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BDS Bombast for 2014

13 Jan

I had almost forgotten the ritual of the end-of-year BDS Boast Sheet – that document the BDSers promulgate annually to celebrate their marvelous successes, which they claim as proof of their inevitable triumph.

Unlike previous years, this year’s sheet includes some actual (vs. just pretend) “victories,” notably the Presbyterian Churches (PCUSA) divestment decision and the American Studies Association (ASA) boycott vote.

Regarding the former, when I was debating the PCUSA’s 2012 decision to vote down divestment over at The Daily Beast, I pointed out that if the BDSers really put their backs into it for two more years, they might finally get back to where they were ten years earlier when divestment first passed at the church (before being voted down in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012).

And, sure enough, by insisting votes never end until they get what they want, the BDSers were able to get a smaller, older and more political-homogenous church to do their bidding this time around – but only with the hypocritical but telling caveat that the church also insisted it’s decision not be seen as constituting participation in the BDS “movement.”

With regard to ASA, enough has happened since that vote (including condemnations raining down on the organization from the rest of academia and other academic associations fleeing from BDS having seen what it did to ASA) that we should probably start thinking of the American Studies Association as the Olympia Food Coop of academic groups: an organization that will cling to its boycott no matter what as they scream in our faces about their wonderfulness and bravery while similar organizations look upon ASA as an example of why BDS should be avoided at all cost (and act accordingly).

Speaking of reactions, one of my favorite elements of BDS bragging is their attempt to spin everything – including those organizing against and condemning them – as further examples of their own success.  Thus, the perfectly legitimate response of Jewish organizations and more questionable response by state legislators to the ASA boycott represents “panic” over BDS potency (rather than a normal reaction by an insulted minority group or a demonstration that the first BDS-inspired sanction activity ended up being directed against them).

Similarly, a famous actress pushing an Israeli company during the Superbowl (and then giving the finger to critics) has been transformed to a story about how “Scarlett Johansson Helps Bring BDS Into the Mainstream.”  Which leaves us in the situation where both condemnation and defeat are both being presented as examples of victory.

It’s when they start getting into big dollar “wins” that the more-familiar BDS bullshit starts to float to the surface.  For example, I happen to live in Boston yet the story of Veolia’s loss of a $4.5 billion dollar contract with the city as a result of BDS efforts (rather than just an example of a company winning some and losing others) was news to me.

Similarly, other stories of pension funds or Microsoft or local, national or international organizations making billion dollar decisions based on BDS lobbying continue to never be accompanied by statements from these allegedly boycotting organizations explaining to the world what they are doing and why (vs. having their business decisions interpreted by BDS tea-leaf readers).  And, as I have described previously, absent such statements political divestment (vs. normal business transactions) cannot be said to have occurred.

The wording of that Boston decision (towards the top of the page under January) is telling, given that it provides the boycotters just enough wiggle room to worm out of accusations of dishonesty (given that it never actually says the city’s decision was the result of their campaign, rather than just coming afterwards post-hoc fashion).  Which points out how much boast sheets like this one are designed to delude allies as much as they are the public.

This would explain why they prefer anecdote to actual data, including the data found in a report that confirms what I described years ago: that during a decade and a half when the BDSers were trying to bring the Israeli economy to its knees, that economy more than doubled in size with exports to an allegedly boycotting Europe growing close to 100% and even products from the dreaded “Occupied Territories” selling gangbusters around the world.

Now this segue into reality also needs to take into account the fact that BDS acting as a transmission belt for anti-Israel propaganda does have an impact, even when they lose this or that vote. And it also needs to take into account that reality now includes murderous anti-Semitism returning in a big way to Europe with the forces of Islamist imperialism on a lethal march throughout every part of the Middle East that is not being subjected to boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns by those presenting themselves as morally perfect.

Unfortunately, most of us are not in a position to impact how these geo-political pathologies play out in the coming years.  But we do have it in our power to prevent those toxins from poisoning our schools, our churches, our cities and the rest of civil society.  We can (and have) prevented the BDS arm of the anti-Israel war movement from winning many real victories (which is why they have to keep boasting about fake ones).

And so the battle continues…


9 Jan

The start of Mike Lumish’s latest contribution to our ongoing discussion succeeded in making me blush, which is why I’d like to start off by paying him an even bigger compliment by thanking him for making me think, particularly about closely held beliefs.

For while I feel pretty confident in my understanding about what the BDS “movement” is all about, I’ll admit that the writing you may have read on this site regarding Left vs. Right matters is fairly optimistic with regard to the existence of a pro-Zionist (or at least anti-BDS) Left that I’m hoping will stand firm against the Israel haters on that end of the political spectrum (much like the anti-Communist Left helped to prevent Marxism from bullying its way into dominance of progressive politics in an earlier era).

But as the business cliché points out: hope is not a strategy.  So even though many allies in various BDS fights (not to mention most Democratic Congressmen and self-styled radicals such as this person), fall into the category of a Left that loves the Jewish state (or at least hates it less than they hate the boycotters), Mike provides important balance by highlighting the increasing encroachment of dark language, thought and values into mainstream liberalism – something we all must take very, very seriously.

Moving from mutual appreciation to debate, Mike seems most (and legitimately) concerned about my characterization of his position as stemming from partisanship.  And given the priority he gives that critique in his recent piece, the Principle of Charity obliges me to also prioritize that issue as well.

First off, I need to point out that my comment on partisanship was directed not at him personally, but at everyone dealing with the intersection of Middle East and domestic politics (which, given the state of the world and the behavior of the present US administration, should include all of us).

Now this is not my way of worming out of a critique my interlocutor finds objectionable.  Rather, it is a way to highlight how our partisan instincts provide both benefits and risks with regard to how we all approach difficult and important political matters.

Despite the negative connotation often attached to the word “partisan,” it’s worth noting that a partisan alignment is a perfectly natural and useful way to find our way in the world.  We all need some way of making sense of the many political issues that confront us on a regular basis, and aligning ourselves with a political belief system is a reasonable way of navigating such complexity.

The modern faith in the rational makes us queasy about admitting that our political choices are anchored in a belief system that allows us to make decisions on matters we may know little about.  This is why with every election cycle, reasonable people publish useful checklists that let you select your personal preferences –  issue-by-issue  – with a candidate selected for you by an algorithm designed to match you (dating-service like) with the candidate you most agree with.

But every time I have filled out one of these surveys, I’ve found myself questioning any result that asks me to vote in a way different than the partisan way I have voted before.  And this is not an entirely irrational reaction.  For my partisan loyalties reflect a belief system I have chosen after thinking about multiple issues over many years.  So even if the particular issues facing us right now might give the edge to the candidate from a different party, my partisan instincts are actually reminding me that today’s issues might not be tomorrow’s (since they weren’t yesterday’s), which means a system of political beliefs might actually anchor, rather than replace, broader, long-term independent thinking.

At the same time, embracing a belief system always runs the risk of creating unthinking habit (i.e., unreasoning bias).  And in the case of partisanship, it can also lead to the dangerous tendency to look to others who share your belief system (or claim they do) before making up one’s own mind.  So while partisanship is a useful means for making sense of things, it becomes dangerous when it serves as a complete replacement for reflection and independent thought.

Putting aside abstract plusses and minuses of partisanship, let’s also not forget the human factor that goes into most decision-making (political or otherwise).  For if you don’t trust the candidate that some survey says agrees with you more than does that other guy to actually walk the walk (by prioritizing and acting on those issues of agreement), then why should they be owed your vote?  And as much as personality traits might also seem a poor substitute for rational arguments over issues, most of the successes and failures of any leader can be traced to their character vs. their embrace of this or that political position.

This is my usual long-winded way of urging caution with regard to reading too much into things like the large percentage of the Jewish vote that remains Democratic, even in an age when the current Democratic occupant of the White House seems so hostile to Jewish interests (notably with regard to Israel and the Middle East).

I think Mike and I are going to have to agree to disagree over when Obama’s statements regarding the Arab Spring constitute an endorsement of the Muslim Brotherhood (vs. deluded wishful thinking combined with overheated rhetoric).  But there is no disagreement that the current President’s choices: from cutting endless slack to Islamist foes of both Israel and the US to picking needless fights with the Israeli government, make it a perfectly reasonable choice for Jews who support Israel (which describes the majority of us) to refuse to vote for him.

But that didn’t happen last election, did it?  And one reasonable interpretation of the – at most – minimal change in Jewish voting patterns between 2008 and 2012 is that American Jews have their heads “buried in the sand” in such a way that we cannot abandon partisan (i.e., largely Democratic) loyalties, even for the sake of a Jewish state we hold dear.

But another possibility takes into account the fact that Jews (like all Americans) were not casting a vote on each and every issue of importance to them, but were rather making a narrow choice between two individuals.  And had the Republican candidate been more appealing in ways having nothing to do with Israel and the Middle East (as was Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984), who knows how the Jewish vote might have gone?

Even if I don’t expect to ever see a total party realignment of the Jewish public, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of Jews voted for Obama for the same reasons the majority of Americans did: they liked him better than the other guy. And just as some voters were ready to engage in wishful thinking with regard to issues like Obamacare in order to overcome doubts when the time came to pull the lever in November 2012, I’m guessing many Jews were hoping for the best when they cast their votes in both 2008 and 2012 – not because they were ignorant of the President’s failings, but because the only other option on offer (voting for Mitt Romney – who also came with baggage) did not provide them enough reason to overcome their partisan instincts.

Upon reflection, it may simply be some of the language Mike has used in the past that gives the appearance (vs. the reality) of disagreement between us.  For while he has told me directly that I’m not included in the list of those who have their “heads buried in the sand” with regard to the threat to Israel and the Jews from the Left, I think it has been his willingness to characterize those who do not buy into his analyses (which, if you read his work regularly, you’ll understand to consist of a number of complex and challenging arguments) with this head/sand charge that has rubbed me (and others) the wrong way.

As someone who also proposes a multi-faceted worldview, and who also feels frustrated that not enough people embrace that worldview in toto, I can understand why it is sometimes tempting to try to grab those who know should agree with you by the shoulders and try to shake some sense into them.  But knowing how much such shaking can become the issue (and cloud the very arguments I want people to follow and buy into), my preference is to be patient with those who seem to be taking too long to “get it,” rather than trying to shame them into understanding.

Scorching the Earth

7 Jan

While I’ve always tried to link to individuals and groups whose efforts have inspired this or that piece on Divest This, my New Year’s resolution is to highlight the important work of organizations who may have gone unsung on this site, the first being The Israel Project an informational clearinghouse for detailed and accurate information about Israel and the Middle East.

I’ve been a subscriber to their Daily TIP mailing for quite some time, and it was a recent piece they sent out regarding the latest tactic of Abbas and Co to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to subvert it for their own purposes that provided the title – and subject – for this piece.

The Israel Project’s mailing spelled out (and footnoted) the facts and history behind previous Palestinian infiltration, cooptation and coercion efforts designed to turn an international organization created to fight for a worthy cause (the preservation of cultural heritage – UNESCO, the furtherance of human rights – UNHCR, and now international law – the ICC) into weapon systems directed at you-know-who.

Like similar efforts at infiltration and cooptation we see taking place within civil society organizations by the BDS “movement,” the PA’s attempt to join global treaty organizations in order to subvert them reflect a repeating pattern of leveraging the openness and liberality of the many for narrow and illiberal ends of the few.

Just as Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) demands the right to speak from every platform in the land while denying their own platforms to anyone else, anti-Israel propagandists (including Israel’s alleged “peace partners”) are demanding that anyone dedicated to a progressive or humanitarian cause must bow down before them, while all the time refusing to subject themselves to rules or standards implied by phrases such as “human rights,” or “international law.”

And so the next international organization becomes corrupted to the point of uselessness (beyond generating indictments of their new member’s favorite political enemy).  And while it is obvious why someone like Abbas would like to hear his charges come out of the mouth of a respected entity like the International Criminal Court, it’s not entirely clear what the rest of the planet gets out of such a deal.

After all, these organizations (not to mention the causes they fight for like cultural heritage, human rights and international justice) are all human constructs, and fragile ones at that.  Given how recently the nation state became the key organizing principle for human societies, the notion that we must be evolving into a global order where everyone enjoys equal  human rights (just as citizens of a nation are supposed to have equal citizen rights) is just that – a notion.  Or, more specifically, it is a cause that needs to be argued for (especially to those nation states being asked to sacrifice some of their rights for the benefits of participating in such a new – and allegedly beneficent – global order).

But what happens when nations or individuals and organizations acting on behalf of nations take over the organizations meant to undergird such a new order and turn them into tools of national statecraft (or warcraft)?  Under those circumstances, are human rights and international law still beneficent principles we should all be fighting for, or slogans behind which the ruthless hide in order to get others to do their bidding?

A few years back, I recall a visitor to this site claiming that even if the global institutions being built were less than perfect, we should still support them since any problems simply represented growing pains in an evolutionary process that was destined to lead to a better world, just as biological evolution leads to continued improvement of a species.  But even biological evolution is hardly on a pre-destined trajectory towards perfection.  Yes, on the whole it has led to progress.  But it has also led to dead ends, mutations and the termination of species that could have flowered (and even evolved into something superior to luckier survivors) had they not met some random catastrophe that wiped them off the board.

In a similar way, a mutated “evolving” global system in which tyrants get to decide who is a human rights violator (a list that never includes them), one where faux-nations get to indict real ones for imagined crimes is a system no genuine supporter of things like human rights and international justice can embrace.

Which is why anyone dedicated to transforming the world into something other than a planet full of competing nation states – even if such advocates have nothing but loathing for the Jewish one – should be first in line to condemn attempts to corrupt our already corrupted global institutions still further.  For an International Criminal Court that can indict Israel in the name of “Palestine” is the same institution that can indict anyone without the power and ruthlessness to take over and twist it to their own narrow purposes.  And whatever you want to call such a process, calling it “justice” is a sick joke no genuine advocate for justice should find funny.

That Will Be the BDS Year That Was

30 Dec

Like many a political motivation, my return to blogging at Divest This! earlier this year was motivated more by pique than by a sense that things were spinning out of control.

For every couple of years, a specific BDS story (the American Studies Association last year, the Olympia Food Coop a few years back) gets up my nose, perhaps because it involves the boycotters manipulating and harming others for their own lame purposes, a phenomenon I learned about (and have been reacting to) ever since divestment first crossed my path in Somerville, MA.

Unlike Somerville, the BDSers “won” with the ASA, even if their “victory” involves nothing more than insisting that their boycott has meaning when not one American Studies department (nor even the ASA itself) has demonstrated a willingness to actually implement or enforce it.

But even as condemnations for their move poured in from across the academy (including from the largest academic associations in the country), ASA leaders who have insisted on boycott uber alles have demonstrated what their program was really all about: giving a small group of partisans the chance to insist their propaganda campaign has gained momentum as they fan out to try to wreak havoc on the next academic association (if not the academy as a whole).

Will it work?  Hard to tell.  The Modern Language Association (MLA) has tabled boycott-related votes at their upcoming conference in January, and other associations with a substantial number of members salivating over the possibility of joining in on a boycott (like the American Anthropology Association and Middle East Studies Association) ended up pulling back from the brink, passing vaporous measures that condemned those who condemned the boycotters – but refusing to join the ASA in a move that might lead to personal consequences for BDS-obsessed pseudo-scholars (such as being turned into laughingstocks, a la Curtis “One Has to Start Somewhere” Marez).

Remember that when a civic organization becomes a promising target for the BDSers, you can expect to see widespread attempts at replication of one success across similar organizations.  But, as we learned with food coops, “success” at one institution can lead to self-immunization across that category, leaving it barren for future takeover attempts.  So perhaps another year spent mocking the cowardice and pretensions of the ASA boycotters will overwhelm their bombast enough to convince the rest of the academy that there is far more to lose than to gain from jumping onto an alleged anti-Israel “bandwagon.”

Of course the big story in 2014 was the Presbyterian vote to repeat the mistake they made in 2004 and vote divestment back in.  And while I could be cute and say that the BDSers need to win twice more to make up for the four no votes they received in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 (or embrace the PCUSA’s talking points that their choice to divest does not make them part of the BDS movement), no such double talk (either mine or theirs) can cover up the fact that this was a tragic loss.

But for who?  For the only reason divestment won by a narrow vote in 2014 is that the church has lost a half a million members since hostility towards the Jewish state entered their liturgy.  And while some of this loss just reflects demographics of an institution where old members age and their children do not join, the continuing exodus of many Presbyterian churches out of PCUSA indicates (1) large numbers of church members fed up with being dragged into someone else’s political battles year after year after year; (2) PCUSA leaders are ready to see their organization shrink in order to leave them in control of a more politically homogenous (albeit smaller and dying) flock.

So again it remains to be seen if other Mainline Protestant denominations will join their PCUSA brothers in embracing an anti-Israel propaganda campaign (not to mention demographic oblivion), even at a time when Christians have become the new Jews with regard to their coming extinction across the Middle East (save Israel).

The other bummer in 2014 involves West Coast BDSers finally cracking the code in getting more than a handful of student organizations to pass anti-Israel resolutions (such as divestment votes in student government or an academic boycott vote within the state’s graduate student union).

In the case of student government, this involves packing student senates with people who are BDSers first, student representatives second.  And in the case of that graduate student union, this involved the same majority of a minority tactic used within ASA. But regardless of the means of manipulation used, California continues to be an incubator for BDS tactics – including that tactics of disruption and intimidation that have spread throughout the country the more the excesses of groups like SJP go unpunished.

So what to do as we enter 2015, a year in which the boycotters feel emboldened, especially after riding another wave of anti-Israel hysteria that followed last summer’s Hamas war?

To begin with, we need to realize that the ever-louder shouts emanating from the mouths of BDS types are also designed to drown out the cries of millions in the Middle East dying under the jackboots of political Islamism (not to mention the secular tyrannies with which the jihadis are locked in a death struggle). And even if pointing this out means we will be met with accusations of Pink- Brown- Assad- and ISIS-washing (not to mention racism and “Islamophobia”), we have to learn to ignore the boycotters lame defenses as effectively as they ignore our strong ones.

Secondly, those fighting a rearguard battle at places like the University of California system need to learn the art of creative subversion.  Some ideas in this category might include starting Israel investment clubs on campuses, proving that students don’t give a rat’s ass about SJP’s divestment rhetoric, or building bridges between graduate student union members and their Israeli counterparts (and daring the union leadership to do something about it).

In addition to following the “Make an enemy live up to its own book of rules” recommendation from Alinky’s Rules for Radicals (suitably modified as described here), such tactics do not require activists on our side to play by the stacked rules set up by SJP, ones which demand that Israel forever remain in the dock with the boycotters acting as prosecutor, judge and jury.

And whether our counter-attack takes on these or some other forms, the attitude we must bring to the battle is that of the happy warrior, ready to mock the BDSers for their hypocrisy and pretensions, ready to “freeze” them as the shrill, bullying, cynical, manipulative turds that they are, and ready to build a thriving Jewish/pro-Israel community on campus that is as vibrant and powerful as the nation it defends (in contrast to an SJP fighting on behalf of a murderous rot spreading across the world).


23 Dec

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.

Denormalization vs. Normality

14 Dec

A brief mention of “denormalization” in a recent piece got me thinking about the whole notion of “normalcy” in more detail.

For those unaware of what “denormalization” is all about, this is the name for that element of the anti-Israel propaganda toolkit designed to make everything about being an Israeli (or an Israeli supporter) seem strange, even risky.

At its grossest, denormalization involves jumping up and shouting during orchestra concerts or blowing air-horns during ballet performances where Israeli performers are on the stage.  The idea here, I suppose, is to inform those performers, the audience and the world at large that while any other nationals can entertain the public uninterrupted, Israelis engaging in such “normal” activities will never know what awaits them.

While we’ve seen increasing use of disruptive tactics at colleges and universities (primarily targeting political vs. artistic events), for the most part campus “denormalization” consists of a refusal by anti-Israel activists to do anything with Jewish or Israel-related counterparts (including engaging in dialog with them) lest such interaction create the appearance that the Arab-Israeli conflict is just another issue to be discussed and solved normally.

I’ve talked before about how those embracing this tactic have only succeeded in denormalizing themselves.  But a better word for this phenomenon might be “ab-normalizing” (as in abnormal psychology).  For what else are we to make of individuals who have decided to shut their eyes and ears to evidence that contradicts their beliefs (and shut their mind to critical thought) joining together with the like-minded to prevent anyone else from seeing, hearing or thinking in ways different than the boycotters?

But given that you can read about the sociopathologic nature of the BDS “movement” in previous diagnosis, today I’d like to focus on a different but related question, namely: might denormalization campaigns conducted by the abnormal be doomed by the fact that Israel remains today the only normal country left on earth?

Perhaps some explanation is in order.

A few years ago, I was on a panel at my temple presenting with fellow parents on how to talk to your kids about Israel.  And during that talk, a fellow panelist who had recently visited Israel with her family described how unusual it seemed to be in a country where armed soldiers (not to mention armed civilians) were so omnipresent.

Some further reflection on how strange it felt to visit a nation where everyone seemed to be not just a soldier but a veteran of combat got us thinking about how the difference between Israeli society and our own might reflect our unusualness, rather than theirs.

After all, mine was the first generation of Americans that took it for granted that our civic duty did not require a stint in the military.  And my parents are just old enough to remember a time when those slightly older than they (who had fought in World War II) were universally familiar with making sacrifices for victory, up to and including seeing friends die or killing others in combat.

Now presuming there was nothing unique about the gene pool when this Greatest Generation was born, it was historical circumstance that forged them into a force that would save the world and then rebuild it before passing onto their children a peace they hoped would ensure that such a level of sacrifice need never be required again.

But, again echoing my favorite political thinker, it is a very small step from being relieved of the burden to defend yourself to taking as a given that the law of the jungle can be kept at bay by people (i.e., a professional soldiery) that you rarely, if ever, need to interact with.  And, given one more generation, it becomes easy to forget that the law of the jungle ever existed.

It’s a cliché to say that Europe chose to spend its resources on a cradle-to-grave welfare state while the US covered the costs of defending the continent.  Like most great simplifications, this one is far from fair or accurate.  But I think it is fair to say that a continent devastated by two world wars (and in the cross-hairs of nuclear annihilation for 50 years after that) would welcome the chance to believe that mankind was evolving beyond the need to fight for survival (a fight that would necessitate both dying and killing).

Yet even as we retreat ever further into our comforts and security, one nation continues to live as if history had not reached its end.  To be a citizen of Israel means fighting and sacrificing for that privilege, and raising children to understand that they too need to do more than be born in order to ensure the survival of their nation.  It means living with the understanding that everything you have (including the lives of you and your family) can be taken away in an instant by ruthless men who also understand that the law of the jungle has not been chucked into history’s dust bin.  In short, it means living in a way that was considered “normal” throughout most of human history. And, far from generating pessimism, living in the real world seems to have made Israelis some of the happiest, most successful people on earth.

Perhaps an unconscious understanding that only Israelis manifest the strength and civic values that once formed and sustained other nations fuels resentment of the Jewish state (alongside more traditional reasons to resent its inhabitants).  Or perhaps societies where one segment of the population outsources its defense to another no longer understands that an Israeli citizen under arms is neither frightening nor heroic but normal, reflecting a now-forgotten way of life that was once taken for granted.

Which means that “denormalization” can only highlight the abnormal nature of the denormalizers and the un-normal situation of those they are trying to turn against normal Israelis.  Got that?

I suppose such a tactic might work, at least with those most stubborn in their determination to forget what the world is really like.  But on a less-meta level, I’m not sure a nation where every citizen understands what is required for survival, where even violinists and ballet dancers have heard the sound of artillery, is going to be cowed because some BDShole blows an airhorn at a concert or one group of 18-year-olds on a college campus refuses to talk to anyone who has their number.