Gilad Erdan and the Fight Against BDS   

As mentioned previously, there have been a couple of high-profile steps taken recently regarding the fight against BDS which have generated news and a fair amount of editorial: Israel’s appointment of a minister to focus on de-legitimization issues and a new effort to fund anti-BDS efforts domestically.

The boycotters are predictably claiming that any move against them demonstrates their strength.  But given that anything our side does (up to and including organizing successfully to defeat them) is interpreted on Planet BDS as victory, their self-serving shouts can be filed away in the overstuffed folder I keep in my BDS file cabinet labeled “Heads-I-Win-Tails-You-Lose.”

Here on earth, a more sober look at Gilad Erdan’s appointment as Israel’s new Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy demonstrates that his portfolio is fairly broad, with his oversight of the pressing Iran nuclear threat promising to take up a great deal of his time.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) actually has a point person for dealing with BDS and other hostile anti-Israel campaigns that take place outside of Israel.  And while that post has been filled by high-energy talented individuals, as holders of sub-cabinet positions they had to contend with all the usual fights over political and budget priorities in an era when Israel has an endless number of security problems with which to contend.

So pushing the task of fighting a global de-legitimization campaign to cabinet level (even if it is not Mr. Erdan’s only job) represents a step-up of priorities which many consider long overdue, especially since the problems he has to deal with are less about the kinds of boycott and divestment efforts you’ve read about at Divest This! over the years and more about the types of anti-Israel activities that take place at the state level.

For example, the hundreds of anti-Israel resolutions that pour out of the United Nations and similar bodies are not the result of “grassroots activism” or a signal of global revulsion against this or that Israeli action or policy.  Rather, they are part of an orchestrated campaign pushed by powerful state actors (notably leaders of un-democratic nation states making up the Arab League, the Islamic bloc and assorted allies) to further their own national interests (which includes smearing their political enemy while keeping the human rights spotlight off of their own atrocious records).

Global de-legitimization campaigns also have military significance, given that they are designed to limit Israel’s military options while expanding the maneuvering room of her enemies (by triggering “spontaneous” global protests and condemnation only when Israel returns fire).  And with sub-state actors (notably the Palestinian authority) getting into this odious act (with their recent failed effort to get Israel kicked out of global football just the latest example), the only question we should be asking is why it took Israel so long to name a national government leader to deal with attacks orchestrated by other national governments.

Unfortunately, we lack a term for these types of state-sponsored propaganda efforts (other than “de-legitimization” – a made-up word loved by no one), which has left “BDS” (an acronym once reserved for more local efforts to get civic society groups to participate in boycott and divestment campaigns) as the last label standing.  This actually creates a problem since it leaves the impression that the new Israeli cabinet position was created to fight the kind of smaller, local BDS groups readers of this blog have to deal with, rather than his actual mission to battle against powerful state (and quasi-state) actors.

The strategies and tactics one chooses to do battle at the UN or FIFA are very different than the ones used to deal with an SJP-sponsored student government resolution or to drive the BDSholes out of places like the Greenstar Food Coop.  And it is this distinction that I’d like to turn to next time when I look at the other major anti-BDS story of the day involving “Big Casino” and “Big Power Rangers” money being put on the table in Las Vegas.