Somerville Divestment Revisited – Mission Creep

As the second chapter of the Somerville divestment story inches to a close, you can see what happened by reading this spoiler that chronicled the first two years of the Somerville BDS story.

Not to keep dwelling on the So-Called Somerville Divestment Project (SC-SDP) Web site, but from experience with my own writing on the Internet, I’ve always felt that a person or organization’s official site is often a window into their political soul.

What then is one to make of the astounding mission creep of the SC-SDP Web site over the last several months as their hope for getting on the ballot fades, partly because of the existence of an organized political opposition, partly due to their own blunders?

Where once the group seemed happy to fill their site with endless streams of condemnations of the Jewish state, culled from every source they could find (including some of the world’s most repugnant bigots and Jew baiters), the group seems to have turned its wrath on the United States of late.

The organization’s opposition to the Iraq War is certainly something that could be reasonably explained as part of the organization’s “portfolio” of Middle East causes.  But why is the group now focusing its attention on issues regarding Puerto Rican nationalism, the U.S. economy, and Hurricane Katrina?  While these are all interesting topics for debate, it appears as though the SC-SDP’s one-sided harangue against Israel is transforming before our eyes into a general critique of US domestic and foreign policy, indistinguishable from that of International ANSWER and similar loud organizations.

Even with regard to hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast, the SC-SDP has gone beyond legitimate criticism of local, state and national responses to recent natural disaster to indulge in grotesque conspiracy theories whereby US (and Israeli) companies contributing to disaster relief are characterized as mercenaries feeding off the misfortune of others.  Given that the divestment movement is allied with some of those wealthiest nations in the world, one is tempted to ask what divestment’s champions have contributed to the alleviation of misery in New Orleans, other than drop a donation link on their Web site (fifteen seconds of effort by any decent HTML programmer) and cast aspersions on those actually doing something down there.  One is also tempted to ask what experiences have left Israelis uniquely qualified to help find survivors buried under mountains of rubble, talents they have been asked to apply with increasing frequency in disasters both natural (hurricanes and earthquakes) and man-made (bombs placed in high-rise buildings).

The SC-SDP has also shown an increasing interest in “Neo-Cons” and their nefarious role in shaping US foreign policy since 9/11.  For some, the emergence of neo-conservativism as a competitor to other political philosophies such as traditional conservativism (which values stability and caution in foreign affairs) and liberalism (which shares neo-conservativism’s internationalism, although not necessarily its priorities) is an important subject of discussion and debate.  Yet this interesting discussion seems to have passed the members of the SC-SDP by.  For them, “Neo-Con,” as one late-night comedy wag put it, translates to: “‘Con’ meaning ‘conservative’ and ‘Neo’ meaning ‘Jew.'”

It would be one thing if the endless lists of conspiratorial “Neos” with Jewish-sounding names and wicked schemes for dragging the US into war with Iraq today and Iran tomorrow represented even a shred of original thinking.  But like everything on the Somerville Divestment Project Web site, this particular conspiracy theory is just another mix of paranoia, balderdash and outrage written by someone else and “linked though” with a feeble qualification that that it does not necessarily represent the opinions of the SDP.  Sure.

In a few days we will know if the arrogance and fanaticism of the SDP leadership has doomed their movement for municipal divestiture, not just in Somerville but around the country.  If and when that happens, I expect the SDP site (if it is not shut down) to continue its descent into a quagmire of assault and conspiracy, targeted at any and all who disagree with what the ‘movement” stands for (whatever that might be on a given day).  Coupled, of course, with feeble attempts at seizing the crown of martyrdom, built around the “Myth of the 4400 Somerville Citizens” whose voice was ignored by a city working hand and glove with sinister Jewish lobby.  (This Myth will be the subject of my next essay.)

My hope is that the SDP site stays up and stays updated for years to come, as testimony to the true, snarling face of the divestment movement that no longer needs to hide behind masks of “fairness,” “human rights” and “democracy” but is finally free to tell us what is truly in their hearts.

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