Post-Modern Politics

The BDS “movement” seems to be entering its post-modern phase.

I suspect this has something to do with the fact that its participants have gotten quite good at Web 2.0 media communications, but struggle to find any news worth pushing through that pipeline.

After all, the last real serious BDS victory I can think of was the Presbyterian Church in 2004 (i.e., SEVEN YEARS AGO).“Victories” since then have involved an obscure food store here, an aging rocker there, neither of which inspired much copycatting (quite the opposite in fact).

They could, of course, try to spread more faux information through various online channels and hope that their next BDS hoax gets picked up by the media (as happened with Hampshire College in 2009).The trouble with that strategy is that so many of us are onto it that it’s usually just a matter of hours before the latest BDS hoax is exposed, making the BDSers’ own dishonesty and embarrassment the story of the day.

Without the ability to spread either true or false information about boycott and divestment wins, the BDSers are stuck talking about “Colossal Victories” in the abstract (without making mention of what these consist of) or claims that cannot be proven to be either true nor false.

For example, their latest breathless press releases are about the French financial company BNP which has apparently shut down its operations in Israel.Now the company itself has said that this decision was made for purely financial reasons (the need to consolidate with the European financial meltdown looming).And even the boycotters are not claiming that this decision followed anything they ever did.

Ah, but apparently there are Israeli officials who fear that BNP decided to shut down their Israeli operations due to fear of boycott pressures.Now these officials are unnamed, and we are given no indication how the boycotters know what’s been said in private meetings between BNP and the Israeli government.But even if this speculation turns out to have a grain of truth behind it, so what?

If there was any suspicion that BDS had a role to play in the matter, BNP itself has denied it.And as we’ve noted many times in the past, divestment is a political act and thus makes no sense if it is done in secret.In fact, the whole point of divestment as a political tactic is to establish that the BDS message of “Israel = Apartheid” represents the opinion of a large, respected organization, rather than a small, marginal fringe.But if such a message is not forthcoming from such an organization then by definition, the political act of divestment has not taken place.

You see similar post-modern responses to the decision of Israel’s supporters to hold successful Buy Israel campaigns which the boycotters portray as proof positive that BDS activity is having such an impact that Israel’s friends are embracing such tactics out of terror at divestment’s unstoppable success.Alternative explanations, such as the fact that friends of Israel can easily foil any boycott by simply going shopping, never seems to occur to them.

Looking back on the last few years, I’m starting to realize that the whole “when we lose, we’ve actually won” argument that the boycotters trot out whenever they get their head handed to them is simply a long-standing aspect of this post-modern phenomena.For the rest of us, losing a fight (political or otherwise) means losing a fight.For the boycotters, however, defeat is just another form of victory (usually wrapped in declarations of pride that they at least got their propaganda message onto the agenda of whatever organization they have targeted for manufactured controversy).It reminds me of a line in a long-cancelled sitcom about an unctuous self-help guru who tells audiences “’No’ is just ‘Yes’ to a different question.”

When you’ve got an audience hungry for tantalizing signs of imminent victory and a means of communicating with them, it can be hard not to use the latter to send messages to the former.But when those channels are clogged with trivia, fabrications or nonsense it becomes harder and harder to treat BDS as anything other than an increasingly irrelevant public nuisance.