Coming Soon…

With a bulk of 2013 BDS-related issues covered over the last few weeks, I need to take this week off to mentally prepare for what is coming next, most notably the Presbyterian Church’s bi-annual face-slap to the Jewish community, with divestment once again in the news and on the agenda of PCUSA’s General Assembly.

Since a number of people are starting to pay attention to the Presbyterian matter early (the General Assembly doesn’t take place until the summer), I thought it would be a good idea to provide some background to how the issue has played out over the years, as well as a rundown of players on both sides of the upcoming divestment fight.

But that will have to wait until next week when the snow will hopefully be melting and the kids are back in school.

In the meantime, a request to readers.

As some of you know, one of the reasons I put this blog on hiatus was that it was getting difficult to organize the kind of material that appears on this site in a useful way, given the reverse-chronological nature of any blog.  Even with categories, key words and searching capability, it was becoming frustrating to know answers to questions I was being asked were available, but buried in a pile of blog entries.

Anyway, I think I’ve found a potential solution with a new WordPress theme that provides a way to organize materials more effectively (and attractively).  The catch is that this theme requires a sizable number of graphics, and while I can figure out Photoshop I don’t really have the skill or design chops to use it effectively.

So if anyone out there has some talent (or a talented friend) willing to do some pro bono work to help with this site, please drop me a note via the Contact form.

Thanks in advance and now it’s back to the white stuff, with a return to regular posting starting next week.

11 Responses to Coming Soon…

  1. Michael Lumish February 19, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    I have to say, Jon, while I very much respect the work that you are doing here and I value your insights, I cannot escape what seems to be a central contradiction.

    On the one hand, you write about the BDS threat as if it is an actual threat to the Jewish people… which it is… but on the other hand you constantly inform us that BDS is failing.

    If BDS is failing then it is not much of a threat and, therefore, why should anyone care?

    Of course, we do care and the reason that we care is because we take BDS, and general animosity toward the Jewish people, wherever it may come from, very seriously.

    But from your work – and I mean this with all respect – I cannot tell whether I should take it seriously or not?

    • Barbara Mazor February 20, 2014 at 4:47 am #

      You raise an excellent point, Mike. What is BDS really about?

      One might naively think its aim is to obtain a settlement between Israel and Palestinians, or perhaps even “justice for Palestinians” – whatever that might mean. The strategy is to apply pressure on an obstinate Israel to make concessions. The tactic is to use economic boycott. In actually recruiting boycotters, their success is minimal.

      However, all that is a red herring, and at the same time a means to recruit unsophisticated, well-meaing, under-informed people to support their cause, and promote it.

      However, the real aim of the BDS movement is to undermine popular support for the State of Israel (did the last Gallup poll say 72% of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Israel?) The strategy is to create a popular image of Israel as a cruel, evil, racist state whose creation was illegitimate and as a state, wantonly violates international law. The tactic is to use boycott efforts as a means of getting publicity to give voice for this narrative.

      So while they don’t get institutions to join their cause, they do get plenty of platform for promoting their lies and distortions. Either way, those accusations cannot be left unanswered.

    • DivestThis February 20, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

      Mike – You bring up an excellent point, one I’ve tried to confront at different times (notably in posts like this one: http://divestthis.com/2011/05/dont-panic-dont-be-complacent.html). But to bring expand on that argument (and the one Barbara makes), the war against Israel has always had multiple fronts.

      Originally, it was a traditional war in which the armies of neighboring states played the major role. But when that failed, some states (such as Egypt and Jordan) went for a grudging or de facto peace with Israel, while others moved the conflict to different fronts: unconventional warfare (i.e., terror/surrogate wars) coupled with a propaganda campaign designed to turn a conflict driven by an Muslim/Arab world refusing to accept a non-Arab/Muslim state in their midst to one perceived as the Jewish state refusing to accept a Muslim/Arab (i.e., Palestinian) state in *its* midst.

      As that propaganda campaign expanded to include an attempt to characterize Israel as not just intransigent, but Apartheid and even Nazi like, the war moved to different fronts. But ultimately, it is still a war being waged by nation states (over which we have little control) which have succeeded in corrupting major institutions (like the UN), turning them into new fronts in the propaganda war. And when it comes to dealing with organizations like the UN (which represents states, not the people in those states), again there is not much we “civilians” can do (other than expose that corruption, as groups like UNWatch does so effectively).

      But as the war moved to our backyards: to my home town, to Barbara’s food coop, to Will Spotts’ Presbyterian Church, that provided us an opening to actually join the battle and win. And winning has two advantages: (1) it empowers those who succeed and motivates them to fight further afield (which is why you’re reading what you’re reading now; and (2) it helps break the propagandists momentum and makes it that much harder for them to either corrupt a civic organization to their cause or have their accusations accepted at face value (since, remember, BDS has been exposed as not just a loser, but also a liar).

      So that’s why I don’t see a contradiction between urging a continued fight against the BDS threat while also treating it like the loser it is. History is awash with little men and women who have been able to seize control and do huge amounts of damage because good people didn’t stop them. The fight against BDS both stops the bad guys and gives the good guys hope that they can achieve something if they just gin up the strength and resolve to join the fight.

  2. Barbara Mazor February 20, 2014 at 4:49 am #

    Jon –

    Two years ago there was a fellow from the Presbyterian Church who was blogging about the PCUSA. Do you have the URL? Is he still blogging?

  3. Fred Milton Olsen February 21, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    Wisconsin Public Radio is 1/3 to 1/2 Jewish with guests from the Jewish community being the largest single demographic group. This powerful regional media group is doing a great job of keeping BDS off the airwaves. You can visit their website at WPR.org and use their archives search engine to see that they have never allowed this topic on the air. Jews also control the listener funding organization, numerically dominating the Board of Directors.

    Controlling the discourse is critical to winning the BDS wars. If people never hear about it, they can never be swayed by any BDS arguments.

    Considering Jews are 1/2 of 1% of Wisconsin’s population, they have done an incredibly effective job of keeping BDS off the radar here.

    • fizziks February 23, 2014 at 12:53 am #

      Behold the mighty ability of omnipresent NPR to set the public agenda! I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been out in public and overheard people discussing something they heard on NPR. Oh wait, I can. It’s zero.

      Maybe Jews are prominent on your local NPR station because they are the ones that give an F about it. If you care about it, why don’t you go down there and volunteer? Pay your dues on the phones and in the office and in the trenches like they did and maybe you’ll get a show yourself someday.

      Also your observation is just ludicrous. The other day Warren Olney on To The Point had a whole show about BDS.

      • Fred Milton Olsen March 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

        WPR doesn’t use volunteers, even for pledge drives. Their centralized top-down rule for the entire state gives them near total control of programming… but they don’t control the nationally produced programming that they they buy.

        Often they dovetail or coat-tail on nationally produced programming, but they would never mention BDS.

        The history of the “On Point” program is quite friendly to Israel. I didn’t hear the show. The “On Point” staff is masterful in delivering persuasion without overt support. What kind of job did they do on this outing?

    • DivestThis February 23, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

      I checked with the Wisconsin branch of the Learned Elders of Zion (no small thing, given that they today consist of just a few cousins I try to no longer talk with) and as far as they could tell, Wisconsin Public Radio was not on their radar for subversion these days (perhaps because they were too busy getting the Packers over the .500 line).

      Anyway, I checked out the site you mentioned and it looks like the only newsworthy BDS story of the year (Scarlett Johansson and Oxfam) was covered by the site (http://www.wpr.org/scarlett-johanssons-middle-east-flap-over-soda), and checking out NPR.org (which Wisconsin Public Radio broadcasts), it looks like stories like Steven Hawking got the coverage they deserved (i.e., a news piece once the event occurred, with inclusion of that event in some follow up on general boycott stories after that).

      I suspect you couldn’t find what you want because you stopped after punching BDS into the original wpr.org search field and hitting Enter, but a broader search using other key terms is really the best way to find what you’re looking for (as well as taking advantage of Google’s Advanced Search features). I also suspect that your real problem is that the BDS movement is not that newsworthy and, on the few occasions it is covered, stories consist of something other than BDS press releases read aloud.

      If it helps any, I have also noticed that Jewish Voice for Peace as well as the various BDS cheering sites haven’t made mention of Divest This since it started in 2009. While I just assumed it’s not their job to give me free publicity, perhaps this too is a conspiracy to keep objections to BDS off anyone’s radar.

  4. Fred Milton Olsen March 8, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    Don’t short WPR. I have been a keen observer and sometimes critic of their activities for over 20 years. I’ve opposed dumbing down, the loss of children’s programming, the loss of depth in reporting and public affairs, the loss of on-air classes. My first college education (back when dinosaurs ruled the earth) was in radio and television production with emphasis on public radio.

    When WPR makes decisions, they stick to them. As staff and the selection of guests is so generously Jewish in a state with only 0.5% Jewish population centered in Milwaukee, they must take pains that the average listener does not notice or become concerned– this means that the more controversial aspects of Judaism are strictly avoided and that positive social aspects and movements are highlighted.

    It is a successful strategy that clearly benefits Anti-BDS efforts.

    If you want to be successful, I encourage you to communicate with public radio and television organizations in America with the goal of having them run more “bestselling Rabbi talks on how to be happy” and “Rabbi leads civil rights efforts” rather than paying attention to special-interest groups such as BDS. Due to monetary support from Jewish sources, nearly every public radio and television service in the USA is prima facie friendly to Jewish and Israeli causes. Take advantage of this and build on it! DON’T pooh=pooh this.

    Commercial radio and television in Wisconsin is neo-conservative and very supportive of Israel.

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