A Hampshire Hoaxy Anniversary Special

It almost escaped my notice that Feb 7 was the anniversary of the great Hampshire Divestment Hoax, that is until I discovered this stunningly self-aggrandizing announcement by the jesters who started it all: Hampshire’s Students for Justice in Palestine (HSJP).

So I said to myself:”Self, how best to mark this important date?”

Should I Fiske the SJP’s self-celebrating announcement, pointing out that their BDS “movement” actually began in 2001 and has not enjoyed a single success on any campus in the country despite nearly ten years of effort? (HSJP and the like-minded prefer to reset their project with the 2005 PACBI letter, thus flushing most of the last decade of BDS catastrophe down the memory hole.)

Or perhaps I should put their Frantz Fanon quote into context, which (in its original paragraph) reads:

“Anti-Semitism cuts me to the quick; I get upset; a frightful rage makes me anemic; they are denying me the right to be a man. I cannot associate myself from the fate reserved for my brother. Every one of my acts commits me as a man. Every instance of my reticence, every instance of my cowardice, manifests the man.”

Now I could leverage this full Fanon quote to note that HSJP’s friends the allies in the Middle East are the major manufacturers of the very anti-Semitic propaganda that cut Fanon “to the quick” (a Vesuvius of Jew hatred that even Israel’s harshest critics don’t deny emanates hourly from Tehran to Damascus to Gaza and beyond). But this presumes the members of HSJP actually know who Fanon is, beyond a source for quotes on Google.

But in the end, it seems best to mark the anniversary with some links to the various parodies I’ve done over the last year that seem to have gotten up the nose of those who still insist on pushing the Hampshire divestment fraud with all their might. And so…

Here’s the parody that came to mind last February, once I discovered that the Hampshire divestment story running its course through the media was a hoax.

And here’s a mock planning transcript for last November’s BDS conference at Hampshire (some BDSers still get upset that half the Google links on a search for “Hampshire BDS” brings up this parody).

And finally, my epic time-waster: Hampshire and the Brain.

Paraphrasing William Shatner from Trouble with Tribbles: I take the issues of peace and justice in the Middle East extremely seriously. But Hampshire’s SJP? Not so much.

What’s Behind BDS?

I’m still waiting for more news on the latest apparent BDS hoax coming out of Canada, but in the meantime a commenter’s point about previous hoaxes involving, among other organizations the Red Cross, alerted me that it might be worth mentioning one of the main theses of this site (especially to the many new readers who have joined us in the last few days).

I’m ready to admit that there are strong arguments for and against the use of boycott and divestment to solve political problems. But whether you’re talking about divestment programs launched against South Africa, Iran or Sudan, or boycotts that go back to their origins in 19th century Ireland, there is one thing that distinguishes these political projects from the anti-Israel BDS program we’ve seen over the last decade: truth in advertising.

There is no question that when people signed up to divest from South Africa (or when institutions are lobbied to pull funds from Iran or Sudan), that those campaigning are being absolutely clear about what they are advocating. While there is serious and legitimate debate about the effectiveness or efficacy of such campaigns, these projects are not being carried out in secret or behind anyone’s backs.

Not so BDS which only achieved its limited successes in the mid ‘00s by secretly negotiating with leaders of institutions like the City of Somerville or the Presbyterian Church whose citizens or members only discovered divestment from Israel was being carried out in their name at the last minute or when it was too late. And once these citizens or members discovered that their institutions were being manipulated, they revolted and rejected divestment by overwhelming majorities.

Remember that divestment is all about stuffing the political message of divestment advocates (that Israel is an “Apartheid State” alone in the world at deserving economic punishment) into the mouth of an organization more well known that the BDS advocates themselves. And given the tiny minority the BDS crew represents, the list of better known institutions includes just about everyone.

Thus divestment becomes a way to attach the BDS message to an institution by any means necessary. In the past, this involved manipulating people behind the scenes. But once initial BDS successes achieved in this way were defeated or reversed, a new strategy emerged involving outright fraud.

Adding false signatures to divestment petitions seems to have happened in both Canada and the UK, but before this practice came to the fore you had countless examples of BDS advocates pretending that decisions that had nothing to do with Israel were in fact anti-Israel divestment successes. Hampshire, TIAA-CREF, Blackrock and Motorola come to mind, but – as my commenter pointed out – there are other examples across the country of such divestment hoaxes.

It’s an open question as to whether these fraudulent campaigns are part of a deliberate strategy to deceive the public (in hope of creating momentum for the BDS “movement” based on fake success) or whether divestment advocates are primarily deceiving themselves in order to imbue their lives with fantasies of political importance and success.

But ultimately, it does not matter if the list of people BDS-niks are trying to deceive includes themselves or not. The result is the same: a political movement that bears no resemblance to boycott or divestment campaigns against South Africa or anyone else, a campaign of failure and fraud that has achieved nothing in ten years beyond poisoning the atmosphere of colleges campuses, churches and other civic organizations who have been slow to understand the true nature of the snake oil BDS is selling.

BDS Avatar?

The best BDS hoax story yet has just arrived from Canada, causing one of those truly “you can’t make this stuff up!” moments.

I spent much of last year chronicling the tendency of boycott and divestment activists to make fraudulent claims of victory, from the academic hoax at Hampshire, to false claims that the financial firms Blackrock or TIAA-CREF or companies like Motorola had made financial decisions for political reasons.

More recently, the forging of signatures on boycott petitions made its debut in the UK, so it was just a matter of time before this practice found its way to North America.

The story actually begins last Fall when a relatively obscure Canadian film maker, John Greyson (also a teacher at York University), pulled his work from the Toronto Film Festival in protest of that festival’s inclusion of movies from Tel Aviv in their celebration of international urban cinema. This action was accompanied by a petition declaring the festival was, in effect, celebrating Tel Aviv and thus the brutality of “The Occupation,” the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza who struggle to live while Tel Avivians make movies, blah, blah, blah.

This non-story got some ink when a collection of celebrities (including Jane Fonda) signed onto the petition, with some of them (again, Jane Fonda) eventually signing off. As usual, supporters of Israel rallied, the press railed at this attempt at censorship masquerading as artistic “solidarity” and Israeli films were the hit of the Festival.

Flash forward to 2010 when a new petition began circulating around film schools asking them to not participate in this June’s Tel Aviv Student Film Festival because (you know the drill).

The letter itself is worthy of dissection as an example of mental gymnastics (trying to portray an unambiguous attempt to punish a country by boycotting its film makers as something other than the shunning of artists in the name of someone else’s politics). But the real interesting part of the story is the signature section which features none other than “The King of the World” himself: James Cameron.

Now (as far as I know) the Canadian-born Cameron has never had a word to say about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and his name on such a letter would certainly represent a coup for boycott promoters. If it was real. Which it’s not.

As near as I can tell (and details are still coming in) this letter was initiated (and/or promulgated) by the same people involved with Toronto Film Fest boycott fiasco. Supposedly a press conference on the matter was scheduled for today, but was mysteriously called off. This may just have something to do with the fact that someone who saw the letter contacted Cameron’s people and discovered he not only didn’t sign the document, but he’s never seen it and is demanding answers as to how his name got onto such a letter.

In short, the hoaxers who seemed to be trying to leverage famous names to give their project credibility now face the wrath of one of the world’s richest and most powerful film makers. Forgive me a little shadenfreude, but what I would give to be in the home/apartment/dormroom/studio of those who thought they could get away with such an obviously exposable fraud.

I’ll post more details on the story as they become available, but we seem to have clearly entered an age when the sheer scale of BDS failure after a decade of so much intense effort has left boycott and divestment advocates somewhat unhinged. That, or they simply continue to believe that their self-righteous fury allows them to do absolutely anything, even if (or especially if) it involves treating the public (or, in this case, peers in the film making world) like absolute idiots.

Blame Canada

I’m hoping to get to the hundred-post mark sometime in February (which is why you may see some shorter pieces here than usual over the next couple of weeks 😉 ).

Word has it that Carleton University is the next target for the BDS “juggernaut.” “For the past four and a half years, BDS has spread like wildfire,” BDS proponents claim, naturally anchoring their effort to the signature “triumph” at Hampshire College (“The most notable victory came at Hampshire College, where in February 2009, the administration gave in to massive student pressure to divest from six companies complicit in the Israeli occupation.”) Does anyone else want to give them the bad news?

So far, I’ve only had the chance to write something on Carleton here at Muzzlewatch-Watch, but if they manage to stray from the same-old-same-old of 36-page denouncements-by-committee and bombast, you’ll hear about it here first.

It’s All About Me!

A commenter at this site pointed the latest giggle-inducing “action” of our old friends Code Pink who struggled through most of 2009 trying to get anyone to notice them and their campaign against skin products from the Israeli firm Ahava. They recently claimed a new “success” in getting a Seattle Cosco to remove an Ahava Christmas display from the store. They apparently decided to not post this reader’s comment that such a “deshelving” might have something to do with the fact that it’s January.

This tale can be considered a cousin to a more serious one told by Rachel Giora, a tireless Israeli BDS activist who recently posted a 21-page document entitled “Milestones in the history of the Israeli BDS movement: A brief chronology.”

I lump these two stories together since they both share a common feature of relying almost exclusively on descriptions of activities by BDS activists themselves as proof of the momentum behind their “movement.” In the case of Giora’s piece, we are provided a pretty decent run down of petitions generated and signed calling for BDS projects within American and European universities, unions, churches and other civic institutions.

Putting aside the fact that these letters and petitions tend to re-circulate the same names over and over again (I’m often curious as to how Israelis like Ilan Pappe and Jeff Halper have time to do anything else beyond signing such documents), they all tend to be part of campaigns that either failed or never got noticed. For example (quoting Giora):

“In May 2006, the feminist organization, New Profile, sent a letter of support to the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), initiated by new Profile activist Dr. Dorothy Naor, for contemplating adopting a policy of selective divestment as a means of bringing peace to Palestinians and Israelis.”

Not mentioned (and, I suspect, not noticed) by Giora, is the fact that 2006 was the year when the Presbyterians voted down divestment by a margin of 95:5. In other words, New Profile’s letter was part of failed attempt to get PCUSA to maintain a divestment stance they took in 2004 but overwhelmingly rejected in ’06.

Again and again throughout her history, Giora talks about letters sent to organizations like the British teacher’s union AUT (now UCU), supporting a boycott of Israeli academics that never got made official union policy. The message in all of these cases seems to be that as long as you’ve got people like Giora and her friends and allies acting as busy bees to promote BDS across the globe then BDS is on the march, even if the author never points out a single actual success for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

I’ve well aware of the notion of politics acting as a surrogate for certain types of social bonding, and there is nothing wrong with agreement on important issues being the starting point of what turns into real friendships.

But in the case of the BDS movement, we seem to have a phenomenon where a decade of failure has created the need to posit a new metric for success: the enthusiasm of divestment adherents. After all, people like me who fight against BDS can expose divestment hoaxes at Hampshire, Motorola, TIAA-CREF and the like. We can point out that not one university has divested a single dollar from Israeli companies since the BDS project began in 2001. We can highlight the enormous reversals divestment has had in the few places where it briefly saw success (like the Mainline Protestant churches), or publish facts detailing the explosion of investment in Israel since the BDS project began.

But how can we argue with people like Giora when she makes the claim that she and her like-minded colleagues have put a lot of time and made a lot of noise over the last ten years promoting the case of boycott and divestment? We can’t since there is no disputing the time and energy they have invested into making BDS a reality. We can only point out that all of that effort has led to nothing but failure, and hope to God that they continue to put their chips down on this loser strategy for the next ten years.

Life is Complicated

A short-lived hoax made the rounds in the UK after the Gaza Freedom Marcher’s disastrous experiences in Egypt. It claimed that a newly created Jewish organization, Jews for Boycotting Egyptian Goods (or J-BEG) was being formed to serve up some BDS on Egypt’s behind in response to the Egyptian government’s decision to reign in the Freedom Marchers out of a completely unjustified fear of “hooliganism” (that was right before the Marchers managed to get an Egyptian cop killed at the Gaza-Egypt border).

As it turned out, the press release was fraudulent. J-BEG doesn’t exist, and the entire story was simply a parody of the countless press releases issued by “real” UK anti-Israel divestment organizations who love to include the word “Jewish” in their names. The hoax may have originated by a peculiar prankster/crankster named Charles Edgbaston, but this too seems to be just speculation.

The interesting point of the whole bizarre episode is just how easy it is to create fraudulent “news” in this Internet age, using techniques that were used again and again by the BDS “movement” itself throughout 2009. I’ve talked about the “Hampshire College Divested” hoax that broke in February, but smaller fictions regarding Motorola, TIAA-CREF and Blackrock Investments seemed to serve as the Alpha and Omega of divestment “successes” last year.

There’s no denying that there have been some wonderful benefits to the “Citizen Journalist” movement represented by, among other things, blogs that report on and analyze the day’s events without the financial or institutional overhead of TV networks and daily newspapers. As economist Arnold Kling has noted, the number of professional jobs in journalism (like the number of tenured college professorships) has always been much lower than the number of people qualified for those positions. So why should we be surprised that the Internet is full of stuff as good or better than what you find in the dailies?

At the same time, the Web provides a barrier-free mechanism to publish any fool thing you want regardless of whether or not it’s coherent, interesting or true. And given that the mainstream media struggled with double-checking facts on complex stories or stories on peripheral issues even before their budgets were slashed, the ability to get a newspaper to believe a fraudulent press release has never been higher. And once a hoax has been picked up by “the media,” new armies of partisan bloggers are waiting to pounce, pushing this now “verified” story in a hundred different places, all in an attempt to give the perception of fact to an accidental or intentional fiction.

In the case of the aforementioned BDS hoaxes (Hampshire, CREF and the like), the desire to push these stories as true seems to have welled up from (1) a desire to deceive the public that the stalled BDS movement was actually surging with momentum; and (2) a desire of BDS activists to deceive themselves that their activities were bearing fruit. In the case of Hampshire, where the behavior of student activists taught every college administrator the perils of giving BDS a hearing, the second desire (to feel politically potent) seems to have overwhelmed the need to do things that don’t sabotage your cause.

I thought about this while reading a friend’s piece on a recent decision by the Canadian government to deny a grant request by KAIROS, a political-religious organization that has been involved with BDS activities in the past. This story got picked up last month by people on both sides of the Arab-Israeli political divide, Palestinian supporters decrying the Canadian government’s “muzzling” of KAIROS, with Israel partisans celebrating Canada’s decision to stop providing taxpayer dollars to organizations that use the money to spread defamations of the Jewish state.

But once you engage with the details of the story, the situation becomes murkier. After all, KAIROS was not defunded, but simply had a grant application rejected (something that happens to most organizations that rely on grant-driven funding). And the reasons behind the decision may have had nothing to do with the Middle East, even if the Canadian government was aware of KAIROS’s activities in this area.

So here is a case involving no fraud, simply the tendency for partisan reaction to quickly take the place of reality. And if our blinders prevent us from understanding something as simple as the everyday rejection of a government grant request, it makes you wonder how much else we think we know that is actually not so.

Hampshire and The Brain – Part 3

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Hampshire and the Brain

For those who need to catch up: Part 1 Part 2

When we last left our heroes, Brain had just activated the Hypno-Hat which had begun to work its will on the Hampshire Board of Trustees…

Pinky wanders to the top of Brain’s robot suit where the Hypno-hat now encloses Brain like a command center. Pinky opens a small door in the side of the hat and wanders over to Brain’s side.

Brain: It’s working! The Hampshire Board of Trustees is coming under my control. Are you thinking what I’m thinking Pinky?

Pinky: I think so Brain, but why would they call themselves Hamas if they can’t eat pork?

Brain: No Pinky. I’m thinking that this is just the first step to global divestment domination! Once Hampshire divests, then all the dominos will all start to fall. Framingham State will be next… then – who knows – Oakton Community College, the University of Nebraska at Kearney, even – dare I say it – the greatest prize of all: Brown!

As Brain continues to rant, the door to the conference room opens and Alan Dershowitz walks in. Still hidden beneath the Hypno-Hat, neither Pinky nor Brain notice as Dershowitz sneaks up on the robot suit, pulling a pencil from behind his ear and sticking it into the mechanism of the hat’s whirling disk. The machinery begins to seize up.

Brain (inside the now shaking command center of the Hypno-hatted suit): Something’s going wrong Pinky!

Pinky: Whooooooo! This is fun Brain!

With the pencil stuck in the mechanism, the hypno-wheel seizes up. Unfortunately, this causes all of the disk’s angular momentum to be transferred to the suit which begins to spin like a propeller.

Pinky and Brain: Waaaaaaa! (Tumbling about.)

The suit crashes into an electrical panel on the wall which causes it to discharge bolts of lightning. The force of the shock sends the suit careening through a plate glass window where it tumbles three stories to the Hampshire quad below, exploding and sending the two lab mice flying into the sky.

Brain and Pinky: Ahhhhhhh!!!!!

Pinky and the Brain finally crash-land on the grass near the burning debris of their now destroyed suit.

Brain (looking charred and scarred): Now that is going to sting.

Brain looks up to see the Board of Trustees staring down from the broken window, somewhat bewildered.

Inside the boardroom, President Hexter shrugs and the Board returns to its seats.

President Hexter: Now where were we? Oh yes, all in favor of the SHUSH proposal to invest the remaining $9,562.15 of Hampshire’s endowment in Israeli Bonds say Aye.

All: Aye!

President Hexter: OK, I guess we’re done here. Who’s ready to head out to the water park?

All: Me!!!!! (grabbing towels, donning sunglasses and wrapping inflatable animal life preservers around their waists, the entire Board rushes towards the door).

Back on the ground, Pinky finally gets up and notices little Stars of David dancing around his head.

Pinky: Oh look Brain, it’s Morgan David!

Brain swats away the stars which dissipate in a huff.

Brain: Stop that Pinky, it’s bad enough after that headline-hogging shyster Dershowitz ruined our scheme and destroyed our suit. How could he have known about our plan? How?

Dershowitz walks up to the two still-dazed lab mice.

Alan Dershowitz: Isn’t it obvious Brain?

Dershowitz pulls his own head off which turns out to have been a robotic rubber mask atop a mechanical suit similar to Brain’s now destroyed one (although shaped like Alan Dershowitz’s body). Protruding from the top of the robot’s is the larger-than-usual head of a hamster.

Brain and Pinky simultaneously: Snowball!

Snowball: Yes, Brain, Snowball you’re oldest and most devoted enemy. And once again I have proven there is no plan you can create that I cannot demolish. Nyahahahahahahaha!

Brain: Oh yeah! Well Pinky could have ruined this plan without your help. You, you big Zio-ninny!

Pinky: Good one Brain!

Brain: Thanks Pinky.

Snowball: I have no time for this idol chitter chatter.

The sound of rumbling can be heard as rockets fire from the shoes of Snowball’s Alan Dershowitz robot feet, launching the villainous Hamster and his mechanical body into the sky.

Snowball: Shalom Suckers!

Brain helps Pinky get up and dust themselves off.

Brain: Come on Pinky, there’s just enough time to get back to the lab for tomorrow night.

Pinky: Why? What are we going to do tomorrow night Brain?

Brain: The same thing we do every night Pinky, try to get Hampshire College to divest from Israel!

They’re Pinky, they’re Pinky and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain.

Allah Ahkbar!

Narf!

Hampshire and The Brain – Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Hampshire and the Brain

Continuing from Part 1 of Hampshire and The Brain…

I guess I lost track of Pinky and the Brain before they won an Emmy and ended up with a Facebook group with over 300,000 members. If you’re looking for one episode that sums up the series (and includes the Robot suit mentioned below), I recommend Win Big (available here).

So, picking up where we left off:

Scene 2: A conference room at Hampshire College where President Hexter is meeting with the school’s Board of Trustees. For some reason, Hexter is using the conference room projector to make shadow puppets against the wall. The trustees, in the meantime, seem distracted, with two of them playing cat’s cradle and another pair engaged in a rather aggressive game of gin rummy.

President Hexter: Apologies for leaving my laptop at home, but if you can all use your imagination, assume this duck is the head of the Buildings and Grounds Department, while this Indian…

Board Member Closest to Hexter: Don’t you mean “Native American?”

Hexter: Apologies (blushing), this Native American represent’s the Chairman of the Town of Amherst’s Water and Sewer Board. Now if I just…

Hexter’s Administrative Assistant enters the room, interrupting his presentation.

Administrative Assistant: Apologies sir, but the new sole, legitimate representative of the student body is outside in the hall demanding an audience.

Board Member Playing Cards: Well send him in! I’m about to lose my sixth straight game!

Other Card Playing Board Member: Too late [putting down his cards] Gin!

Both Card Players: You cheated! Did not! Did too!

A fight breaks out, interrupted by the arrival of a full sized robotic suit with The Brain’s tiny head protruding from the top.

Brain: Greetings, ah, trustee dudes!

Hexter: Ah, yes. A warm welcome from myself and the entire Board of Trustees. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to the new sole, legitimate representative of student opinion on campus: Brian.

Brain: That’s Brain!

Hexter: Apologies, apologies.

Board Member Closest to Hexter: Nice to meet you Brain. Um, if you don’t mind my asking, isn’t your head somewhat small in comparison to your body?

Brain: Actually, my proportions are quite average for someone of… my race.

The entire board begins apologizing profusely. In the meantime, Pinky, resting in the Hypno-Hat hidden behind Brain’s enormous robotic body, crawls up to ask Brain a question.

Pinky: Should I turn on the Hypno-Hat now, Brain?

Brain: Not yet Pinky. For given the extraordinary mandate I have been handed by the students of Hampshire College, I shall first try to convince this group of cretins to divest from Israel using only my powers of persuasion.

He turns towards the Board

Brain: Gentlemen, and ladies. For too many years, this school has profited from the occupation of sacred Arab soil by a barbarous group of Zionist imperialists who simultaneously control and are a puppet of the so-called United States of AmeriKKKa. Now allow me to show you why the only possible moral choice you have is to obey my commands and divest, I say DIVEST! from the so-called state of “Israel.”

A small door pops open in Brain’s robotic body which projects an image onto the conference room screen of a pair of Paramecium wearing keffiyeh.

Brain: If you’ll allow me to start at the beginning, here we have a pair of Palestinian single-cell organisms, demonstrating that Palestinians have been indigenous to the region since life first began on earth…

Six hours later…

The screen now shows a primitive cartoon of a tank with the Star of David drawn on it in blue crayon with its turret gun pointing at stick figures of a baby, a nun, a pregnant woman and Burt and Ernie from Sesame Street.

Brain: Now given the situation today in Gaza, the college should, no MUST divest itself of all holdings that benefit the NaZionist occupier.

Hexter [looking warily at the Board members in the room]: Um, thank you very much for your edifying presentation Brian.

Brain (annoyed): Brain!

Hexter: Apologies, Brain. It’s just that we’ve been through this at least a dozen times with that Students for Justice in Palestine crowd. And like we keep telling them, we’ve already decided that Israel doesn’t rise to the level of human rights abusers of say Sudan, or Saudi Arabia, Hamas, or even France for that matter.

Board Member: Besides, since BDS got started, not one college in the country has divested, which I believe reflects the fact that divestment is really more about stuffing the BDS mantra of Israel = Apartheid into the mouth of a school like Hampshire using any means, fair or foul.

Another Board Member: And didn’t the Methodists reject divestment unanimously last year?

Still Another Board Member: And one of those BDSers smeared mud on themselves at the mall where my mother was shopping. Blecchhhhh!

Brain: I think I’m losing them, Pinky. It’s time for Plan B.

Pinky: Right! Plan B! Is that the one where I distract them by disguising as Paula Abdul and inviting them to audition?

Brain: No you dolt. Tonight’s Plan B. Activate the Hypno-Hat!

Pinky: Oh right Brain!

[Pinky throws a lever and the Hypno-Hat snaps over the top of the robot suit, covering Brain. The wheel begins to spin.]

Brain (speaking through a microphone within the hat): Fools! If you will not be convinced by my powers of persuasion, perhaps you will be more pliant as my Hypno-Hat takes control over what you laughably call your cerebral cortexes! You are now falling under my command! You will now do whatever Brain orders!

Board of Trustees in unison: We will do whatever The Brain tells us to do.

Brain’s voice coming from inside the hat: Yes Pinky! It’s working, just another minute of exposure to my hypnotic suggestions and the Board will be ready to divest from “Israel” forever!

Poit! Onto Part 3!

Hampshire and The Brain – Part 1

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Hampshire and the Brain

This latest piece was done on a dare from my reader.

In one of the final pieces I wrote on the Hampshire BDS conference, I made reference to the Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine’s “Pinky-and-the-Brain” type schemes to get Hampshire on board the BDS “bandwagon.” This is a reference to a 10+ year old Warner cartoon series featuring a pair of genetically engineered lab mice who every night concoct a sure-to-fail scheme to take over the world. This intro clip doesn’t do it justice, so anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about (at least more than usual) should feel free to remain bewildered.

Hampshire and The Brain – Part 1

Pinky (running on a wheel in his cage): What are we going to do tonight Brain?

Brain (turning towards the camera): The same thing we do every night Pinky: try to get Hampshire College to divest from Israel!

They’re Pinky and The Brain
Yes Pinky and the Brain
One is a genius, the other’s insane
They’ll do their very best
To get Hampshire to divest
They’re dinky, their Pinky and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain
Narf!

Scene 1: Pinky is playing with a keffiyeh, trying desperately to tie it around his head in a form that resembles Israel. Unfortunately, his attempts leave the scarf looking more like the former Soviet Union. Brain, in the meanwhile, is tinkering with some undisclosed technology.

Pinky: Look at me Brain! I’m Yassir Aeroflot!

Pinky puts his arms in the air and begins running around the cage. Brain grabs him by the snout, causing his keffiyeh to fly off.

Brain: While I appreciate your attempts at solidarity with the downtrodden, my cretinous companion, we have no time for such tomfoolery. For tonight, I have come up with my most ingenious plan yet for getting Hampshire College to remove investment’s that benefit the Zionist Entity from its $10,000 endowment.

Pinky: Are you going to send out press releases pretending the college already divested?

Brain: Pinky, think for a moment. What imbecile would believe a press release coming from a set of experimental laboratory mice? Why the idea is almost as ridiculous as a press release from a student group claiming to speak for the college. No, in order for such an announcement to be taken seriously it must come directly from Hampshire’s administration and Board of Trustees. And in order to secure such an annoucement: Behold, the Hypno-Hat!

Brain pulls off a sheet covering his latest creation: A top hat featuring a spinning hypno-wheel bolted to its brim. Pinky starts staring at the wheel, his head spinning in circles.

Brain: Just a few minutes of exposure to my Hypno-Hat and Hampshire’s Board of Trustees will do whatever I command. And I shall command them to sell off the $437.85 they currently have invested in the state of “Israel”.

Pinky (getting dizzy as he continues to stare at the hat’s spinning disk): That’s great Brain, but why do you have quote marks around “Israel?”

Brain: Never mind that now, Pinky [turning off the hat before his companion falls under its spell]. For tonight we shall achieve the greatest triumph for BDS in ten years.

Pinky: But wait a minute, what about Katie Couric?

Brain: Not CBS, you dolt, BDS: the global movement for boycott, sanctions and divestment against the so-called “Jewish state.”

Pinky: Oh right Brain! Oh wait, no. No. Your hat is really whirly-twirly and everything, but how are you going to get it in front of the entire Hampshire board?

Brain: I’m glad you asked that, Pinky. [Walking towards a computer which he operates with a pair of robot arms typing on the keyboard.] For as we speak, a six-point ballot I have created using my free SurveyChimp subscription is winging its way to every Hampshire student, alumni and teacher, including everyone who has ever visited the Eric Carl Museum. Behold!

Brain’s ballot/survey appears on the screen that reads the following:

We, the Undersigned, agree to the following six point plan for Hampshire College:

· Free beer in the dining hall
· Bongs installed in the public lavatories
· Sabbaticals extended to every month containing the letter R
· An end to ROTC recruitment on campus
· Free Eric Carl finger puppets for each museum visitor

Pinky: I can’t read the sixth point Brain. The print is too tiny.

Brain: Let me magnify it for you friend.

Brain hits another button which zooms in on the tiny print which now reads:

· And we declare The Brain to be the sole, legitimate representative of the Hampshire Student body

Brain: Now let’s see what has transpired since my petition hit Facebook a half an hour ago.

[The screen indicates that the petition has been signed by 800 people.]

Brain: Yes! The student body has unanimously declared me their spokesmouse. And tomorrow we will present our demands to the Hampshire Board of Trustees!

Pinky: Oh, nummy!

Go to Part 2

Clip Show 6: A New Generation of Gnats

Now this one may represent my desire to unnecessarily “get the boot in” one more time, but the bombast associated with the self-evaluation of the event really left me no choice. After all, a group of kids getting together to plan how to effectively lie to the public while simultaneoulsy lying to themselves hardly seems the equivalent of The Greatest Generation.

And so, in conclusion…

I wrote recently about events like the BDS conference at Hampshire College being primarily about the BDSers themselves, an event adding up to little more than a group hug during which the divestment crowd could sing their own praises and crow about their unquestionable virtue.

While I’ve grown used to the self-important bombast that turns up whenever I give folks like Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine a gentle ribbing (especially one that ends up taking up the bulk of the first page of Google search results for “Hampshire BDS”), nothing I could ever write would rival the near parody level self-congratulations of this piece.

A few Divest This operatives attended the Hampshire event last weekend (they were the girls wearing fake beards if anyone who attended is reading this) and gave me the skinny on what went on. Naturally, I was most curious about how the BDSers managed to spend an entire weekend ginning up the troops while having to work around the little detail that their Pinky and the Brain-type schemes have met with nothing but failure over the last eight years. With zero colleges choosing to divest after all that time (and Hampshire providing an abject lesson to college administrators nationwide on what can happen if you give the BDS crowd the time of day), with churches running from their program, with “right wing” groups like J Street abandoning their squalid little project, how would they apply their innovative imaginations into spinning excrement into gold? Envelope please!

It turns out that the utter lack of real BDS victories is more than made up for by the fact that AIPAC, J-Street, et al have been forced to react to their activities! In other words, condemnation from their enemies is proof positive of not just relevance, but unstoppable political momentum! Come again? Can anyone play this game? Does the divestnista’s endless harping on Israel and its supporters mean our success if finally getting to them? That we’re now too unstoppable to ignore? Or is it only the BDSniks who get to demand we agree to the endlessly changing terms by which the success of their “movement” is to be judged? In the past, I described BDS as resembling a lame pickup artist that highlights the sheer number of their unsuccessful advances as proof of their sexual prowess. But their latest interpretation take the metaphor one step further, whereby everyone in the bar asking them to keep their hands to themselves or get out is further proof that they must really be getting somewhere!

I’ll return tomorrow with a description of some real heroes of the Happy Valley, not self-important, self-described “Giants,” but simple happy warriors with their hearts in the right place.

Clip Show 4: Bonding with BDS

This piece grew out of my curiousity as to how the Hampshire BDS kids planned to create a feeling of momentum around a program (divestment) that has all but ground to a halt in terms of actual institutions making actual divestment decisions (as opposed to the trivial and/or fake “victories” the divestment crowd has been crowing about all year). This grew into some speculation that the point of BDS may have more to do with social bonding than actual politics [fade to flashback]…

The agenda for this weekend’s Hampshire BDS conference is up, and it’s fair to say that they’ve put together a pretty comprehensive program. Given that this event (and similar ones on other campuses) is likely a spin off from the 8th annual national divestment meeting that took place in Chicago earlier this year, you can’t say that the Israel-dislikers out there have not been putting time, money and resources into this tactic over the last decade.

Which begs the question as to why, after nearly ten years of effort, they have far less to show for themselves than they did even four years ago?

One explanation (the one BDS champions have used in the past) is that it takes time to build a movement, and that everything that’s taken place over the last 8+ years are small steps that will culminate in their overall victory getting Israel branded as the successor to Apartheid South Africa. But if we are to measure progress by success, rather than noise level, at best BDS is a project that has had its ups and downs, but is generally trending southward in terms of actual institutional victories.

Another explanation is that the early victories of BDS (Presbyterians, British unions) and divestment hoaxes (Hampshire, TIAA-CREF ) created countervailing forces in the form of activists such as myself, and awareness by those who would be involved with divestment decisions of the nastiness that underlies boycott, divestment and sanctions. In this way, the Presbyterian Church took one for Mainline Christianity by getting infected, healing and then spreading its antibodies around its fellow churches.

There is a third option (one that, admittedly, remains speculative) that BDS conferences like the one at Hampshire this weekend are ends in themselves. Under this interpretation, the purpose of these events is to make the participants feel like they are all part of a virtuous, all-seeing vanguard that understands the world in ways the masses who overwhelmingly support Israel and reject BDS do not.

Given the number of Israel=Apartheid events featuring posters with the world “Apartheid” misspelled, it’s safe to say that current campus Boycott Israel participants are not propelled by experience or understanding of what the injustice of Apartheid was really like (beyond being a dirty word with emotional resonance). And given the speed at which BDSers turn their head and spin on their heels whenever they’re confronted with their indifference to genuine human rights abuses committed by their political allies, it’s safe to say that the distance between their virtuous self-image and reality remains as vast as ever.

Which gets us back to the notion that hate-fests like Israel-Apartheid Week and divestment hoax celebrations like this weekend’s event at Hampshire may actually serve as a form of social bonding for the participants, rather than as a genuine form of political activity. After all, a truly political movement would have to put at least a few minutes into thinking through the consequences of their actions. And given how much worse the plight of the very Palestinians BDSers claim to care so much about has gotten with every year the divestment bandwagon marches on, serious political reflection is the one thing that won’t be on the agenda at Hampshire this weekend.

Clip Show 3: On My Honor

Unfortunately, this piece (which was published the week before the Hampshire BDS conference) triggered a pretty familiar right-left debate over attacks on Scouting as an institution over the last couple of decades. Not that this isn’t a debate worth having, it’s just that the Boy Scouts seems to transcend the issues of the day, which is why it seemed such an apt comparison to the fleetingness of BDS.

Anyway, those with patience are free to read on…

While I was hoping to do daily postings related to the upcoming Hampshire BDS conference, yesterday got tied up with my older kid’s first Boy Scout overnight (which included the tail end of a tropical storm).

Which got me thinking… (Note to new readers: This is point where my regulars start fleeing the room, but if you stick with me for a couple of paragraphs, relevance to divestment should start to emerge.)

In documenting the interaction between BDS and civic society over the last five years, most of the organizations I’ve written about (the Presbyterian and Methodist churches, British trade unions, etc.) are alien enough to my personal experience that they required some research and outreach to understand.

The Boy Scouts, however, is not a stranger. I grew up in the movement and, as last weekend’s overnight confirmed, it is just as dynamic as it was in the 1970s when I wore the khaki. More so, in fact, since I was at the tail end of a misguided attempt to reach inner-city kids by diluting the mix of outdoor skills and self reliance that formed the core of Scouting for most of the 20th century, a trend that was reversed once people realized that cutting wood, pitching tents, and building fires were exactly what urban boys (like all Scouts) wanted (and needed) to learn.

In an era when many of the planets problems are the result of (or fueled by) directionless, adolescent males, a movement designed to instill young men with a moral code, as well as a code of chivalry (in the form of the Scout Oath and Law) stands out as one of the most successful civic experiments of this or any other era. It’s been a hundred years since Lord Baden Powell wrote Scouting for Boys, but I can draw a straight line between his first recruits at the turn of the last century, and the highly skilled, generous souls who welcomed my ten-year-old into their fold during last weekend’s driving rainstorm.

Now I’ve written on the topic of civil society before, and I should stress that Scouting as an organization is fully inoculated from manipulation by political organizations like those pushing divestment. So in this case, I’m not talking about Boy Scouts as a civic institution at risk, but rather highlighting the difference between a movement dedicated to creation, and one committed to destruction.

This contrast became clear as I began to ask about what our side might want to do in order to tell our side of the story at Hampshire. This was generally met with shaking heads and grim laughter since the rule on the Hampshire campus seems to be: agree with SJP or suffer the consequences. And this bullying attitude seems to extend beyond just Hampshire to the entire Five College region where any speaker looking to share a pro-Israel point of view can expect to be harangued off the stage (all in the name of “disrupting the Zionist narrative,” of course). In fact, one of the reasons it was so easy for SJP to broadcast the Hampshire Divestment hoax earlier this year was because of their success in pushing discussion of any “narrative” that did not fit their own point of view beyond the pale.

Now having been a Boy Scout, I know full well the institutions weaknesses, flaws and limitations, just as I am well aware of all of the many things that make Israel a hugely imperfect society. And yet, compare an organization that has taught generations of boys from around the world to link arms rather than swing fists, or a country that has turned Jews from a hundred lands into a nation, with the sour emptiness that underlies the BDS “movement.”

Divestment does not welcome, it shuns anyone who refuses to tow the party line. It does not build, it seeks to destroy. It creates no civic space worthy of esteem, but rather attempts to piggyback on the reputation of organizations that actually stand for something.

One of Baden Powell’s more well-known maxims says “If a scout were to break his honour by telling a lie . . . he would cease to be a scout–he loses his life.” A bit dramatic, in a turn of the 20th century kind of way, but what a contrast with next week’s the Hampshire divestment conference which -at the end of the day – is built on the knowing perpetuation of a fraud.