I’m hoping to find time before the New Year to do a bit of a retrospective on 2014 (with a look ahead to next year). But before then, I wanted to comment on a story that, while not BDS-specific, said more than any event I’ve read about this year regarding what supporters of Israel are up against.
The story came out of Binghamton University, the same SUNY school where the local Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP) group recently published a “Declaration of Principles” that included instructions for refusing to dialog with anyone who disagreed with them and tactics for disrupting the events of those holding a world view that did not comport with SJP dogma.
But the story that caught my eye did not have anything to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict (at least not initially). Rather, it was about the coming together of people of different faiths to comfort those who were dealing with a tragedy from elsewhere in the world.
In this case, it was the recent massacre in Pakistan where Taliban gunmen killed 130 children in a recent school attack where both teachers and students were shot and burned in front of each other’s eyes. That event was ghastly, even by 21st century standards. But rather than trying to mine the tragedy for political capital (connecting it to the arc of Jihadi violence consuming Muslims, Christians and Jews, for example), Jews on campus (including the author of the original piece and the campus rabbi) instead did all they could to comfort their Pakistani friends and fellow students in their time of national grief.
Which left the field open for SJP to exploit someone else’s suffering when it came time for them to speak at the campus-wide vigil, an opening they used to link Pakistan’s tragedy with – you guessed it – their own political agenda to demonize the Jewish state.
This is certainly not the first time the loathers of Israel have tried to coopt someone else’s political momentum/moment/tragedy for their own purposes. A few years back, for example, a group of them took advantage of the non-existent hierarchy within the Occupy movement to seize control of the organization’s agenda and march on the Israeli consulate. And just a week ago, an emerging political agenda to confront so-called “micro-aggression” against minorities was seized by the BDSers in their umpteenth failed attempt to get one of their boycotts implemented at Harvard.
Now whether you consider Occupy and the campaign against “micro-aggression” as virtuous or venal, there are no doubt people sincere in their belief that these political projects are intended to do good, such as empowering the poor or protecting others from harm. For SJP, however, these campaigns were just more pieces of political ground they could seize in order to indiscriminately lob propaganda missiles at their foes.
You saw the same thing happen when recent protests against the police in Ferguson Missouri tuned into a fervent national campaign. For some, this was a long-overdue explosion of anger against police brutality, for others it was an incoherent expression of rage destined to do more harm than good. But for the BDS types, Ferguson was simply another political parade that others got started. And once it was on the move, the boycotters were ready to run out in front of it, unfurl their “Free Palestine” banners and declare, once again, that someone else’s political momentum automatically accrues to them.
Darkly, this same mode of cooptation has become routine with far less marginal political organizations and movements. Why has the United Nations condemned Israel twenty times this year compared to only four official condemnations directed at the rest of the planet (where nothing bad happened in 2014 after all)? Why do the Geneva Convention protocols only get activated when Israel’s foes marshal them for their own purposes? It’s because all of the machinery of international cooperation and human rights has long been coopted and turned into weapons of war against the Jewish state, to the detriment of every suffering man, woman and child on the planet who does not have the good fortune to be a Palestinian living under Israeli jurisdiction.
God knows what is going on in the heads of those who infiltrate and seize control of other people’s political movements, crash funerals and shout down anyone who dares to disagree with them, but I have long ago decided to simply judge the BDSers by their actions, rather than trying to get into the heads of those participating in such a sociopathic political movement.
The Binghamton vigil story has particular resonance with regard to the ongoing debate over what our side should do when confronted by SJP tactics of infiltration, cooptation and aggression. On many occasions, I’ve been told we should simply fight fire with fire, but think for a moment about the kind of monsters we would have to become to see the carnage that took place in Pakistan as an opening ripe for exploitation, rather than a tragedy with victims that needed comforting and support
Perhaps our inability to act as ruthlessly, as thoughtlessly, as recklessly, and as selfishly as our rivals puts us perpetually at a political disadvantage. But, again I turn to the Middle East itself where Israel has refused to play by the ruthless tactics of her political adversaries.
Like their SJP/BDS auxiliaries in the West, the nation states and terrorist movements that have targeted the Jewish state for execution over the last century are willing to do anything, anytime if it seems to further their cause. Yet, strangely enough, it is Israel (which eschews such tactics) that remained independent and strong, even as neighboring kings gave way to military dictators who are now fighting to the death with religious fanatics as the entire ruthless region goes up in flames.