BDS, Fail, Repeat


It recently dawned on me that those behind the aptly named BDS “movement” must have gotten their hands on that computer Wile E Coyote used in To Hare is Human.

Fellow Bugs Bunny fans will remember that episode as the one in which the aforementioned villain decides to supplement his “super genius” with a build-it-yourself, cave-sized, UNIVAC electronic brain, complete with my favorite cartoon interface of all time: a mammoth keyboard in which each key features one word in the English language (including contractions), allowing him to give commands such as:


Given the consequences of following the machine’s suggestions, it occurred to me that our buddies in BDS-land might be falling victim to the same technology.

For example, they could have typed the following command into UNIVAC earlier this year to hatch their latest self-detonating scheme:


One would think that the failure of the BDSers to gin up any enthusiasm for municipal divestment since Somerville kicked them down the stairs in 2004 might have sent them the message that cities and towns are not interested in participating in their poisonous, propaganda project.  But perhaps this long drought just gave the boycotters time to let a new generation of representatives come to power with no memory of the tricks that had been played on municipal leaders over a decade ago.

The BDS playbook has been put into practice so often and so routinely that I was recently able to boil it down to a simple set of endlessly repeated steps, but the New Orleans version can be summed up as: (1) find a progressive organization concerned over, but not hugely informed about, international affairs; (2) ask the group to pass a generic divestment proposal that claims to support general human rights, without mentioning BDS (or even Israel) specifically; and (3) once said generic proposal passes, take to the airwaves declaring that the institution is now fully aboard the BDS “Israel = Apartheid” bandwagon.

This is exactly what happened in New Orleans in early January and, as with similar debates in the past, local leaders who had been duped were not amused that anti-Israel activists were blanketing the world with anti-Israel propaganda, claiming support of city leaders.  So, within days of being passed, New Orleans’ divestment declaration was rescinded – leaving the boycotters with soot-covered punims as their latest self-made roadrunner trap detonated in their collective face.

Or how about Ohio State University, a school where divestment has been rejected by both student government and the student body in the past?

But by plugging the following into UNIVAC, a new scheme emerged:


You may have seen dueling stories regarding the latest vote at Ohio State, one which claims victory for BDS the other declaring that anti-Israel divestment was defeated.  The reason for this confusion is that the boycotters agreed to a measure that said nothing specific about Israel; leaving them to peddle the generic human rights initiative they had just helped to pass as actually a successful BDS vote they knew had never taken place.

But if the boycotters are free to spin this non-BDS vote as a victory for them, what is to prevent someone else from spinning it as the boycotters’ latest humiliating defeat?  In fact, what’s to prevent anyone from declaring that the vote was really Students for Justice in Palestine finally showing concern for non-Palestinian human rights, including the rights of those suffering under the racist, sexist, homophobic, reactionary dictatorships that represent every government in the Middle East, save Israel?  After all, if they can pretend a vote means whatever they want it to mean, why can’t the rest of us?

In general, I am in agreement with Ben Cohen that defeat of BDS is best left to folks at ground level, rather than making humiliating the boycotters a priority for national governments.  And if it turns out they are falling prey to the same mischievous “one working part” that powered Wile E.’s UNIVAC electronic brain, why should we stand in the way of their racking up the next set of self-inflicted fiascos?

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