Clip Show 2: Hampshire SJP Planning Transcript

Continuing the Hampshire Divestment “clip show,” here’s a piece that seems to have gotten up a couple of Happy Valley noses. While I originally knocked this off as a half-hour lark, it apparently comes up as most of the links on the first page of a Google search of “Hampshire BDS” (testament to how little people are really paying attention to Hampshire Students for Justice with Palestine and their fellow travelers).

The original appeared as two postings at Solomonia, but I’ve combined them into one. Oh, and if any SJPers are reading this, I’d better point out something a number of them didn’t quite grasp when it first appeared: this is a parody (look it up).

A friend from Northampton slipped me a transcript of a recent planning meeting for next weekend’s divestment conference at Hampshire College. Apparently some of the original audio recording was garbled, so forgive any dead patches.

Freddy (Student for Justice in Palestine leader): OK gang, we’ve got to start this conference off with a bang. Now we’re still hoping Omar Barghouti can give the opening speech addressing the compelling need for a comprehensive boycott of Israeli academia. But in case he’s still taking his finals at Tel Aviv University, I thought we could begin with a stemwinder about the outstanding successes BDS has had this year.

Unknown Student (Female): Yeah! We could talk about the Norwegian government’s decision to pull out of Elbit!

Unknown Student (Male): Norway! Give me a break. They’ve already got squishy on us, highlighting the fact that they continue to invest in over 40 Israeli companies. Besides, who gives a sh*t what Norway thinks. Whoever heard of Norway?

Sven: I have. I was born there.

Unknown Student (Male): You know what I mean.

Yakov: As I Jew, I understand where you’re coming from. So why don’t we skip Norway for now and focus on university divestment. After all, most of the attendees will be college undergrads, and many of them – like me – will be Jewish.

Freddy: Yakov’s right. So who’s got the list of colleges that have divested from the Zionist Entity? Carlos – you’re head of the academic subcommittee of the action committee of the steering committee. What’s the number of wins have we had on the college front?

Carlos: [Sound of shuffling papers]. Well, according my latest research and calculations, the number of schools that have heeded our call and divested from Israel stands at [coughs].

Unknown Student [Female]: What was that Carlos? I didn’t hear you.

Carlos: [Coughs a few more times.] Well, zero actually.

Freddy: You mean after eight years of BDS committees working tirelessly on every college in the nation, not one school has actually divested a single dollar from the NaZionist Colonial Power?

Carlos: Well it sounds bad when you put it that way.

[Unintelligible arguing. Sounds of papers being thrown in the air and doors slamming.]

Freddy: OK, OK so we know what to say if the subject of academic divestment comes up. Here on the East Coast, we would have won a series of unending triumphs except for the ugly intervention of Lawrence Summers who tried to muzzle us at Harvard by calling us anti-Semites.

Sven: Actually, I am an anti-Semite.

Freddy: Sorry, Sven. I was just making a point. OK, so by invoking knee-jerk accusations of bigotry, that tired old misogynist “Sexism Summers” censored us by having the gall to state his opinion about what Harvard should or shouldn’t do, just because he as the college’s President at the time. And then his lackey Alan Dershowitz forced our own President here at Hampshire to say he’d never divest from Israel.

Carlos: Actually, the President of Hampshire said he’d never divest a year before Dershowitz showed up.

Freddy: That’s beside the point. After all, who gets to decide the school’s investment policies, the administration and investment managers, or us? Of course they’re going to use the excuse that we’re just a bunch of undergraduates who don’t speak on behalf of the college. But do any of them even know how to Tweet?

Yakov: I’ve got to agree with Freddy’s interpretation of events. While we may not have won any actual “victories,” I think it’s fair to say we’ve already won the war on campus. Oh, and did I mention I’m Jewish?

Freddy: OK, we have our storyline. While we may not have won any actual “victories” in the campus BDS wars, that’s just because of the stranglehold on discourse by the You-Know-Whos. And besides, it’s just a matter of time before some Left Coast college goes our way. After all, look how successful we’ve been at San Francisco State where we get to shout our message from the rooftops as well as shout down (I mean disrupt the Zionist narrative) whenever any ZioNazis dare to express their point of view.

Carlos: Actually, the President of S.F. State just condemned BDS as a “campaign to limit other’s free speech and reign in the free exchange of ideas [that] runs counter to everything S.F. State stands for.”

Unidentified Male Student: Carlos, can you please stop being such a killjoy. As we just discussed, it doesn’t matter if no colleges or universities actually divested. If a group of undergraduates like us just pretend they did, shouts loud enough and sends out enough press releases, then we can call it victory.

Yakov: Exactly. In fact, I just wrote a paper for my Physics and Class Conflict in the Middle East course entitled “Objective Reality is Whatever I Say it is” which clarifies this very topic. I brought some copies if anyone wants to read it now [sound of papers being pulled out of a knapsack].

Freddy: We’d better take that offline Comrade Yakov. We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover. OK, we have our storyline for declaring victory on campus, and – as usual – our friends at Sabeel have been working tirelessly to bring the Mainline Protestant churches in our camp.

Sven: Religion is the opiate of the masses!

Unidentified Female Student: That’s true Sven, but we should keep that to ourselves, especially since the Presbyterians and Methodists are just about the only major organizations that have squarely come out in favor of divestment. Carlos – has anyone else been added to this list in the last couple of years? I heard that the United Church of Lasertag has been flirting with a BDS resolution.

Carlos: Can I go to the bathroom?

[Door slams.]

Freddy: OK Carlos, come clean. Before you can take a bio-break, what are you trying to avoid telling us?

Carlos: Well, it’s just that…

Sven: Out with it.

Carlos: OK, the Presbyterians rejected their 2004 divestment vote in 2006. And they reiterated that choice in 2008, the same year that the Methodists rejected divestment unanimously. And with all due respect for our comrades at Sabeel, just this summer, the United Church of Canada voted down divestment, even after Sabeel made a passionate plea to stay on the BDS bandwagon. So basically, we’ve got nothing in the churches either.

[Long silence.]

All: Religion is the opiate of the masses!

Unidentified Female: To hell with those Bible thumping Presbyterian rednecks.

Freddy: OK, calm down everyone. Now we can’t start next month’s meeting just pretending that we’ve won on colleges that have rejected us, or shitting on the churches we were celebrating just two years ago. We’ve got to have some real victory to boast about, or everything will think we’re a bunch of ineffectual losers holding celebratory meetings as a substitute for real wins.

Yakov: Well we can’t talk about municipalities. Somerville and Seattle are the closest we ever got, and BDS was rejected unanimously in the former, and didn’t even get onto the ballot on the latter.

Unidentified Female Student: And US Unions are out, they’re the most Zionist institution in the country outside of Evangelicals (unless you want to count the Lawyer’s Guild).

Yakov: My Dad told me that the last member of the Lawyer’s Guild just resigned.

Freddy: OK, scratch the Lawyer’s Guild. But come on guys, we’ve got to have one victory to talk about, just one. Is that too much to ask for by a movement like ours which has been on the march and in the ascendency for the last eight years?

[More silence.]

Unidentified Female Student: Norway?

[More silence.]

Unidentified Male Student: How’s this: Our brave Scandinavian comrades have boldly stood up to the Zionist pressure from the massive, all-powerful Norwegian Jewish lobby, creating a bold vanguard which will soon sweep that brave nation, and then the world!

[Sound of cheers, loud whoops and singing of Abba songs.]

Sven: Guys! Guys. First thing, Abba is Swedish. And second thing, I’ve got a little more bad news…

End of transcript.

Clip Show – Buycott, Invest, Celebrate!

I decided to take my response to last weekend’s Hampshire BDS yak-fest to a friend’s blog, which is why there’s been less about that event here at Divest This! Just so all of the info I’ve been gathering or creating on BDS is in one place, I’ve decided to re-post those messages here over the next few days. (And yes, those of you who realize it’s a long holiday weekend will recognize this as the equivalent of one of the holiday clip shows we remember from TV series of our youth.)

So without any further ado, it’s time to Buycott! Invest! and Celebrate!

I was going to celebrate Israel’s fantastic October, during which the country attracted a phenomenal 1.25 billion in new foreign investment (not bad during an economic downturn).

And given that those pikers peddling their boycott, divestment and sanctions wares were able to convince themselves that TIAA-CREF selling a measly $250,000 in Israeli real-estate stock was a major vindication of their cause (even though CREF let it be known that their sale had nothing to do with politics), by following the BDS rulebook I guess I can claim that support for Israel (as demonstrated by investment levels) has outstripped hostility towards the Jewish state (as demonstrated by divestment “success” – even if only imagined) by a factor of 500,000%.

But why quibble with these statistics when anecdotes can suffice to demonstrate divestment’s track record as an L-O-S-E-R of late?

After all, as I describe here and here, the BDS “juggernaut” can’t even pull off tricking an LA teacher’s union into swallowing their poison. And given that the only institution in America that rivals Evangelical Christians in their deep attachment to the Jewish state is the US Labor movement (which would explain why they keep that giant bronze statue of Golda Meir in the lobby of AFL-CIO headquarters), I’m not quite sure where all the excitement about “divestment ascendant” is coming from.

But I guess my favorite recent tale was about the failure of the usual suspects to get the New York Mets to cancel a fund raiser for the Jewish denizens of Hebron. I mean come on! A fund-raiser for the dreaded Settlers (Bogga! Bogga! Booga!) in the heart the most blue and green city in America, and the BDSniks can’t even get the Mets to lend their cause anything beyond a “F*ck y*u very much for your concern” letter?! (Oh, for an interrobang.)

I’ve heard that aptly named “movement” (i.e., the divestment brigade) will be gathering at the scene of last February’s hoax: Hampshire College for a weekend celebration of their wonderfulness. So what better time to highlight the failures of said movement over the next week here at my favoritist of all Web sites, Solomonia.

Stay tuned…

Hampshire BDS Conference Transcript

I’ve been having a little fun over at my friend Sol’s blog (www.solomonia.com) regard next weekend’s divestment conference at Hampshire. I’ll try to post thoughts on that event here, but in the meantime you can find stuff on a blog which, unlike this one, has the advantage of actually being read by thousands…

http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archive/2009/11/hampshire-bds-planning-meeting—exclusi/index.shtml

http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archive/2009/11/hampshire-sjp-planning-meeting—continu/index.shtml

http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archive/2009/11/buy-cott-invest-celebrate/index.shtml

UTLA – Take 2

Before analyzing the significance of the UTLA’s success in avoiding the BDS infection, I hope you’ll indulge a quick personal observation.

Like most bloggers, I blog about an issue I’m passionate about: the fight against divest-from-Israel campaigns. And that passion is no less (possibly greater – ask my wife) than that of BDS advocates. Yet in my wildest dreams I would never, ever ask an organization in which I am a member (from my city or town, to the schools I’ve attended, to the synagogue I’ve recently joined, to the various organizations I and my family are members of) to take some official stand so that I could use their name and reputation to bludgeon my political enemies.

Every time divestment comes up, I’m always asked why our side doesn’t simply turn the tables and get the city of Somerville or the Presbyterian Church or some other civic organization to condemn the Palestinians for suicide bombing, or the Saudis for enslaving women or murdering gays. And each time I give the same answer: these institutions are not our playthings. They are living, sometimes fragile, critical parts of our civil society, not tools to be used (or mis-used) so that I or anyone else can leverage their name and reputation to punch above our actual political weight.

Having seen the misery and divisiveness that accompanies BDS when it is brought into an organization (almost always via the back door), civic institutions need a way to honestly evaluate and accept or reject whether they want to take part in divestment activity against Israel or anyone else. But it’s only in the case of Israel-related BDS that people (whether they are citizens of Somerville, members of the Methodist Church or British trade union) wake up one morning to learn that divestment (something they’ve never heard of before) is suddenly being advocated in their name. In the case of Hampshire College students and alums, or TIAA-CREF academic retirees, these communities get to discover their alleged organizational support for divestment is actually fraudulent.

So with regard to using the BDSers own tactics against them: no thank you. From my perspective, the civility and cohesiveness of my son’s tiny 4H group is a million times more important than the BDSers trying to exploit the name and reputation of much larger organizations. As I’ve said before, let BDS create its own civic space worthy of respect, not just latch parasite-like onto the reputation of someone else, by hook or by crook.

With that in mind, the UTLA story is quite simple, yet at the same time quite profound. There a couple dozen BDSers tries their usual trick of infiltrating an organization with a demonstrated concern for human rights, hoping to turn that concern into a weapon in their ongoing propaganda war against Israel. As usual, they thought they could sneak their message into the bloodstream of the organization without consulting anyone but themselves. And, again as usual, they never stopped to consider the damage they might cause by selfishly putting their personal political priorities ahead of the other 47,000+ members of the organization.

Fortunately, the leadership of this particular institution understood that the union exists to serve its member-teachers, and ultimately the students those teachers educate. Like most people familiar with BDS, these leaders understood what happens when you drag the Middle East conflict into an organization. And like most US unions (as opposed to European ones), they are not willing to sacrifice their members or their mission just to allow an insignificant minority to aggrandize their political agenda by exploiting the good name (and good will) of the organization.

So the UTLA said NO to BDS, and as a result have earned some sharp words from divestment partisans (to which I will add two words: “who cares”). For they have also earned (rightfully and righteously) the respect of those who understand that a commitment to human rights does not require an organization to dance to the divestor’s tune, simply because that tune hypocritically uses the language of human rights for its lyrics.

The BDS Double Standard

One of the most common challenges to the Divest-nista crowd is why they don’t call and march for divestment against Sudan, China, Libya or any of the totalitarian dictatorships whose daily human rights abuses dwarf anything Israel could have possibly done over the course of 60 years.

Generally, their first response is to ignore the question and move onto their next accusations (real or imagined) against Israel, hoping that no one will peek behind the curtain. While such stonewalling can work for a while, those trying to sell BDS to the general public must eventually explain the apparent double standard whereby Israel must be punished while its dictatorial critics are left alone. Some of the more easily dismissed excuses I’ve seen from US-based divestniks include:

  • Israel is a democracy and thus our protests can have an impact there (ignoring the obvious corollary that the best way to avoid the wrath of these alleged “human rights” champions is to be a dictatorship)
  • Israel is an ally of the US, and thus as Americans we are obliged to criticize our friends more than our foes (ignoring the obvious question as to why this hostility does not extend to other US allies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt)
  • “Israel receives [pick your sum, ranging from three-billion to eleventy-jillion dollars] in US aid so as a US citizen it’s the use of my tax dollars I’m protesting” (never specifying why a country like Egypt, which receives 2/3 as much US aid as Israel – a formula calculated at Camp David decades ago – receives 0% rather than 66% of the hostility the boycotters direct against Israel).

Clearly, these are just excuses or rationalizations for people who have a political agenda (hostility towards the Jewish state) who feel a need to dress up their attitudes in the ill-fitting garments of legitimate principle. Yet even if such hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue, the excuses BDSers use to explain their obvious double standards only stretches so thin, often with embarrassing results.

My favorite example of over-reach in an effort to explain away the double standard was the UK academic boycotters who claimed their effort to sanction Israeli universities would be particularly effective because of the Jews unique love and respect for learning. Needless to say, this implied dissing of the scholarly passions of non-Jewish societies did not go over well with the boycotters third-worlder constituency.

Within this rickety pile of excuses, the only one that is backed by enough fact to not be immediately dismissed as a smoke screen is the claim that the call for boycotting Israel welled up from the Palestinians themselves in the form of a 2002 boycott call from the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (or PACBI). Because the PACBI BDS call (unlike Hampshire College or TIAA-CREF divestment hoaxes) actually exists, poking holes in this argument takes a little more effort. But not much…

Stay tuned.

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

A commenter correctly corrected me with regard to the Africa-Israel Group (which I have been inadvertently calling Israel-Africa). She also pointed me to one of those “divestment-is-on-the-march, wind-at-its-back” stories which noted that protests against the company (which I’ll now call A-I) have actually been taking place for several years. This, I suppose, was meant to counter my assertion that the call by 50 TIAA-CREF members to divest from the Israeli company came after the company had already divested, and thus could not be the cause of that decision.

Given that the Adalah group (the organization which organized the push to get TIAA-CREF to divest from Africa-Israel as a form of political protest) has already admitted that its call took place after CREF’s financial decision to divest had already been made, and given that TIAA-CREF itself has made it absolutely clear that its decision to sell A-I shares had nothing to do with politics (either its own, or the politics of outside protestors), I think we can pretty much put the “TIAA-CREF has joined the BDS campaign” story to bed.

But wasn’t Africa-Israel already controversial before the TIAA-CREF decision? And couldn’t some of the general BDS protest against the company have affected CREF’s investment choices earlier this year? Here we have entered the realm of what is known as a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. This translates roughly to “before, thus caused by.” In other words, it makes the case that since one event preceded another, then the first event must have caused the second.

If you’ll pardon my reduction ad absurdum, this is the fallacy behind the argument that the cock crowing causes the sunrise. No one can argue that a cock’s crow preceded the sun coming up, but to prove that this noise is responsible for the sun rising one must prove (not simply assert) causality (ideally providing a mechanism whereby one event triggers another).

Clearly, Africa-Israel (like many Israeli companies or US and European companies doing business in Israel) has been subject to harassment by boycotters for years, with calls to divest from Israel being broadcast on and off for decades. And during that period, some investors have both bought and sold stocks in these targeted companies.

In the case of Africa-Israel, we now know that Adalah’s specific protest could not have caused TIAA-CREF’s sell-off (unless one is ready to believe the argument that a later event caused an earlier one). My commenter has asserted that other protests took place before TIAA-CREF divested and that this provides proof that CREF’s decisions were BDS-related and political. But could there be another, simpler explanation? Might the fact that A-I’s shares plummeted in price due to the company’s huge debt be a more likely explanation as to why TIAA-CREF and other investors have rid themselves of A-I shares (many via automatic indexing mechanisms)?

It strikes me that much of what passes for BDS “success” in 2009 falls under the category of post hoc fallacy, frequently picked up by an uninformed media. Students ask Hampshire College to divest from Israel. Hampshire College changes its divestment portfolio in ways that impact some (but not all) Israel-related investments. Ergo “Hampshire has divested” (disregarding the fact that the college maintains investments in other Israeli companies and has said specifically that its choices had nothing to do with Israel). People picket Motorola. Motorola sells a business unit to Israel. Thus Motorola has followed BDS dictates (regardless of the fact that plans to sell the unit were already in the works before protests ramped up, and that Motorola has made it clear that this was a simple business decision to sell an orphan unit to a partner). Etc., etc.

Now to be fair, I’ve made the assertion that a year of this type of fallacy laden fraud may represents a specific strategy by the BDS crowd to claim victory for decisions that had nothing to do with their efforts, all in an effort to manufacture momentum for a divestment movement that has been in retreat for the last five years. It remains to be seen if my argument of fraudulence following failure is a post hoc fallacy or simply a reasonable theory that requires further evidence to confirm.

The divestment virus

Having spent quite a bit of time over the last five years tracking and, in some cases, battling those trying to mainstream boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, it’s interesting to note changes in divestment’s target list over the last several years.

When I first got into this game, divestment seemed like a genuine threat. The Presbyterian Church had just voted yes on a divestment resolution at its 2004 bi-annual conference, and many other Mainline Protestant churches were following suit. A divestment petition drive at Harvard and MIT created similar “copy cat” petition-driven divestment projects on campuses across the country. But it took divestment coming to my own home (at the time Somerville, MA) to make me realize that this virus had to be taken seriously.

Fortunately, a number of people took the issue seriously enough to do something about it. While many of us may have been asleep at the switch when divestment was plying its way into various well-known civic organizations, hoping desperately to be able to stuff the BDS mantra of “Israel is an Apartheid state” into the mouth of a famous school, church or city, we were able to quickly make up for lost time. I’d like to say that it was the effort of pro-Israel activists that turned the tide, but we soon discovered that the most powerful anti-divestment force out there were the members of the organizations divestment advocates were trying to subvert. Once members of a school, church of municipality became aware of what was being done in their name, they collectively gave BDS the heave-ho in some of the most lop-sided defeats I’ve ever seen in an organization.

Divestment was rejected by 95% of the Presbyterians, by 100% of the Methodists, by all of Somerville’s leadership. And at universities, anti-divestment petitions out-signatured pro-divestment ones by margins of 10:1. Since ’06 when divestment came off the agenda of the Mainline Protestant churches, it seemed like it would be all downhill for BDS from then on.
And, to a certain extent, it has. Just this year, two more divestment stalwarts (the UCC in Canada and Episcopalians in the US) added their names to the long list of people who wanted nothing to do with BDS. And divestment champions seemed to have to go further and further afield to find something they could characterize (or mis-characterize) as a victory.

Thus we find ourselves at an interesting juncture where divestment forces are trying to build momentum on the back of outright fraud (Hampshire, Motorola, TIAA-CREF), or on choices made not by institutions, but by individuals. Artists refusing to take part in relatively little known festivals (such as the recent dust up at the Toronto International Film Festival) seems to be tactic cropping up of late. This is understandable, given that it takes a lot less effort to get an individual to do something than an institution.

Yet even at this small scale, the BDS virus demonstrates its ability to do damage. In the case of the Toronto festival, one artist boycotted, divestment claimed a victory, sensible voices protested, Israeli films (the subject of the boycott) were sold out, and dozens of good people who thought they were created a welcoming cultural event instead ended up presiding over a political circus and found themselves cleaning up wreckage left from a BDS crew that had long since left town, laughing at yet another institution they’d suckered into their orbit.

I have little doubt that divestment will run its course, only to be replaced by a new tactic that, we can hope, will be equally unsuccessful. But between now and then, I can only sigh at the amount of pain the self-righteous champions of divestment will cause to countless civic organizations whose only crime is too much sincerity which prevents them from knowing they are being played.

BDS Countdown! – Be Still My Heart

According to their countdown clock, the 8th Annual Organizer’s Conference will be taking place in downtown Chicago in ten days, three hours and 43 minutes (whoops! make that 42 minutes). While the innocuous title is likely to have been chosen in the hope that the group won’t get thrown out of their venue before this gig begins on September 12, the Annual Organizer’s Conference promises to be THE place where the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) “movement” targeting Israel will coordinate their activity for the year.

Scuttlebutt on campuses seems to indicate that BDS will be the chosen tactic for the “Israel is wrong about everything, always” crowd this academic year. In some ways, this is a pain (who wants to fight the same battles over and over again, after all). At the same time, it’s nice that Israel’s foes have chosen to revisit the only thing I know of that is more unpopular among the American public than Israel’s political rivals: the tactics of boycott, divestment and sanction.

Given how little the divest-niks have to show for themselves after eight years of trying to hijack respected institutions, the noise level at this year’s conference is sure to be high-decibel and shrill. After all, colleges and universities have already given divestment the heave-ho, and last year’s Hampshire hoax is not likely to endear the “movement” to college administrators. The closest the BDS crew got to success in cities and towns was five years ago in Somerville, MA, after which municipal leaders pretty much had their number. Despite boasts of union support, the US labor movement continues to rival Evangelical Christians in their devotion to the Jewish state. And speaking of Christians, the final holdouts among Mainline Churches calling for Israel divestment have spent the last two weeks reversing those positions by overwhelming majorities.

So where does that leave BDS in ’09? I could continue to make fun of their feeble attempts to turn normal business transactions (i.e., Motorola) or corporate presidents telling them to screw themselves (i.e., Caterpillar) into “victories,” but that misses a larger point that today BDS mostly represents a way for anti-Israel activists to create cohesion among themselves, a human-to-human “social network” of individuals blinded by their own self-righteous fury, impervious to any truths that contradict a vision of the world that is endlessly re-enforced by spending time only with the like-minded.

Of course, the last several years have taught us that the BDS crew does have one skill: the ability to turn even shallow victories (such as the Presbyterian Church’s two-year flirtation with divestment) into media-driven “momentum” that can require months or years agita to turn around. Still, while it’s always hard to pull an apathetic public into any political project, it’s particularly difficult when that project has proven to be as big a loser as divestment.

Anyway, it’s now ten days, three hours and twenty-eight minutes until those who know better than the rest of us gather in Chicago. If anyone is interested in attending and sending me back material I can broadcast, I’ll be happy to pick up the $35 entrance fee.

What damage does divestment cause?

FAQ#11: What kind of damage is caused by divestment programs?

At its heart, divestment is an attempt to import the bitterness of the Arab-Israeli conflict into a civic institution such as a college, church, city or union in order to leverage that organization’s reputation for the narrow partisan gain of divestment advocates. Historically, attempts to win a well known organization into the divestment fold are accomplished by maneuvering behind the backs of members (not to mention outright fraud, as at Hampshire). On several occasions, students, church members or citizens simply wake up one morning to discover their school, church or city is allegedly calling for a boycott of Israel in their name. Divestment advocates have proven themselves indifferent to the conflict and pain caused by asking a church, school or town to take an official stand on one of the most difficult, complex issues of the day.

This is not to say that institutions do not have a role in making statements regarding current events, or that activists do not have the right to make request of the school they attend, the church they belong to or the city in which they live. But the cynical manipulation of civic institutions (not to mention the abuse of the language of human rights), including the bait-and-switch tactics associated with divestment, brings with it bitter divisiveness that can take years to heal. Divestment activists, with their single-minded objective to gain the support of a well-known organization – by any means necessary – time and time again fail to reflect on the damage they can cause in an attempt to achieve their aims.

So where has divestment been successful?

FAQ#9: If divestment has failed at colleges and universities, has it been successful anywhere else?

In 2004, a number of Mainline Protestant churches (notably the Presbyterians and Methodists) passed resolutions calling for divestment of their retirement portfolios from stocks identified by BDS activists as supporting the Jewish state. In fact, the success divestment had in penetrating major churches was the anchor for the BDS movement between 2004 and 2006.

As with universities, however, support for divestment in the churches turned out to be extremely shallow. While some church leaders supported divestment (as did a few regional churches, like the New England Methodists), the rank and file categorically rejected divestment calls, voting down divestment by margins of 95%-5% (the Presbyterians) or unanimously (the Methodists) in 2006 and reaffirming those decisions in 2008.

During this period, divestment was also attempted in some US cities (notably Somerville, Massachusetts and Seattle, Washington), but lost badly in both places. The same bait-and-switch tactics that played themselves out on campus were also tried at other institutions, but ultimately good sense prevailed and divestment was rejected.