One of the stories I probably would have covered had I been blogging last year would have been the tempest in a t-cup that erupted briefly over a Student for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group at Cornell’s use of WIX (a free website building tool, created by an Israeli company that went public last year) to create one of their B(d)S sites.
I tend to avoid the whole “if you want to boycott Israel, give up your computer/cell phone/Wasserman Test” theme, given that it’s used so much (by those better at presenting it than me), and because the boycotters tend to turn to their preferred tactic (ignoring you) when presented with this argument.
But, for some reason, the BDSers at Cornell took great offense at accusations of hypocrisy that flooded the Twit-o-sphere once they were outed as WIX users (i.e., Israel non-boycotters). And their OUTRAGED response demonstrates the rhetorical atrophying that takes place when you spend time shouting at your opponents, rather than actually debating them.
If you sweep away all the usual accusations of distortion and insincerity directed at critics, and wild (unsubstantiated) claims of growing success of the BDS “movement,” the nut of Cornell SJP’s argument can be summed up in their statement that “BDS is a tactic, not a principle, let alone a call for abstention.”
You might be surprised that I’m actually in sympathy with part of this argument, in that I’ve pointed out for years that BDS is simply a tactic (albeit the Cornell SJP does not explain the “Apartheid Strategy” propaganda campaign this tactic supports, nor the ultimate goal of the “movement”). And their reference to not being required to be “beautiful souls” was a welcome philosophical reference (even if they used rock lyrics rather than Hegel to explain the concept).
Now I could point out that throwing away every piece of technology that makes use of Israeli components or code requires genuine effort and sacrifice, while selecting one free (non-Israeli) web hosting service vs. WIX does not (implying that the boycotters are too lazy to live by even the simplest application of their alleged principles). But I think this lighter argument (which they actually address) missed a more important point (which they ignore).
As I have pointed out again and again on this site, the BDS goal/strategy/tactic is built around getting their accusations to come out of the mouth of a third party, be it a university, church, municipality, academic organization, food coop or other civic organization. And in order to do this, they must first claim that this university/church/municipality, etc. is already “taking sides” in the Arab-Israeli conflict by investing in companies or selling products somehow tied to the Jewish state (or, as they prefer to put it, “The Occupation”™).
Why kick off a divestment campaign for the umpteenth time at UC schools? Because those school’s investment portfolio includes stocks on the BDS blacklist (maybe). Why target this or that food coop? Because they sell Sabra Hummus or Israeli ice cream cones. Why protest in front of Cliff’s Variety? Because they sell SodaStream drink dispensers.
Now in each and every case, the BDSers have detailed explanations as to why these particular stocks or those particular products are the target of their ire. And, even when they don’t, they are ready to make up new excuses when the situation requires it.
But this brings up the question of why are they the only ones who get to choose which use of Israeli anything is evil vs. non-evil? After all, if a store selling hummus made in New Jersey is fair game in their battle against “Apartheid Israel,” why should use of a web hosting service that brings hundreds of millions of dollars in investment into the Israeli economy (and thus the tax base of the state they so loath) be similarly sinful?
Indeed, the BDSers have given themselves license to create mayhem in community after community based on links to Israel far more tenuous than their own use of WIX. So if they are ready to declare themselves immediately and unquestionably innocent, how can they then turn around and declare everyone else guilty unless they do what the boycotters say is their only moral choice?
This gets back to the claim of BDS as a tactic. For this tactic is designed to allow the BDSers to speak in someone else’s name, no matter what the cost to that someone else. And the basis for their demand that every civic organization they target give into their bullying is the choices those organizations make regarding where to invest or what to buy and sell. But as the Cornell SJP has informed us, involving yourself with the Israeli economy is perfectly OK/innocent/unavoidable – as long as you’re them, and not the people they have chosen to torment for their own political gain.