The BDS Playbook

A distillation of things thought about over the last many years, from Algemeiner.

Since this series is dedicated to how to fight the BDS propaganda element of the wider war against the Jewish state, it’s time to take a closer look at the specific weapons and techniques used by the enemy in order to more effectively counter (and counter-attack) them.

As you read these over, never lose sight of the fact that BDS is a tactic in service of a wider strategic aim: the boycotters’ self-named “Apartheid Strategy” designed to brand Israel as the inheritor of the legacy of South Africa’s racist and now-defunct Apartheid system in order to make the Jewish state’s demise (their ultimate goal) seem like an act of virtue.

With that fact top of mind, here is the BDS playbook:

  1. Since the “Israel = Apartheid” message would have no impact if it were issued by organizations already known for their anti-Israel stance, it is vital that condemnations of the Jewish state be presented as beliefs of large, well-known and respected institutions. This is why BDS targets established civic groups such as colleges and universities, Mainline Protestant churches, municipalities, food cooperatives and similar organizations.  In fact, leveraging the brand of well-known institutions is so vital to the BDS project that the boycotters frequently resort to fraud in order to get their words to come out of someone else’s mouth.
  1. Institutions targeted by the BDSers are almost exclusively politically progressive in nature. Partly, this is due to progressive institutions like the Mainline churches being vulnerable to appeals made in terms of human rights and social justice, especially if the knowledge of members listening to such appeals is limited with regard to Middle East realities.   But this phenomenon also reflects an important secondary goal of the anti-Israel movement: to colonize the Left end of the political spectrum by condemning any divergence from their anti-Israel agenda as heresy which will get you branded as a PEP (Progressive in Everything but Palestine).
  1. Ends always justify means when it comes to the BDSers getting a major institution on their side, with those means including use of truncated, distorted or outright false information while shutting down member access to alternative points of view. Such a “by any means necessary” approach also includes moral blackmail, stacking decision-making bodies with BDS supporters, colluding behind-closed doors to get boycott and divestment measures passed before anyone knows they are even being discussed, or (when all else fails) fraudulently claiming support when none exists.
  1. During debate, the pro-BDS side relies almost entirely on emotional arguments. While such arguments occasionally ape the form of reasoned debate, the bulk of any BDS presentation consists of gruesome and context-free images (usually of dead children), claims that those bodies are the result of Israel and Israel alone, and demands that anyone who does not do what the boycotters say has the blood of those children on their hands.  Such arguments, targeted at the gut rather than the head or heart, are designed to shut down thinking and give decision-makers within targeted organizations the impression that giving in to boycott and divestment demands is their only moral choice.
  1. Despite how much BDS advocates’ arguments count on other people empathetic reaction to human suffering, the boycotters themselves possess no such empathy. This is why it is so easy for them to ignore or slough off demands that they respond to images or descriptions of suffering Israelis, or Palestinians and other Arabs whose suffering cannot be laid at the foot of the Jewish state.  There is a clinical term for an individual whose lack of empathy for others makes them particularly effective at emotional manipulation: sociopath.  And it is vital to understand how much the manipulative power of BDS rests on their representing that rare and dangerous phenomenon: the sociopathic political movement.
  1. This lack of genuine sympathy with others makes it easy for the boycotters to bring their BDS resolutions before organizations again and again and again, no matter how many times they are told no and no matter what harm they cause others by dragging the Middle East conflict into other people’s civic life. This is because, for the boycotters, targeted civic groups are not entities made up of real people with their own challenges and needs.  Rather, such groups exist for the sole purpose of passing their anti-Israel resolutions.
  1. Such relentlessness is also stoked by the fact that the BDS crowd considers it a victory if they can subject a group like a university Student Senate to hours and hours of anti-Israel invective, hoping that – even if they lose the vote – their steady drip of bile will eventually convince the public that Israel must be a pretty horrible place if people are saying so many horrible things about it.

An agenda built around poisoning the minds of the public is one of the reasons BDS advocates can claim that even if they lose a battle (like a student government vote) they are still winning a longer war, an argument our side often accepts (for better or worse).

But also remember that a political movement must be able to demonstrate actual success, something that’s been in short supply if you consider how Israel’s economy has boomed during the same decade and a half the boycotters have worked tirelessly to bring it to its knees.  Such an empty record makes BDS reliant on creating the image (or, more accurately, the illusion) of momentum, and a political project that relies on fantasy is always going to be vulnerable to those who choose strategies and tactics based on reality.

Series Navigation<< Playing to our StrengthsControlling Our (and Their) Emotions >>

5 Responses to The BDS Playbook

  1. Tam August 4, 2016 at 8:46 am #

    I had my first real encounter with a BDSer last week and it was all about emotion – mine. The encounter was unexpected, a man with a petition regarding free speech was at a small farmers market at upstate NY and I wandered over to take a look.
    The particulars of the encounter don’t matter, he made typical (lying) claims and I was able to dredge out some corrections before refusing to sign his petition and walking peacefully away. Except I was not feeling peaceful. I was in a white hot rage at the gentle, progressive mask for such smiling evil.

    Reading and thinking about BDS couldn’t prepare me for the real thing.

    I hope that I’ve been inoculated. I hope that I can be stronger next time I brush up against such thinking, can marshal facts and arguments more effectively, be more convincing. I hope.

  2. ContreMilice August 9, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

    Tam, these folks don’t want facts nor to be convinced; they’re already convinced of the spuriousness of their arguments and generally are insidious at worst, or well-meaning and thoroughly brainwashed at best.

    • Tam Paynter August 10, 2016 at 8:47 am #

      Thanks for the encouragement and It’s not the BDS’er I hope to persuade so much as anyone who might be listening to the exchange. It’s hard for me to stay polite and reasonable when I get that angry. I think I held my own in the conversation, but I’d like to do better next time.
      for example:
      He misrepresented Governor Cuomo’s ban on conducting state business with businesses that boycott Israel. Instead he flatly claimed that it would be illegal for individuals to boycott and we must all sign the petition against the ban in order to save free speech (and goodness and virtue.)

      I hadn’t read that much about the NY ban, I don’t live there. I had heard about it. As he started talking I thought “that’s not right” and was able to dredge up “companies not people” and go from there.

      I still expect that most of the people I meet are telling the truth as they know it. There is a shock that comes when I hear someone just lying, which is what he was doing. As a newbie in direct conversation with a BDS’er that shock made it difficult for me to keep my composure. Practice makes perfect – yes? Next time I’d like to be able to laugh at him while showing him up. This first time all I could manage was outrage. I think laughing (and causing others to laugh) would be more effective.

  3. Tam Paynter August 10, 2016 at 8:52 am #

    and a confession – I meant to put these comments under the “controlling emotions column ” but working from my phone screen, I touched the wrong line.

    Hi Moderator – any chance of moving the thread to the right place?

    • DivestThis August 10, 2016 at 5:33 pm #

      I can copy them into the right location, although they would end up under my name rather than yours. Alternatively, you can repost them where you like and I can delete them from this posting if that’s your preference. Happy to do either.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes