The final major lesson I learned from this four-year research and writing exercise related to BDS is easily the most paradoxical one.
It starts with an understanding of just how massively the deck has been stacked against the Jewish state in its struggle for survival.
As Ruth Wisse has pointed out, the current war against the Jews has got to be the most lopsided conflict in human history with one Jewish state (in which twelve million people are jammed into one nation controlling 8000 square miles of territory) facing off against 400 million Arabs controlling 22 nations whose title to millions of square miles in land is not open to the slightest questioning.
Add to the mix the trillions of dollars in oil wealth controlled by many of those Arab nations, the alliance between Middle East states belligerent to Israel and an additional 30+ countries making up the Islamic Conference, and the fact that Israel’s enemies are more than willing to marshal their wealth and power to ruthlessly bully other nations to their cause (as well as corrupt international institutions to serve their partisan needs) and you can begin to see the vastness of the challenge facing tiny Israel and its friends.
As Wisse has also pointed out, using the fact that Israel has been able to defeat those who have waged war against her as proof of the balance in power between the two sides (never mind claiming that Israel is a superpower in comparison to a poor and weak Arab and Muslim world) is ludicrous. For the only reason we can have any conversation at all about an existing Israel is that the Jewish state has been forced to marshal its resources to survive for six and a half decades against a foe that refuses to end their war, no matter how many battles they lose. Had Israel not developed this power to defend itself, we would have been talking about it in the past tense years ago.
The paradox comes in when you compare the vast resources Israel’s enemies bring to the table with the ultimate feebleness of those in charge of the propaganda arm of that war: the organized Israel-defamation community currently travelling under the banner of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions “movement” (probably the nakedest in a long line of naked emperors).
Just think of the advantages BDS and other propaganda groups have on their side before they begin a single campaign.
First, all that wealth, power and ruthlessness noted above provides the Israel haters with a massive megaphone that ensures that their pet peeves will receive all of the attention in the battle for “justice,” leaving Kurds, Tibetans and other victims lucky to get a few bumper stickers in support of their causes.
And because Israel’s foes have been willing to corrupt every institution dedicated to universal values like human rights and international law for their own purposes, anti-Israel propagandists have been handed a manufactured list of charges with the imprimatur of once-noble names like the United Nations and World Court (institutions that scrupulously ignore genuine human rights catastrophes in favor of doing their master’s bidding of endlessly denouncing the Jewish state).
And yet even with their alliance to wealth and power, even with their willingness to replicate the ruthlessness of the nations they have aligned themselves with, what do the BDSers have to show for themselves after close to a decade and a half of unceasing effort trying to isolate and stigmatize their sworn enemy (beyond Elvis Costello blowing off his Israeli fans, an unknown food coop refusing to sell Israeli bouillon cubes, and a handful of student councils passing impotent divestment resolutions in the dead of night behind the backs of their constituents)?
During a week when all of America’s leaders are lining up to show their support for the US-Israel alliance, BDS “triumphs” (like another secret vote at the University of Toronto in Mississauga– where?), not to mention the increasingly tattered cardboard walls and stale slogans of Israel-Apartheid Week start to fall into perspective.
I’ve long struggled to figure out what could explain the weakness of a “movement” that has been handed so many enormous advantages. And I’ve managed to come up with a few working theories that have been pretty useful in guiding my decision-making.
First, because the “movement” is powered by fanaticism, it attracts and promotes people based not on intelligence and skill, but on intensity of feeling and willingness to act in the most ruthless, uncompromising manner. And BDS in particular seems to have a penchant for selecting ludicrous conmen as their standard bearers and selecting tactics that alienate not just the public but, ultimately, their own less-fanatical members
Second, the anti-Israel community’s choice of BDS as a tactic ultimately requires support by third parties (schools, churches, unions, and other civic-society groups.) who do not automatically subscribe to an anti-Israel agenda (which explains why they must be tricked or morally blackmailed into signing onto this or that BDS project).
But unlike nations (or transnational organizations like the UN) which have demonstrated over and over again their willingness to embrace cynicism in support of their own interests, civic society groups seems to be resistant to similar corruption (possibly because they recognize that their own interests do not require them to hand their reputation over to a third party that has no concern for them beyond their usefulness).
Third, because BDS (like all anti-Israel propaganda) is based on so many lies, its practitioners need to dedicate a fair amount of effort to remembering what they said last (lest they get caught spreading falsehoods – again) or finding new groups of people who are not yet onto them.
And finally (and most importantly), BDS proponents find themselves up against people who do not have to lie, people within or connected to the civic organizations the boycotters are trying to hoodwink or corrupt, people ready to stand up to the bullies and say NO.
It’s been these people who have been so successfully shining sunlight into the dank and dusty cellars that are the Israel haters’ real dwelling places. It’s been these men and women who have held the line and kept BDS from polluting our discourse and controlling the debate.
I know many of the wonderful people falling into this category are reading these words right now. And in my final (500th) posting to Divest This, I would like to thank you all for your truly stunning accomplishments, the true scope of which you may not yet fully appreciate.