Over the years, I’ve highlighted one of the advantages the BDSers have over their opponent in terms of selecting the field of battle.
This advantage grows out of the fact that, as the propaganda arm of a war movement masquerading as a peace movement, the boycott brigade faces an opponent (us) that does not have equivalent militant goals. So while they are free to try to push their squalid little boycott and divestment programs anywhere they like and try to stuff their propaganda message (that Israel is an “apartheid state” alone in the world requiring economic punishment) into the mouth of any civic organization they wish, Israel’s friends are neither interested in demonizing Israel’s enemies, nor using innocent third parties as tools to achieve our ends.
One of the fronts they chose this year was a SodaStream boycott (or, more specifically, a boycott of stores selling products made by that Israeli company), and while those of us fighting against boycott and divestment efforts had to wait until the BDSers selected their target, this year’s SodaStream boycott battles demonstrate the variety of tactics available to us as we work to ensure the boycotter’s now decade-plus-long record of failure.
By now, I suspect most Divest This readers have heard of Sussex Friends of Israel (SFI), a UK group that has used a variety of imaginative and creative tactics to rock the boat of Israel haters who had targeted an eccostream store in Brighton (eccostream being a subsiderary of SodaStream) for ongoing protests.
As this article points out, Brighton (a Southern English Coastal town where active BDS groups have routinely staged protests) might seem a strange place for Israel’s defenders to so successfully take a stand. The area has a reasonably sized Jewish community, but one mostly made up of retirees. And, as in much of Europe, British Jews have tended to avoid confrontational politics which gives the more militant BDS groups the ability to act as they please.
But as in so many cases (including my own), over-reach by the Israel haters created an enemy willing to put the time and effort into transforming the field of battle.
In this case, local Jews and non-Jews appalled by what they saw in Brighton created founded SFI which managed to turn the situation around in Brighton by meeting the BDSers vulgarity and ugliness with warmth, humor and baked goods. At weekly demonstrations where the Israel dis-likers used to gather to spout lies and vent their rage, they have been met with crowds of Israel supporters playing music, serving food, and spouting the truth wrapped in a blanket of good cheer.
While I routinely hear complaints that Israel’s supporters rely too heavily on “feel good” programming that does not sufficiently attack the nation’s foes, SFI’s tactics represent a new type of tactic that I would call “militant cheerfulness.” For whether it’s serving up pastry under the banner of “They Tell Lies, We Serve Pies” (a slogan that, while not Chaucer, does the rhetorical job of characterizing the two sides), or meeting the tired BDS chants with blues music and duck calls, there is no question which side is winning the battle, a victory that is demonstrating not just to Brightonians but to people around the world the emptiness behind BDS slogans and posing.
Did I say duck calls? Actually, that’s one of my favorite aspects of their campaign. For, under the rubric of “If it quacks like a duck” (i.e., behaves like an anti-Semite), the SFI group has armed its members with little quackers that they break out whenever the boycotters try to spout their nonsense. And to get a sense of how much this barrage of caustic mischief rankles their opponents, one need only look at this video where duck calling reduced one member of the BDS group to impotent rage (followed by his arrest).
While I’d love to see SFI’s duck strategy adopted more on this side of the Atlantic, there are also times when a quieter approach is the right choice. Earlier this year, for example, some of us learned that a local store was being targeted by BDS activists for a SodaStream boycott protest. But, rather than organize our own counter-protest (which many local activists have done successfully in the past), some of us instead reached out to the store to see what their concerns were. And one of the things they made clear was that they did not want to see an ugly confrontation break out in front of their shop.
Out of respect for their wishes (which extends to respecting that desire enough to not mention who I’m talking about in this piece), the Jewish community instead organized a Buy Israeli Goods (BIG)/Buycott-style counter-offensive which continues well after the boycotters folded their bloody banners and went home. And given that the only people who can decide what to shelve or de-shelve are those running the store, it’s likely that people who respect their wishes vs. harassing their customers will leave a better impression of whom to trust.
Now if you define victory as accomplishing your goals, these quiet tactics were selected as the ones most likely to achieve the goal of handing the BDSers another defeat. But, as this SodaStream boycott -related piece points out, these definition of victory and defeat only apply to people living in the actual world, not the fantasy world in which the boycotters dwell.
For such fantasists, the very fact that they all got together in front of someone else’s store to stage a noisy protest for a couple of hours represents all they were ever after. Like the SJPers who force all-nighters onto student councils so they can spew their propaganda for hours on end, participation in such hate rallies is the goal and the only thing the BDS cru truly care about – damn the lies they have to tell to get what they want, damn the people that might get hurt as they subvert this or that civic group, and damn the people they claim to be fighting for including (or should I say “especially”) the Palestinians they are ready to see continue to suffer and die just so they can feel good about themselves.