I apologize if the Lessons Learned articles I’m writing as the run up to the 500th (and final) posting to this blog will sound familiar to long-time readers.
But as I noted when this wind-up/wind-down period began, Divest This was created to extract lessons from observing, analyzing and fighting against the BDS “movement.” And since these lessons were learned over time through numerous observations now buried in the stack of blog entries, I wanted to wrap up by bringing the most critical takeaways I’ve learned to the surface.
And so we get to the crucial question of just who we’re dealing with when we’re dealing with those to who advocate Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions directed against the Jewish state.
Many an opponent of BDS has become bewildered when trying to take action that they think could diffuse or confront a BDS-related situation, especially actions involving engaging with boycott and divestment advocates directly.
For instance, Jewish student organizations who try to begin a dialog or find common ground with BDS groups routinely get rebuffed or, more typically, are told that any “dialog” is contingent on accepting all of the BDSers premises in advance and immediately and unconditionally awarding them the moral high ground and right to dictate the agenda before any conversation can begin.
And even this level of “dialog” is something many BDSers react violently to, as illustrated by the strange comic strip referred to in this piece that features dedicated and righteous anti-Israel activists shaking their rhetorical fists at the whole notion of engaging with people who are not already 100% in agreement with them.
But those who wish to shame or embarrass the boycotters by confronting them with challenges to their self-image as unquestioned human rights champions (for instance, by asking why they don’t take a stand on the suppression of gays and women throughout the Middle East or why their “human rights” agenda ignores the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrians) quickly discover that the embrace of BDS means never having to acknowledge (much less apologize for) anything at any time.
For, as we’ve seen, bringing up human rights issues like the murder of countless gays and Syrians will result not in soul searching but in accusations of “Pinkwashing” and “Assad-washing,” stolen and/or clumsy terms meant to imply that the only reason someone would bring up a human rights issue not on the BDS agenda was as some sort of cynical ploy.
The notion that the entire anti-Israel propaganda program is one of history’s greatest acts of cynicism based on a self-created crisis (the 100-year long, uncompromising war against the Jewish state) which created and now perpetuates a Palestinian refugee problem to ensure a steady stream of victims that can then be blamed on Israel is beyond BDS imagining. Which is why they continue so howl “Pinkwashing!” and “Assadwashing!” or simply cover their ears while shouting loudly whenever someone shows up who can expose their entire “movement” as nothing more than the “Blue-and-White-Washing” of the human rights catastrophe that is the non-Israel part of the Middle East.
So how can we even describe people so suffused with self-righteous fury, so blinded to reality, and so ready to ignore or shout down any opinion they don’t agree with (with description providing the first step towards dealing with them)?
Well first of all, we need to recognize that BDS true believers (as opposed to just the temporary “something must be done ” loose change participants in this or that BDS campaign) are in the grip of a powerful group fantasy, one which casts them as a virtuous vanguard of white knights battling all-powerful, conspiratorial evil that is endlessly trying to repress them.
I’ve talked about such fantasy politics since this blog first began, and the run-down of how this concept (developed by political philosopher Lee Harris) fits in the BDS storyline emerged from this recent series (although you should read Harris’ essay on the subject to get the full flavor of the phenomenon he is describing).
Once you understand the fantasy nature of the BDS true believer, all of their behavior begins to make sense. Why do they commit hoaxes when this is sure to cause their “movement” long-term damage? Why do they disrupt events when this will no doubt brand them as fanatics and jerks? Why do they endlessly boast of irrelevant “victories” while ignoring data that would confront their storyline of impending triumph?
Because the audience for these activities is not a public you would think the boycotters want to convince (a public that simply serves as a set of props in a drama going on in the BDSers own heads). Rather, the audience are the BDSers themselves who can endlessly play and replay, post and repost video of their misbehavior to demonstrate to one another their own edginess and readiness to never compromise the “principles of the movement” (whatever those happen to be this week).
Interestingly, only the craziest (read Norman Finkelstein) and most openly anti-Semitic (read Giliad Atzmon) Israel haters are willing to point out from within the anti-Israel network what is obvious to everyone outside of it. Finkelstein (for reasons known only to the mice and goblins living inside his head) spilled the beans when he denounced BDS as a cult (a dishonest, marginal, failing one at that).
More recently, Atzmon (one of the few characters so out there that even the BDSers finally denounced him as an anti-Semite) returned the favor to denounce the BDS “movement” as being led by a banal petty Marxist dedicated to “silencing any pro-Palestinian voice with an IQ over 90” (which pretty covers the whole lot of them, including Atzmon himself).
The fact that the “movement’s” chief loons are now taking pot shots at that same “movement’s” primary strategy (BDS) means we may be seeing the beginning of the end of the current incarnation of the tactic that has defined anti-Israel strategy for almost a decade and a half.
And it is to the subject of strategy and tactics that we will turn to next.