BDS and the Element of Surprise

From Algemeiner…

While war is unforgiving to the rash and the timid, nothing is more lethal to an army than being predictable. For if the enemy knows exactly where you’ll be, when you’ll be there, what you’ll have, and what you’ll do, it becomes child’s play either to avoid you if you’re strong, or decimate you if you’re weak.

As noted previously, one of the perpetual debates we have when discussing how to fight against BDS is “going on the offense” vs. “playing defense.” That analysis highlighted that these terms might not mean the same thing in a siege war vs. a direct clash, but for now it’s worth noting how the tactics most often used by advocates of both offensive and defensive strategies suffer from the same fault: predictability.

Attend an “Israel-Apartheid Week” panel discussion or Student Senate divestment debate to watch our side make the same points that have been made at BDS-related debates countless times for years, or read those same points printed out on familiar-sounding 8.5” x 11” photocopied handouts.

You can decide if arguments about Israel’s legal rights, Israeli victims of terror, the fate of women and homosexuals in the Arab world, the Jewish state’s contribution to medicine and environmental technology, or how you’ll have to give up your cell phone if you want to truly boycott Israel are offensive or defensive in nature. But it’s likely that each of these arguments (whether spoken at the mike or printed on the page) will sound awfully familiar.

So familiar, in fact, that our opponents have a ready store of responses to neutralize such attacks, from ignoring them, to telling us “thanks for the desalination tech, but give us our freedom,” to accusing Israel and its supporters of “pinkwashing,” and so on.

Every good general knows that a head-on clash with an enemy in a fortified position is suicidal, which is why it is best to attack an opponent on his vulnerable flank or – better still – surprise him from the rear. So, are there any examples of situations in which we avoided a frontal collision with our enemies in favor of tactics that caught the foe off-guard?

Last Spring, the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter at Columbia decided to meet the annual Apartheid Week challenge not with fliers and shouts, but with a 12foot high inflatable Pinocchio pitched just yards from the boycotter’s lie-strewn “Apartheid Wall.” Since no one expected an inflatable Pinocchio to suddenly appear, that left the boycotters sputtering and running to “daddy” (i.e., the school administration) to have the offending puppet taken down.

In a perfect world, the folks who came up with this brilliant idea would have determined in advance how to keep Pinocchio flying as long as the wall was standing. But such logistics (a subject for an upcoming posting) should not distract us from the key point that an advantage in battle goes to those who can best pull off a surprise.

That inflatable prop was provided to a local student group by Artists for Israel (A4I), an organization that embodies the principle of always going where the enemy is not. For even as many friends of Israel work themselves into a lather when Roger Waters says something mean about the Jewish state during his 104thbirthday concert, A4I is building bridges between Israel and tattoo and graffiti artists one-third to one-quarter the age of the Pink Floyd singer, part of a generation whose response to the aging rocker’s bigoted provocations is simply, “Who’s Roger Waters?”

If you don’t think we can win this war one tattoo artist or rap singer at a time, our side’s recent success getting state governments, and even the federal government, to pass anti-BDS legislation represents an older generation’s ability to win battles by fighting where our side is strong and the enemy is weak (in this case state houses or the US Congress). Regardless of where you stand on this particular tactic, the key takeaway is that we have options beyond ones that have become so routine that they have become useless.

One last example of how our side wins by not playing the role assigned to us comes from Oxford University where, during an umpteenth Oxford Union debate over the Middle East, students were asked to argue over the question of whether “Israel is a rogue state.”

The Oxford Debates were long-ago hijacked by anti-Israel activists committed to legitimizing questions regarding Israel’s right to exist. During such events, everyone lines up along predictable patterns, makes familiar arguments, a vote takes place, and no one remembers the results. In this case, however, American student Gabriel Latner (arguing in support of the assertion that Israel IS a rogue state) brilliantly redefined “rogue” so that it represented an accurate illustration of why Israel is unique among the nations due to its humanitarianism, compassion and positive human-rights record (vs. the non-rogue conventional and ruthless nations which surround her).

Needless to say, Israel’s critics cried foul when faced with a lose-lose choice of either voting down their accusation or voting in favor of Latner’s brilliant redefinition. But in this case there was no “cheating” involved, since the Oxford Union is meant to challenge people, to address a particular issue given the full range of rhetoric tools at the disposal of supporters and opponents of a question. And unlike the many now-forgotten debates over Israel’s perfidy (debates designed to package the same dreary propaganda message in the garb of Oxford robes), this story has lived on to become the stuff of legend, simply because one bold individual decided to surprise the world by not doing exactly what was expected of him.

It might be tempting to say that this simply represents a bit of wordplay that has no meaning in the “real world.” But keep in mind that propaganda campaigns like BDS and efforts made to fight them are all about words and nothing else. Which is why we shall next turn to the subject of language.

Series Navigation<< Winning the BDS Wars: FoundationsBDS and the War of Words >>


2 Responses to BDS and the Element of Surprise

  1. DivestThis August 9, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

    From a reader:

    The “grassroots” of the Canada Greens have approved BDS as official GP policy. No great surprise there since this party, in contrast to their name, doesn’t seem to be interested in the environment so much as hating Israel and expending maximum effort, like the Greens in the US, in doing all they can to delegitimize the only Jewish state in the world while—as all BDSers—they blissfully ignore the true human rights violations, oppression, mass murder, and devastation unrelentingly taking place the world over, not the least of it occurring in Israel’s neighbors especially Syria and Iraq. Also under Hamas’s domination in Gaza as well as what is perpetrated throughout the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia by jihadists under a variety of names. What is interesting and perhaps unique in the case of the Canada Greens is this: to her great credit, Elizabeth May, the leader of the party and the holder of its only seat in Parliament, staunchly opposes BDS and speaks out against it. This stands out in stark contrast to the rampant BDsism in the US Green Party, in this case, wholeheartedly supported by Jill Stein, their candidate for president. Perhaps another courageous step that MP May could take, would be to resign from the Greens and join either the Liberal Caucus or even the New Democratic Party (NDP—even though their track track record [please see below] is not much better than the Greens in this debate—if she wants to keep her seat in Parliament. Note the following excerpts from the first link below in Canada’s National Post: “Whatever the flavour of BDS in question, the Green party has now signed up, at least in principle. The party has become the first Canadian federal party to endorse the movement, although 42 New Democrats voted against a motion in February condemning the BDS, which passed by an overwhelming vote [in Canada’s Parliament]. Green members adopted a resolution that read, in part, that the Green party ‘supports the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions … that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of” Palestinian territory.’ “May, to her credit, made clear her opposition [to the Green Party’s adoption of the BDS language], repeatedly and publicly, before the vote. The grassroots adopted it anyway, claiming to have acted in the name of social justice. It’s the same-old, same-old — Israel’s policies, enacted out of urgent military necessity after generations of unceasing attacks, are treated as provocation, whereas the violence committed against Israeli citizens is dismissed as an unfortunate but logical reaction to Zionism and imperialism and the like. It’s rubbish, of course, and Canada’s two largest federal parties, to their credit, see it as such. The Greens, alas, do not.” The full article and a related link (there are many more on the Web): ContreMilice, Ann Arbor, Michigan

    • ContreMilice August 10, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

      More on the Green Party in Canada and how BDS has caused extreme divisiveness in one of the federal political parties of our neighbor to the north. As someone who for over a decade now has vigorously fought a local US version of the party, the Huron Valley Greens in Michigan whose sole mission in life appears to be the destruction of Israel, I am encouraged greatly by the comments of Elizabeth May, leader of Canada Greens and their only Member of Parliament, who is staunchly opposed to BDS. Also of note is the official statement from the Greens of British Columbia who May represents in Parliament along with the other constituents of her BC riding (district):

      Statement by Andrew Weaver on the passage of BDS policy by Green Party of Canada

      “The passage of a policy endorsing Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) at the Green Party of Canada convention in Ottawa this past weekend represents a significant step away from the values that define the BC Green Party.

      “This is not a policy that I nor the B.C. Green Party support. I think the Green Party of Canada needs to take a careful look at their policy process and ask themselves how a policy that goes against Green Party values could have been allowed on the floor of a convention.

      “BDS is a politically motivated movement that damages any attempt at peace in the Middle East by assigning blame to one party. It risks increasing tension and does not represent a responsible or thoughtful approach to a difficult international issue.

      “I think it is worth noting that Elizabeth May, as Leader of the Green Party of Canada, has also been speaking strongly against BDS as a polarizing, ineffective and unhelpful movement in the quest for peace and security in the Middle East.

      “There are no shortcuts when it comes to standing up for human rights. Any policy that creates division and assigns blame rather than bringing people together is not one that the B.C. Green Party can support. No matter how hard it is, we must strive to find real solutions that build acceptance and tolerance for all people.”


      And, from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs:

      “It is perhaps unprecedented in federal politics for a leader to declare that they are ‘devastated’ by and will not support their own party’s position after a vote at convention. Even more astonishing is May’s announcement that she will be reflecting on her future role as party leader given her opposition to BDS, noting that her primary loyalty is to her constituents rather than party.”

      From “Is there a Silver Lining to the Green Party’s Anti-Israel Drift?”

      Too bad that there doesn’t appear to be any divergence in opinion over this acrimonious issue among US Greens who selected anti-Israel Jill Stein as their candidate for president at their recent convention as they did four years ago. Stein wholeheartedly supports BDS. At least there is a modicum of reason among some Canada Greens, most notably the head of their party and their only MP!

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