Autumn Updates

Time to catch up on a couple of stories from earlier this year.

Starting with the forever-coming, but never-arriving “cultural boycott,” I’ve already pointed out that the spillover effect of Elvis Costello’s decision to ditch his Israeli fans didn’t seem to extend to his own bedroom (Costello’s wife Diana Krall played Israel over the summer). An astute Divest This reader provided the best summation of the whole effort to get rockers to boycott the Jewish state coming from Johnny Lydon (aka the Sex Pistol’s Johnny Rotten) who, while defying boycott calls and playing Israel, let it be known that: “Belief is a very personal thing, but when someone inflicts their view on other people, they’re a pig.”

Compare that short and peppy bit of truth-telling (or even Elton John’s one-sentence “We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.”) to Costello’s multi-page, mealy-mouthed explanation as to why screwing his Jewish fans amounts to an act of conscience. Let’s all hope that this leads to a Sex Pistol’s reunion (minus Sid, of course) at the next Superbowl.

Onto more serious matters, Dexter Van Zile (unsurprisingly) has provided the best follow-up to this summer’s Presbyterian divestment/Middle East debates. It’s on the long side (and well worth reading in its entirety), but in brief Dexter makes the case that this year’s excesses by anti-Israel activists within the church has finally awoken a new force – religious and lay leaders of several of the PCUSA’s largest urban Presbyteries – to the fact that the anti-Israel antics that have been allowed to run amok within the church are starting to take their toll on the reputation of not Israel but the Presbyterian Church itself.

It remains to be seen whether the dynamic of the last decade (whereby opponents of divestment within PCUSA only start to organize before a General Assembly whereas divestment supporters – and their enablers within the church bureaucracy – remain active continually between GAs) will change after this year’s conclave. Dexter sees cause for hope, but I’m withholding judgment until I see if the institutions created to build a fair case for church involvement in the Middle East conflict are allowed to do their job or (as in previous attempts to balance church policies) are hijacked once again by anti-Israel zealots for their own purposes.

Finally, after Spring’s antics at Berkeley, it’s a safe assumption that BDS will focus its efforts on student governments this year. Some of the folks who successfully organized against the Berkeley divestment vote are posting their story at Bluetruth. Again, it’s a longer (three-part) piece with part 1 and part 2 already posted. Well worth reading in its entirety. [UPDATE: Part 3 is up now – read it all.]

With school just getting started, supporters of Israel should assume that attempts to subvert student government for the narrow purposes of BDS are already underway and should plan, organize and act accordingly.

BDS Follies

In penning earnest analysis of the comings and goings of an obscure and disappearing religious sect, I seem to have shirked my duties of late regarding other BDS news. And so to remedy that:

Story #1 – Elton John Plays in Israel

Elton (or, should I say, Sir Elton) decided to tell those demanding he boycott the Jewish state to take a long walk on a short flotilla vessel, playing to a crowd of 50,000 Tel Avivians last week. The response of those who failed to get this rocker to do their bidding was muted, with some mumbling about gay solidarity here (is Elton John gay?), some grumbling about John’s recital at Rush Limbaugh’s twelfth wedding there (I thought Limbaugh had gone deaf?)

There was no such below-the-breath muttering from the rock star himself who shouted to the crowd:”Shalom, we are so happy to be back here! Ain’t nothing gonna stop us from coming, baby,” and “We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.” before breaking into all the hits I used to enjoy on my eight-track tape player before settling down to an afternoon of watching Creature Double Feature on Channel 56.

While I make it a habit to not take political advice from celebrities whose reputation for wisdom (i.e. Martin Sheen) or toughness (i.e., Bruce Willis) comes from reading lines penned and polished for them by professional writers, I must say that Elton John’s one sentence about “cherry-picking” conscience said a hell of a lot more than the pages of mealy-mouthed HTML that accompanied the allegedly moral decisions by slightly less aging rockers like Elvis Costello and the Pixies.

As a final note regarding Elton John, it’s a little known fact that the signer had a huge impact on Israeli culture, notably with regard to customer service. Back in the day, the country prided itself on its informality and open hostility to manners, with Israel’s socialist origins making them especially proud of treating the rich and famous with contempt.

When they tried pulling this on Elton John during his first visit to play in Israel, making him wait in the regular airport passport line like every other Tom, Dick and Shlomo, the musician was so incensed he walked out of line and immediately flew back to England. It was only after the concert organizers pleaded with the singer, offering him (among other things) a talking parrot in his dressing room that Elton John returned to begin a history of playing to sold out Israeli audiences.

So the next time you’re in Israel and a waiter or security guard tells you to “have a nice day,” that’s one more thing for which you can thank Elton John.

Story #2 – Breaking the BDS Blockade

While the Turkish/IHH mercenaries who attacked Israeli soldiers during last month’s flotilla incident may have failed to break Israel’s of Gaza, they did succeed in breaking another boycott: the one being pushed by the BDS movement.

CitizenWald has the story of how the Gaza solidarity crew equipped themselves with night vision equipment from ITT and communications gear from Motorola, both sets of devices on the BDS proscription list. And so, we’re left with the delicious situation of BDS activists demanding that schools divest from ITT and Motorola in solidarity with a “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” that used ITT and Motorola equipment to support their “peace campaign” that involved beating and stabbing people while talking with each other over walkie-talkies in the dark.

Story #3 – BDS Protestors Defy China on Occupation of Tibet

Can you believe it? Early Sunday morning a group of protestors formally obsessed solely with Israeli villainy showed up at the sea port in Oakland California and prevented a Chinese ship from being unloaded in protest of China’s illegal, decades-long occupation and repression of the people of Tibet.

Okay, okay. As it turns out, the group gathered to do their protest thing on an Israeli ship, not realizing that the ship where they picketed was actually owned by that wondrous bastion of rights and freedom, the People’s Republic of China (not that nefarious rogue Jewish state of Israel).

In another example of the surreal nature of BDS politics, the Internet is aglow with BDSers patting one another on the back for this successful “operation,” even if the actual ship they targeted didn’t arrive in port until hours after they left (where, I believe, it was unloaded without incident).

In other words, this Potemkin protest was not about actually accomplishing anything beyond getting some credulous media to portray events as the divestors wanted, all so they could continue to dwell in their fantasy world where, unlike the real world, the BDSers are relevant to anyone but themselves.