Red Lines

I’m studying with some of the world’s foremost experts on the subject of subliminal messaging to convince the world to download the Divest This Guide and pass it on to those who need it (and maybe kick in a few bucks to get it printed for good measure).

But time does not stand still as I hock my wares, so let’s spend this week catching up on a few BDS stories that have come up as the number of New England daylight hours dwindles to single digits.

First off is this interesting piece written by the head of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) in Boston. For purposes of context, New England’s CJP and the associated Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) are the centerpieces of Jewish communal life in the region. Yes, Boston also contains some of the country’s most successful entrepreneurial Jewish groups (such as CAMERA and David Project), and yes other Jewish “alphabet soup” institutions (ADL, AJC, AIPAC – and that’s just some of the A’s) are also well represented here. But if there is an “official” line regarding what’s in and what’s out in terms of political organizations and stands, this line tends to get drawn by CJP.

Now this role is not without controversy. For these major coalition-based organizations have grown in size and influence by creating the largest tent possible, welcoming Jewish organizations and issues with which many already under the tent disagree. In general, peace is kept between Left and Right, between individuals and organizations with differing opinions on domestic and international issues, by avoiding the drawing of red lines, steering clear of absolutes that say who is “in” and who is “out” regarding the consensus of the community.

In fact, the only time I can recall such a red line being drawn is now with regard to the subject of BDS. I’ve mentioned the phenomenon of the mainstreaming of fight against BDS previously in a discussion of a resolution passed by the JCPA (the umbrella organization of Jewish Community Relations Councils around the country). Given that the state-of-the-nation vis-à-vis BDS is no different this year than last in terms of actual boycott or divestment success stories (i.e., unlike 2004-2006, BDS still has no institutional wins to speak of), it’s worth speculating why the fight against BDS seems to be going mainstream right now.

Now the BDSers themselves would no doubt tell you that it is because their “movement” has gained such unstoppable momentum that the Jews (I mean the Zionists) are massing against them in a panic. Now far be it for me to dis anyone else’s “narrative,” but such bloviating triumphalism would be easier to take seriously if I didn’t hear it after every BDS story hits the airwaves (even to announce their umpteenth defeat).

Which leaves us with a few other potential explanations, including:

* The notion of boycotts resonates historically with such force within the Jewish community that it has created a visceral reaction to fight back, regardless of how immediate the danger

* Having been caught by surprise when the BDS project swept through between 2001-2006, Jewish activists and activist organizations are committed to not being caught unprepared again

* BDS is part of a broader effort to challenge the legitimacy of the Jewish state, both its right to defend itself and its right to the same respect enjoyed by every other nation in the world. This “de-legitimization” effort is global (spearheaded by powerful states with the numbers and willingness to deny Israel any place of respect among world bodies, for example). As such, the resources being put to the fight against BDS are really being marshaled against this broader de-legitimization phenomenon.

This last point brings up an interesting connection with a theme discussed at length in the Divest This Guide (hint hint): that BDS is a bit of a loser. Given its inability to win any battles and the raft of Israel supporters it creates in its wake, perhaps an attack on BDS is hitting the whole de-legitimization project at its weakest point, creating a dynamic whereby the inherent weakness (and loathsomeness) of BDS gets reflected on the de-legitimization “movement” as a whole.

Something worth considering. Coming up next: Presbyterians playing badly

Coming up for air

Now that there’s a lull in the Divest This book-signing tour (and the liquor cabinet is dry), I wanted to do some shoutouts to people who made the new Divest This Guide possible.

First off, many thanks to Rachel, the brilliant designer who can be credited with the entire look and feel of the manual. Thanks also to Nevet and my Dad for proofreading the final draft, and to everyone who provided feedback and ideas regarding the contents.

Thanks to the fellow whose offer to donate promoted me to look into adding a PayPal donation button to the blog (look right) where people can contribute to getting this thing printed (a far better option than my original idea of knocking over local convenience stores). And special thanks to everyone (past, present and future) who has downloaded the document, especially those who are putting it into the hands of people who need it.

As the hangover dissipates, I’ll be catching up with some BDS news I’ve missed over the last week or so, but with an extra feeling of gratitude towards my readers (now plural) who continue to make this whole effort a worthwhile.

New Resource for Fighting BDS

Having dropped a fair amount of hints over the summer about a project I’ve been working on, it’s time now to spill the beans.

Announcing the first Divest This publication – Divest This: How to Stop the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions ‘movement’s’ attack on Israel and ensure its second decade of defeat available now as a PDF download.

This guide includes versions of a number of things that have appeared on this blog, as well as new material created to provide background, context and recommendations for anyone dealing with BDS campaigns within their communities. A number of fans have pointed out how hard the blog format is to navigate when you’re looking for information about a particular subject, or trying to find a piece you remember but can’t quite locate. Hopefully this new manual provides the most critical information that’s appeared on this site in one easily accessible place.

Once we finish up the last remaining bottle of tequila in the Divest This bunker, I’ll start thinking about how to afford to get this printed and put into the hands of everyone who might need it. Anyone interested in helping out can contact me via the e-mail listed to the right.


Getting Started

Word has it that the odd crowd of Israel-dislikers who tend to perpetually form groups that contain the words “Peace” and “Justice” in their titles has decided to strap electrodes onto the neck bolts of divestment one more time, not realizing that even Frankenstein’s Monster has a shelf life.

To date, these efforts have amounted to students holding press conferences at Hampshire College to announce that the school has divested from Israel when it hasn’t, and other students barricading themselves into the cafeteria at NYU until forced out by school security (and personal hygiene).

As these examples attest, divestment advocates have had a pretty tough time of it since 2004 when divestment was riding high in the Presbyterian, Methodist and other Mainline Protestant churches, and divest-from-Israel campaigns were cropping up in universities, municipalities and unions across the country. Today, the “movement” is pretty much in ruins. Again and again, the churches have voted down divestment by overwhelming majorities, and not one school or city has sold a single share of stock related to the Jewish state.

Still, it is clear that the guys and gals intent on beating this dead horse have no intention of giving up, and the tactics they are choosing (such as building take-overs, which follow similar activities on UK college campuses last year) are getting aggressive and louder. What better time, then, to bring some background, perspective and (I hope) insight and humor into what might unfold on campuses this year with regard to the divestment issue.