by the BDSers as lynchpins to Israel’s survival. Which is why the Israel haters settled on their so-called “Apartheid Strategy” in the late 1990s/early 2000s; a strategy which tries to make the Jewish state the new incarnation of Apartheid South Africa in hopes that the global revulsion turned against that embodiment of racism in the 1970s and 80s can be replicated with Israel as the target this time around.
The trouble is that Israel is NOT an Apartheid state, regardless of how many times this accusation is hurled (usually by people indifferent, if not fully supportive of Israel’s enemies who far more resemble successors to Apartheid South Africa). But getting this accusation to stick requires more than just using the phrase “Apartheid Israel” over and over again within the BDSers’ own discourse.
For Apartheid South Africa was doomed only when mainstream institutions (colleges, churches, unions, governments) made the decision that the bigotry of that regime was so odious that they needed to sever all ties (financial, cultural and political) with Pretoria in order to turn it into a global pariah. So it is imperative for those who want to turn Israel into the new South Africa that they too recruit these same institutions to their cause.
The trouble is that the vast majority of the institutions that willingly lent their names to the fight against South Africa DO NOT agree with the BDSers assertion that Israel is the inheritor of the Apartheid tradition (which is why, after close to a decade-and-a-half of effort, no college, church or other institution has divested a single dollar from the Jewish state – quite the opposite in fact).
But BDS tactics (or, I should say tactic since – at the end of the day – they have only one) provides them the means of continuing to push their message at the expense of not only reality but of the health and well being of the institutions they continually push to join the BDS cause.
This tactic involves finding some institution that identifies itself with progressive, internationalist, political causes (such as the global fight for human rights). Ideally, such an institution should also be (1) made up of people who have replaced a genuine understanding of complex global affairs with Manichean categories powerful victimizers and their pristine virtuous victims; and/or (2) easy to manipulate due to weak internal governance or a leadership willing to make political decisions at the expense of the people they lead.
Once such an institution is identified, the BDS tactic involves confronting members and/or leaders of that institution with selective pictures and a truncated information that casts Jews as victimizers and Palestinians as innocent victims in a storyline where all other facts and history have been flushed down the memory hole. Armed with photos of bloody babies and accusations, the boycotters then demand that an institution’s self-characterization as progressive, caring and worldly requires them to embrace the BDS cause.
The BDSers sociopathic nature becomes particularly useful if the school, church or other organization they have targeted does not agree with the boycotters’ characterization of the world, or is not willing to immediately give in to their moral blackmail. For rather than reconsidering their own views, or backing off when rejected, the boycotters are ready to demand again and again and again that an institution must do what they say (which is why BDS has become a permanent agenda item at places like the University of California system or the Presbyterian Church).
But the same pathologies which give the BDS “movement” its staying power are also the source of its key vulnerabilities. For, in many categories of institutions (food coops, for instances) the boycotters excesses have made it all but impossible for them to make progress with groups who now understand just who they are dealing with.
The worship of militancy and rejection of compromise that characterize the entire anti-Israel community also makes them vulnerable to demagogues and con men, which explains their willingness to accept the leadership of hucksters like Omar Barghouti and forgive the antics of George Galloway (who, despite alleged differences, pretty much represent the Bialystock and Bloom of the BDS world).
So now that we know who the BDSers are, how their tactics (or tactic) works and what their key vulnerabilities are, the question remains how to deal with them. And those decisions derive not from who they are, but who we are – a subject I will turn to next.