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Holiday Celebrations

11 Apr

Well the holidays are upon us, so time to take a look at some inspiring events from the various war zones the BDSers chose to open up over the last few weeks.

Starting off with an event that put all the boycotter’s loathsome tactics and abhorrent behavior on display, a divestment resolution suddenly appeared on the agenda of the Student Assembly at Cornell last Tuesday, which meant a vote on the matter would take place over the coming week.  Actually, the original agenda made no mention of the measure – consisting of standard SJP boilerplate – but a re-send later in the day added it to the bottom of a long list of items.

Coincidentally (NOT!), discussion and voting on this measure would have taken place over a period when (quelle coincidence!) many Jews would be heading home (or would already at home) for Passover.

Thankfully, students at Cornell were able to organize a response rapidly enough to get the whole sordid thing tabled indefinitely yesterday afternoon (effectively killing the measure).

I’ll let this video from the vote (which ended with the usual BDSer tantrum) tell the tale:

Yes, once again, screaming at everyone who doesn’t do what you say is standard operating procedure for the current generation of Israel haters.

Actually, it’s also the tactic of choice for the last generation, as displayed by this articulate British fellow peeved over the fact that his group’s ongoing picketing of an Ecostream store in the UK (which sells evil Sodastream dispensers) has been met by effective, good-humored and hugely successful counter-protests by Sussex Friends of Israel:

And moving back one generation further, 85-year-old Saul Zabar dealt with the you-know-what-holes asking him why he wasn’t taking their phone calls by telling them point-blank “I didn’t think you were worth it.”  (Truer words were never spoken.)

But for better or worse, it is still worth it for some of us to continue working towards the continued defeat of BDS, the weakest link in the entire chain of anti-Israel propaganda that goes under the label of “de-legitimization.”

And in that spirit (as well as the spirit of adding bitter herbs to an otherwise sweet upcoming holiday), it’s also worth noting some not-so-good news coming from a place I haven’t revisited yet this year: Olympia Washington where local activists who lost a lawsuit against the local food coop for their anti-Israel boycott recently had their appeal of that original court decision rejected.

Now if I were a BDSer, I would simply ignore that story (as they have ignored the fact that every other food coop in the country have used Olympia as an example of what NOT to do) or come up with some cockamamie way to translate that defeat into a disguised victory.  But one of the reasons the boycotters lose so often is the fact that they spend far too much time in their own virtual reality vs. the real one.

Personally, I prefer learning from experiences (good or ill).  And, in the case of Olympia (vs. stories coming out of Dartmouth, Sussex and Zabars) the lesson seems to reinforce what I’ve said in the past regarding the preferability of political vs. legal responses to BDS.  For, more often than not, whenever we engage with Israel’s opponents at the political level we tend to win.  But whenever a BDS-related case has gone to court, the people bringing the suit (usually the BDSers, BTW) have always lost.

This may sound like odd commentary, given that I provided expert testimony in the Olympia case.  But that contribution was motivated by the fact that I never say no to anyone asking for help in their BDS fights.  And for those who aren’t asking for such help right this moment, I’m going to give you some advice anyway:  put your energy into coming up with imaginative tactics based on a sound strategy articulated in skillful language and you too will probably have the pleasure of seeing the boycotters bellowing and blubbering in impotent rage, rather than celebrating and gloating at your expense.

WIX

26 Feb

One of the stories I probably would have covered had I been blogging last year would have been the tempest in a t-cup that erupted briefly over a Student for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group at Cornell’s use of WIX (a free website building tool, created by an Israeli company that went public last year) to create one of their B(d)S sites.

I tend to avoid the whole “if you want to boycott Israel, give up your computer/cell phone/Wasserman Test” theme, given that it’s used so much (by those better at presenting it than me), and because the boycotters tend to turn to their preferred tactic (ignoring you) when presented with this argument.

But, for some reason, the BDSers at Cornell took great offense at accusations of hypocrisy that flooded the Twit-o-sphere once they were outed as WIX users (i.e., Israel non-boycotters).  And their OUTRAGED response demonstrates the rhetorical atrophying that takes place when you spend time shouting at your opponents, rather than actually debating them.

If you sweep away all the usual accusations of distortion and insincerity directed at critics, and wild (unsubstantiated) claims of growing success of the BDS “movement,” the nut of Cornell SJP’s argument can be summed up in their statement that “BDS is a tactic, not a principle, let alone a call for abstention.”

You might be surprised that I’m actually in sympathy with part of this argument, in that I’ve pointed out for years that BDS is simply a tactic (albeit the Cornell SJP does not explain the “Apartheid Strategy” propaganda campaign this tactic supports, nor the ultimate goal of the “movement”).  And their reference to not being required to be “beautiful souls” was a welcome philosophical reference (even if they used rock lyrics rather than Hegel to explain the concept).

Now I could point out that throwing away every piece of technology that makes use of Israeli components or code requires genuine effort and sacrifice, while selecting one free (non-Israeli) web hosting service vs. WIX does not (implying that the boycotters are too lazy to live by even the simplest application of their alleged principles).  But I think this lighter argument (which they actually address) missed a more important point (which they ignore).

As I have pointed out again and again on this site, the BDS goal/strategy/tactic is built around getting their accusations to come out of the mouth of a third party, be it a university, church, municipality, academic organization, food coop or other civic organization.  And in order to do this, they must first claim that this university/church/municipality, etc. is already “taking sides” in the Arab-Israeli conflict by investing in companies or selling products somehow tied to the Jewish state (or, as they prefer to put it, “The Occupation”™).

Why kick off a divestment campaign for the umpteenth time at UC schools?  Because those school’s investment portfolio includes stocks on the BDS blacklist (maybe).  Why target this or that food coop?  Because they sell Sabra Hummus or Israeli ice cream cones.  Why protest in front of Cliff’s Variety?  Because they sell SodaStream drink dispensers.

Now in each and every case, the BDSers have detailed explanations as to why these particular stocks or those particular products are the target of their ire.  And, even when they don’t, they are ready to make up new excuses when the situation requires it.

But this brings up the question of why are they the only ones who get to choose which use of Israeli anything is evil vs. non-evil?  After all, if a store selling hummus made in New  Jersey is fair game in their battle against “Apartheid Israel,” why should use of a web hosting service that brings hundreds of millions of dollars in investment into the Israeli economy (and thus the tax base of the state they so loath) be similarly sinful?

Indeed, the BDSers have given themselves license to create mayhem in community after community based on links to Israel far more tenuous than their own use of WIX.  So if they are ready to declare themselves immediately and unquestionably innocent, how can they then turn around and declare everyone else guilty unless they do what the boycotters say is their only moral choice?

This gets back to the claim of BDS as a tactic.  For this tactic is designed to allow the BDSers to speak in someone else’s name, no matter what the cost to that someone else.  And the basis for their demand that every civic organization they target give into their bullying is the choices those organizations make regarding where to invest or what to buy and sell.  But as the Cornell SJP has informed us, involving yourself with the Israeli economy is perfectly OK/innocent/unavoidable – as long as you’re them, and not the people they have chosen to torment for their own political gain.

ASA and Oxfam – Another Thought Experiment

7 Feb

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Thought Experiments

Time for yet another thought experiment, this one designed to answer the question I ended my last piece with, namely, what makes the nature of BDS so unfathomable to those who (like ASA and Oxfam) become its willing victims?

To kick things off, think about a political issue you care passionately about.  Maybe it’s pollution or global warming, or perhaps you are outraged by the genocide the government of Sudan has practiced in Darfur or the behavior of China in Tibet.  This political passion might even have to do with the Middle East conflict.  For instance, I happen to hold beliefs no less passionately regarding who is right and who is wrong in that conflict as do the BDSers (although hopefully more informed by facts and reason).

OK, now think about the various institutions you belong to and possibly even lead: perhaps a church or synagogue, maybe a professional or civic organization.  And from this list, pick one that, if they endorsed your political beliefs, would help amplify your positions far beyond what you can do on your own.

But let’s say that after some consideration and talking with other members of the civic group you have chosen, you learn that others do not share your beliefs (or, going even further, hold beliefs opposite to yours with the same vehemence as do you).   And in addition to offending these members (who may, in fact, hold a minority view within the chosen group), you know with certainty that getting this organization to officially endorse your views will cause significant damage to its central mission.

So what do you do next?  Well, if you are a normal person, you might find other outlets for your political activity (such as joining or starting a different organization that has advocating for your beliefs as its primary purpose).  Or, if getting this or that civic group to participate in your chosen political activity is absolutely vital, you might spend time educating members in order to achieve consensus around both your beliefs and the need for the organization to act on them.  But even if you went down this controversial route, I would guess most of you would try to find some form such an endorsement could take that would minimize wider fallout.  And I suspect you would be willing to ultimately take “No” for an answer.

Now that you have thought through how a normal person (or political movement) might behave, think about how much this diverges from the behavior of those pushing boycott, divestment and sanctions directed against Israel.

To pick a couple of examples, when BDSers determined that their boycott program would offend many, many members of food coops around the country, they simply leveraged the loose rules those coops had in place regarding product boycotts (rules that never had to be air-tight since they were based on the assumption that coop members would take one-another’s needs into consideration) to force boycott votes (or simply implement a boycott behind the backs of the membership).

Or how about the Presbyterian Church which has official voted down anti-Israel divestment motions in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Again, a normal political movement would get the message and move on.  But, as we’ll see when the church meets this summer for their 2014 General Assembly, the BDSers are willing to force a vote again and again and again (possibly forever) until the organization “gets it right” by doing what they say.

This type of militant politics must seem strange to the typical groups targeted by BDS: progressive organizations with a concern for human rights (even if acting on that concern is not central to their mission) who presume that anyone bringing a political matter before them is sincere about their goals and acting in the normal fashion outlined in the thought experiment that started this piece.

The notion that a food coop, or the Presbyterian Church, or the American Studies Association or Oxfam are just a means to an end for the BDSers is what is unfathomable to these organizations.  For most people participating in a civic institution understand that members of that institution have different (often opposing) beliefs and needs – which makes harmony within such groups a marvelous thing since it means those individuals have put aside differences to work together for a common good.

In contrast, the BDSers perceive these groups as existing for one purpose and one purpose only: to pass their BDS resolutions.  And not just pass them, but do so in ways that will cause maximum damage to the institutions primary purpose.

I happen to sympathize with critics of ASA’s boycott policy that are equally hostile to some of the anti-boycott legislation being proposed at the state and national level.  But then why are statehouses and Congress even talking about ASA, except for the fact that the association decided to take a stance that has brought the wrath of the academy and others down on everyone’s heads? And rather than contemplate the role their own behavior played in creating these controversies, the very same ASA leaders who triggered a crisis are now demanding everyone in the field take sides in a debate that should never have gotten started (one over who gets to decide where and how much academic freedom can be limited based on political need).

Moving onto Oxfam, this is an organization dedicated to doing good in the world (they are one of the most important groups helping victims of Syria’s civil war, for example).  And, no doubt, having Scarlett Johansson as one of their ambassadors has also done some good in terms of raising their profile and funds.

But rather than allowing the organization to express disappointment and agree to disagree over the film star’s decision to endorse a soda manufacturer, members of an alleged “international human rights community” who are BDSers first, Oxfamers second, required – once again – that everyone choose a side.

One of the dilema’s Oxfam finds itself in has to do with ambiguity.  For, from my perspective anyway, the role of the SodaStream (a company that is consciously trying to build bridges to peace through economic activity) and its location (on a piece of disputed territory likely to end up as part of Israel in any peace agreement) is complicated.  And while Oxfam is free to claim that this situation is, in fact, crystal clear, that leaves them limited room to claim ambiguity as a defense when it comes time to explain why a branch of the organization giving money to organizations central to BDS are doing so for purposes other than promoting BDS.

One of those organizations happens to be called “Who Profits?,” and to end this piece (finally), I’d like to ask the question of who profits when an organization is attacked, lets down friends and allies or is torn apart in order to ensure Omar Barghouti has something to boast about on the pages of The New York Times? Not ASA (or its members).  Not Oxfam (or the people it is trying to help).  No, the only people profiting from the manufactured BDS controversies over the last few months are the boycotters themselves, which makes the real question why other people are willing to pay such a high price for someone else’s political bragging rights.

Seeing Scarlett

5 Feb

For reasons too complicated to explain, a movie crew is making a feature film in our house.  So over the last few days, I’ve met stage actors, child actors, even hamster actors playing the role of gerbils in the film.

I bring this up to establish my bona fides with respect to the naches I feel towards entertainers and entertainment and, had life gone in a different direction, I’d be in Hollywood right now working on the fourth installment to the Ninja Frankenstein franchise I’ve dreamed of but never got around to starting.

So I’m happy to watch, host and read about celebrities on any list, A-ZZZ.  Just please don’t ask me to defer to them with regard to political matters.

For obvious reasons, BDS hits the newswires whenever it intersects with the world of celebrity, which is why the “movement” tries to glom onto any publicity (good or ill) related to a movie or rock star (be they up and coming, has been or never was).  But try as I might, I just can’t work up a head of steam when it comes to reacting to the latest edgy political action by the Dixie Chicks, or Elvis Costello, or Meg Ryan, or…zzzzzZZZZZZ.

What?  Hello!  Oh, sorry about that.

It’s just that, as I’ve said before, celebrity-based BDS relies on the assumption that what famous entertainers say or think about subjects like the Middle East is more noteworthy than the views of my kid’s barber.  Which must make me an outlier since I find myself ready to give as much (actually far more) credence to what that haircutter thinks than I would Roger Waters.

Needless to say, this whiny preface was written to help me deal with the fact that I must return to the subject of celebrity, now that Scarlett Johansson has become the focal point of the latest BDS circus.

Like most of you, I first encountered the Danish-Jewish actress when her tokhes appeared behind the opening credits of Lost in Translation, after which I pretty much lost track of her until she moved from showing to kicking butt in the Iron Man/Avengers franchises.  And I must say, her latest work makes me eager to go back and catch up on what I’ve missed (including the Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie).

Under normal circumstances, an actress’ decision to sponsor a soft-drink manufacturer would not trigger a global crisis.  But then BDS is not involved with the “normal” business.  Rather, their role is to make sure everyone in the world is as abnormal (i.e., Israel obsessed) as they are.  And so Johansson’s decision to stick by SodaStream and flip BDS the bird at the Superbowl in the form of a viral sexy wink, followed by a sip through a straw (only those of us in the know understanding that the other end of that straw was stuck in Omar Barghouti’s eye) now represents the best slap at the “movement” in years.

For those who missed it, SodaStream are the makers of those self-made soda dispensers that have been all the rage the last few holiday seasons, an Israeli product that has gone from strength to strength, demonstrating the Jewish state’s ability to deliver power brands to market (vs. just supplying behind-the-scenes components meekly hiding inside virtually all the electronic gadgets we today take for granted).

The company operates factories across Israel, including one in the controversial East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ma’ale Adumim, where it provides Jews and Arabs – including citizens of the Palestinian Authority – the chance to work together at a more than fair wage, providing a model for the type of economic cooperation that would characterize a region at peace.

Which is exactly why the BDSers insist such activity be stopped at all cost.  So when Johansson chose to accept a sponsorship deal with the soda maker, rather than simply express their disappointment they unloaded a broadside of their usual ugly New Media fury characterizing her as a blood-soaked, money-grubbing trollop (much like they fantasize the Soda Stream factory as a slave labor camp run by robot Zionist overlords).

The biggest fallout came when it appeared that the actress had to choose between SodaStream and the charity Oxfam (where she has served as an ambassador for eight years, helping them raise awareness of important issues as well as funds).  And as the boycotters began to ratchet up the pressure, demanding (as usual) that everyone must pick sides, Johansson – to her credit – did the right thing and decided to stick with the side that was not condemning her as a greedy cannibal.

Now despite my gentle joshing of celebs that began this piece, it was actually pretty cool of ScarJo to make a choice that could very well impact her career trajectory, especially as it intersects a European continent that has allowed too many segments of what remains of civil society to become infected with the BDS virus.

And I suppose I should join in the pile on with regard to Oxfam, the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that found itself in the awkward position of being judged by someone else’s standards of “justice,” once SodaStream decided to fight back, rather than just act as someone else’s punching bag.

It’s just that, having seen so many worthwhile institutions (churches, academic associations, food coops) suffer as a result of letting the BDS vampire in through the front door, I can’t help but see Oxfam as yet another victim of a “movement” whose true nature the organization (to its credit) cannot conceive of, much less deal with appropriately.

And what is that nature?  Tune in next time to find out.

Max Brenner – Supremely Epic BDS Fail

15 Feb

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series More Silliness

Hey guys.  I’m thinking of auditioning for The Onion.  What do you think?

A group from Northeastern University’s Self-Righteous Asshole community made their presence known last night as they marched in front of Max Brenner’s restaurant and chocolate shop in downtown Boston for close to two hours, demanding that people not buy chocolate on Valentine’s Day in protest of something or other.

“We came to make a statement,” said Joshua Amarilla, a student from Stoughton, MA currently studying comparative literature and a leading member of the Self-Righteous Asshole organization at Northeastern.  “This chocolate shop is involved with evil, EVIL I tell you.  And if you look through this seven page flowchart I printed up, you’ll understand why buying cocoa here contributes to repression, Apartheid and other acts of evilness.”

“This protest has our full support,” says Anna Federman, a long-time leader in the wider Boston-based Self-Righteous Asshole community.  “For, as a Jew, I want to loudly condemn all other Jews – including Jewish chocolatiers – who don’t do what we say, and don’t immediately acknowledge that we are both right about all things and morally superior to them in every way.”

“Oh, and did I mention I’m Jewish?” Federman continued.

When asked why the event turned out just 15 people, Amarilla responded angrily.  “Hey, we had 80 people say they’d show up on our Facebook page, so that should count for something” he bellowed.  “After all, 80 is a lot higher than 15!”

The protest did not proceed without incident.  “At least one patron at Max Brenner’s actively tried to muzzle my freedom of speech by telling me to ‘fuck off’ when I handed him some of the literature I spent all night Photoshopping,” said Thomas Herman, a visiting Self-Righteous Asshole from Tufts.  (Waiting times to get into the Max Brenner’s grew to an hour during the period the protesters were insisting a boycott was the patrons’ only moral choice.)

The patron involved with the incident, Anthony Capone (a part-time physical therapist from Somerville) had this to say about what occurred: “After six weeks of effort, I finally got the girl from the office next door (26 year old Alison McNeeley, also from Somerville) to go out with me – on Valentine’s Day as luck would have it.  And just when I was about to make my move, this douchebag stuffs a leaflet into my hand and starts talking about Apartheid.  Honestly, he’s lucky I didn’t smack him across the street.”

“Whether we had 15 people protesting or 50 or 500 doesn’t matter,” responded Amarilla to continued questioning of why their weeks-long call to action ended in a protest barely noticed by the passers-by (much less the hundreds of people inside Max Brenner’s).  “After all, the point is to get people talking about issues that matter to us, specifically about how cool and edgy we are.”

And as it turned out, the event did generate more than twenty tweets during the 12 hours since the protest began, at least four of which were not written by the protestor’s themselves.  Typical of the level of conversation the protest triggered was this one in which a local Bostonian, responding to another tweet that Brenner’s was being picketed, asked: “Gosh, is the food really that bad?”

Apparently not since, in a related story, Max Brenner’s in Boston reports that yesterday was the most successful day in its two-year history and may represent the highest level of Valentine’s Day sales at any Max Brenner’s in the world.

Among the customers who flooded the shop during the course of the day were many Northeastern students who were not available for comment due to the fact that they were all sleeping off a chocolate high.

Members of Northeastern’s Self-Righteous Asshole community were also not available for a follow up interview, having chosen to celebrate their “victory” by locking themselves in their rooms.

Sweet and Sour: BDS Visits Max Brenner

13 Feb

It’s not often the forces of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) decide to put their sour souls on display on the sweetest day of the year.

Apparently, someone got it into their head that it would be a brilliant idea to picket Boston’s Max Brenner restaurant and gourmet chocolate shop on Valentine’s Day (i.e., tomorrow) at just the hour when the place will be packed with forgetful husbands and boyfriends trying to head off conflicts far more terrifying than anything the Middle East has to offer.

But a picket of Max Brenner (something local BDSers imported from a failed similar effort in Australia) does accomplish the boycotters single most important goal: showing their Facebook friends that they can act naughty in public.

While I don’t expect hundreds of people to show up at Max Brenner’s in the next 36 hours to buy them out and hold a chocolate party on Boylston Street (similar to the wine bash that began the Buycott movement in 2009), it would certainly be nice if anyone in, near or planning to be around Boston today or tomorrow stop by 745 Boylston Street (across from the Prudential) and show Max Brenner some love.

I’m happy to get things started:

Max-Brenner-Customer

Send me your pix if you’re able to make a purchase.  I recommend the chocolate covered nuts (far preferable to the non-chocolate covered ones that will be chanting incoherently outside tomorrow night).