Gaza: Here We Go Again

It’s time like these, when the missiles are flying in from Gaza (virtually guaranteeing an escalation in violence), that the true nature of BDS and associated “peace movements” stands revealed.

For according to every source and interpretation, one of the things holding the Israeli’s back from immediately retaliating against an enemy opening fire at its civilian population (something any other nation in the world would do immediately and unquestionably) is fear of massive protests that would appear instantly across the world, leading to a new round of condemnations from international bodies.

Of course, Hamas – the people who decided to start firing those rockets – fear no such protests or condemnations, understanding that people taking to the street in various US and European cities are part of their arsenal, a deterrent that allows them to push the limits of how many missiles and mortars and terror attacks they can subject Israelis civilians to without triggering a massive response.

In other words, far from representing a “peace movement,” BDS et al represent a weapons system, in this case acting as the propaganda arm of a party to the conflict.  And while this weapon system might, if backed into a corner, choke out a few mealy mouthed words along the lines of: “Yes, firing missiles at Israeli schools is terrible, BUT…[Seige! Occupation!!  Leiberman!!!],” once Israelis return fire they will somehow find their voice, taking to the streets in the hundreds and thousands calling for an immediate cease fire (all in the name of “human rights” and “justice,” of course).

Keep in mind that if the Israelis ever decide they cannot accept that one of their borders will be perpetually showered in rockets, that this will inevitably lead to the deaths of Palestinians on whose behalf the BDSers claim to be fighting.  So even if Palestinians (vs. Israeli) lives are the only things these groups count as precious, the Hamas-instigated violence at the border all but guarantees the loss of these lives.

And, ironically, there actually is something the BDS and associated “movements” could do to prevent such a tragedy.  They could, for example, publicly announce that Hamas must stop firing missiles at civilians (a reasonable thing for a peace movement to say) and that, this time, they will NOT take to the streets if Israel decides to do something about said rocket fire.  They could call an end to the flotillas, a termination of visits, a refusal to continue their anti-Israeli campaigns in any way unless and until Hamas stops putting Israeli and Palestinian lives at risk by ending their senseless cross-border attacks.

If immediate anti-Israel protests were not inevitable, this would require Hamas to recalculate its risks with an understanding that they may not be provided the cover they expect if their target decides to retaliate.  In other words, those who claim as their moral lodestone the preciousness of Palestinian life are in a position to actually limit loss of that life by simply doing what any genuine peace movement would do immediately and unquestionably: fight for peace.

But expecting this to happen is as realistic as expecting a nation’s navy to start firing on its own army.  For as the BDSers have proven again and again, their movement is simply one more armament, deployed to give those who actually pull the trigger maximum military maneuvering room.

In fact, reality might be considerably creepier than this, with the boycotters actually looking forward to a shooting war (regardless of the cost to both Israeli and Palestinian populations).  For its only after a Gaza or Lebanon crisis that the ranks of the BDSers swell and they get to take to the streets in fits of self-righteous fury, something they love beyond all else – including beyond the value of  human life (especially someone else’s).

Einstein once famously said that “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.”  But I suspect that even his genius couldn’t explain a “movement” that contributes to ensuring war escalates and never ends while simultaneously insisting everyone treat it as a “peace movement”

New Facebook Page

Well that project I mentioned would be eating up a lot of my time until Election Day is winding down, which means I’ll be getting back to more regular blogging over the next few weeks, as well as introducing some long-overdue updates to this site between now and the end of the year.

As a first step in this effort, a Divest This fan is helping me get the message out via the social networks, starting with Facebook.

I actually created a Facebook group several years ago which I just used to announce new blog postings before I let it grow fallow.  This time around, I plan to keep it up to date by using the FB page to post shorter pieces and links regarding BDS-related news and events, and continue to use the blog to post the more detailed analysis pieces that have traditionally been the core of Divest This.

So stop by and give us a Like.  The Facebook site can be found at http://www.facebook.com/divestthis.

Jon

UPDATE – I’m also participating in a discussion on Reddit (which reminds me quite a bit of UseNet from back in the day).  Check it out at http://www.reddit.com/r/Israel/comments/12gvb5/hello_i_a_jon_of_divestthis_ama/

 

Burden of Proof

As some of you know, I’ve become interested in the philosophy of argumentation over the last few years, with a particular interest in the fallacies people use to try to “prove” points that can’t be demonstrated using standard techniques (such as providing accurate and relevant evidence organized into proper and logical arguments).

I suppose interacting with BDSers has given me the experience needed to see this type of fallacious argumentation in action, since the boycotters seem to tap every fallacy in the book to push forward their storyline of momentum and victory (despite all evidence pointing to a starker reality of catastrophe and defeat).

Regarding calls in this piece making the humble request that BDSers actually prove their claims, and this one providing them examples for how comparable claims of divestment victory have been presented historically, my simple (and perfectly reasonable) request is motivated by the boycotters’ tendency to fall back on demands that the burden of proof falls on others to demonstrate the a BDS victory did not occur (vs. on the BDSers to prove that it did).

I could be a pretentious dweeb and provide the Latin name for this particular fallacy (okay, it’s called onus probandi).  But the key point is that if a company (like Blackrock) or retirement fund (like TIAA-CREF) or college (like Hampshire) has supposedly divested from the Jewish state, is it too much to ask that the actual organizations allegedly doing all this divesting tell everyone this is what they’re doing (and why)?

It seems like a straightforward enough request.  And, as noted previously, it consists of nothing more (but also nothing less) than the evidence provided by any other political boycott or divestment campaign in history.

But instead of such clear-cut, unambiguous statements, we get convoluted explanations that are supposed to be telling us why an institution that has never said anything on the subject of divesting from Israel (or who have explicitly said they are not divesting) have, in fact, joined the BDS “movement” wholeheartedly.  Or (as with the Quakers) we get unattributed quotes strung together with statements by people who had nothing to do with the decisions being described, all packaged together to create a press release claiming a divestment “win” that cannot be discerned without “helpful” assistance of BDS tea-leaf readers.

The latest example of this phenomena is this extended “analysis” from yet another Palestinian Solidarity Activist with a really Jewish name who spends over 2000 words trying to get around the fact that the companies his fellow activists have targeted for years and years have yet to even mention BDS as even being on their radar with regard to business risk.

As far as I can tell, the argument the author is presenting is that the fact that BDS bogeymen like SodaStream, Veolia and Caterpillar are not talking about the impact BDS  has had on their bottom line is itself evidence of the boycotter’s “impact” (which is so impactful that large powerful companies are afraid to even mention it).

The piece is littered with “evidence” of BDS “victories” that are supposed to be harming these companies as we speak, even though most of those victory tales (such as Veolia) have been exposed as fraudulent or irrelevant long ago.

Which means we are left with the fact that the only genuine controversies these companies face are controversies generated by the BDSers themselves.   In other words, the 2000+ words the author has written on the subject boils down a tantrum over why these companies don’t admit that they are suffering from the artificial controversies the author and his allies have manufactured.

I supposed these companies can simply be hiding their boycott decisions for fear of retribution from an all-powerful “The Jewish Lobby.”  But in the inductive logic game there is an old saying of “If you hear hoof beats behind you, assume it’s horses and not zebras.”

Which, in this case, the horse translates to: “Companies face business risks – including boycott threats based on bogus information – all the time, from partisans on all kinds of issues.  And if they’re not acknowledging the alleged importance of your particular boycott call, perhaps it’s because they haven’t even noticed you, much less thought about doing what you insist is their only choice.”

If and when BDS-land actually lands a big win, believe me we will all know about it.  For just as with “real” divestment projects (like those targeting genuine human rights catastrophes like South Africa, Sudan and Iran), the companies and universities and churches and municipalities and unions taking part in these boycotts and divestment decision will loudly and proudly tell the world what they’re doing.

But in the absence of such clear-cut, unambiguous evidence, the burden of proof remains on the boycotters to show us that BDS has taken place, rather than on us to prove that it hasn’t.

Statements

Last week, I talked about what a genuine BDS victory might look like, and how we would know when it had come about.

This has become an important issue since, in most instances when the BDSers sent out a press release announcing their most recent “triumph” (certainly any one that involved boycott or divestment decisions with a financial impact climbing above three figures), these announcements tended to be maddeningly ambiguous (read MSCI and the Quakers) or outright frauds (read Blackrock and HampshireCollege).

Fortunately, there is precedent for what a genuine divestment victory looks like.  For instance, if you think back to the actual Anti-Apartheid movement from the 1980s (the one the boycotters insist we accept them as a successor to), when colleges and universities, churches and even state governments pulled the plug on their South African investments, this involved:

1. Selling off thousands or even millions of dollars worth of equities – sometimes at a loss – in order to take a moral stand; and

2. Accompanying that moral stand with a clear, unambiguous statement from the leader or leaders of the institution doing the divesting which made it crystal clear what they were doing and why

To cite one example, in 1986 the state of New Jersey (following the lead of other states) pulled $4.3 billion of their pension fund out of companies that maintained ties with Apartheid South Africa (that’s billion with a “B”).   And this decision was accompanied by a proud and public statement by then Governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean, in which he said: ”We will not countenance the brutality that is apartheid by nourishing it with our investments.”

Notice the total lack of need to have anyone interpret the political and financial decision of the State of New Jersey in this instance of genuine divestment.  No single-issue partisan hacks were required to “explain” to us how we should interpret New Jersey’s action.  And no spin doctors had to be on hand to read us the tea leaves regarding why the institution (in this case, the state) was doing what it was doing.

For when genuine, political divestment takes place, it is accompanied by a clear moral pronouncement by those actually doing the divesting which leaves no ambiguity whatsoever.  In fact, since the type of divestment we’re talking about (selling stock for political vs. financial reasons) is a political act, the lack of an unambiguous announcement means such a political divestment act has not taken place.

You don’t even need to go back two-and-a-half decades to see what I’m talking about.  For during the BDS era, there have been other divestment projects (notably ones targeting Sudan and Iran) that have been wildly successful, even as anti-Israel BDSers ricocheted between defeat and fiasco.

To again cite just one example, when in 2007 the University of Massachusetts pulled the plug on Sudan-related investment (in this case to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars), the head of the school’s Investment Committee stated “We are taking this action because we believe that it is the right thing to do.” And the school’s President celebrated the decision as “consistent with the University’s traditions and values.”

Contrast this to BDS hoax at Hampshire College in 2009 when the boycotters were firing off one press release after another claiming that Hampshire had become the first US college in the country to divest from “Apartheid Israel,” even as the President of the college and Chair of its Board of Trustees were announcing that “No other college or university should use Hampshire as a precedent for divesting from Israel, since Hampshire has refused to divest from Israel. Anyone who claims otherwise is deliberately misrepresenting Hampshire’s decision and has no right to speak for the college.”

And this is just one example of statements just as clear as those made in the New Jersey or UMass cases noted above, except that this time they unambiguously state that the school has done nothing like what is being claimed by the BDSers.

Keep these quotes and dollar figures in mind the next time the forces of boycott and divestment insist that votes taken by a student council somewhere (often taken in the dead of night behind the backs of students, which are immediately condemned or ignored by financial decision makers) mean victory is within their grasp.

And keep it especially in mind when you are confronted by a BDS press release filled with unattributed quotes and ambiguous wording regarding what someone else was supposed to have done.  And if said press release lacks a statement as clear as what we’ve seen with every genuine boycott or divestment victory in history, you can safely assume that this “win” exists only in the BDSers own heated fantasies.

Prove It!

Well things seem to be a bit quiet on Planet BDS land these days.

The last big announcement I can see on the BDS Central web site has to do with the Quakers, and (as noted here), we have yet to hear from any of those crowing boycotters as to why – if their victory is so absolute – they needed to wrap it in the vaguest (and seemingly misleadingest) wording imaginable.

You know, at this point I think it might be time to formalize criteria for success of a boycott, divestment or a sanctions activity, just so everyone involve with either fighting for or fighting against such an action will know what they are dealing with.

And the best and simplest standard I can think of (one I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, albeit informally) would be as follows: we will all agree that a boycott, divestment or sanctions decision has been made when the people who are allegedly making this decision stand up and say that they (1) are boycotting, divesting from or sanctioning Israel and (2) are doing so specifically in protest of Israel or its policies (also specified).

This standard really shouldn’t be considered extraordinary in any way.  After all, in every boycott and divestment campaign that has ever existed (from the Montgomery bus boycott to the protests against Apartheid South Africa), it was the people doing the boycotting or divesting that took center stage, announcing what they had done and why.

Certainly activists from inside and outside those communities (be they colleges, churches or other institutions) played a role in getting those organizations to join in a boycott or divestment campaign.  But when it came time to announce success, it was the President of the College, the governing board of the church, or some other person actually responsible for the decisions that were being claimed to get up on stage, tell the world what they did, and announce in no uncertain terms that those boycott and divestment decisions were taken for specific political reasons.

In fact, the anti-Israel BDS program seems to be the only example I can think of where people who did not make these decisions insist on the right to make claims regarding someone else.  Whether we’re talking about Students for Justice in Palestine pretending to speak for Hampshire College (while the real decision-makers at Hampshire were saying something completely different) or BDS Central interpreting for us a series of unrelated decisions made by the Quakers, time and time again we’ve been faced with self-serving external groups telling us what we should believe another institution has done while the institution itself is remains mum on the subject or is saying something that completely contradicts what the boycotters are saying.

So the next time you see a BDS press release announcing this or that retailer has kicked this or that hummus off their shelves, or this or that church or government council has cancelled a contract at the urging of boycott and divestment forces, everyone’s first response should be: Prove It.  And in this case, proof can only come from one place: from a spokesperson from the organization allegedly doing this boycotting saying in no uncertain terms that they have done so for the specific political reasons assigned to them by the BDSers.

This new standard is really in everyone’s interest (including the Israel haters).  For Israel’s supporters, it provides an objective standard to ascertain the real progress (or lack thereof) of the BDS campaign so that resources to fight it can be applied appropriately.  For institutions being targeted by the BDSers, it provides them a way to clearly state what they are doing and not doing (to avoid being criticized for something they didn’t do, for instance).  And for the public, it ensures they are getting honest and accurate information.

Even inhabitants of Planet BDS will benefit from such a standard since it would help them avoid another decade of being exposed as liars and frauds attempting to pass off one BDS hoax after another or trying to flummox the public through manipulative wording regarding other people’s choices.  With such a standard in place, they will know exactly when an institution has joined their movement and will no longer need to hide their faces when their hoaxes are exposed (since there will no longer be any).

So what do you say, world?  Shall we all agree that the only way we’ll know when Harvard or the Quakers or the sandwich shop down the street has BDSed is when they tell us they did?  Seems an obvious choice for me.

Ask Herzl


I’ve sometimes been critical of “our side” with regard to leveraging the Internet and Web 2.0 communications to get the word out.

I definitely include myself in that part of “our side” that needs to do a better job communicating the truth as effectively (if not more effectively) than the BDSers spread their lies.  But an excellent new project just kicked off by the Israel on Campus Coalition (or ICC – a group of pro-Israel groups working in schools and on college campuses) demonstrates just how good an Internet-based political resource can be.

Simply put, Ask Herzl – a site dedicated to providing students a central repository for information on campus-based pro-Israel programming – is probably the best activist resource site I’ve ever seen.  Ask Herzl includes descriptions, documentation, time and cost estimates and virtually anything else a campus group might need to implement a pro-Israel program or event (many of which have already been proven out on other campuses).

Given that the site includes references for hundreds of different activities, their search functionality is well implemented, and their use of social media tools to expand the reach of Herzl is well integrated and top drawer (leveraging the latest “hot” social networks like Google + and Pintrest – sites still little understood or used by many of us “old fogeys” who can barely keep our Facebook pages up to date).

I’m proud to say that Divest This material has a home in their sections devoted to BDS, and I’ve been told that this iteration of the site is just the beginning – which I believe given the many access points Herzl provides students to submit their own successful program materials (as well as participate in various grant and scholarship activities).

Some may kvetch that the programming included on the site tends to focus on education and outreach (vs. attack-based programming targeting Israel’s critics), but I believe this is simply a reflection of what students are most comfortable with regarding how they want to interact with “undecideds” on campuses.  And since it’s never been proven that aggressive activities such as “mock walls” or “Israel Apartheid Week” do anything but alienate such undecideds, the focus of Ask Herzl seems to reflect the opinion of most pro-Israel student groups to not get into people’s faces.

Ask Herzl certainly doesn’t solve all of our online partisan problems.  As I’ve noted before, one of the other side’s key strengths has nothing to do with cutting edge high tech, but is simply a result of their willingness to spend time running around the Internet liking and linking everything that supports their BS in order to drive those stories up the search rankings.

But projects like the ICC’s Herzl site is centered on building connections, and in addition to letting students struggling with campus-based Israel hatred know that they are not alone, one hopes that it will foster a community where most if not all of our low and high-tech communication challenges can eventually be solved.

So Bravo to ICC, and if you’ve got any questions: just Ask Herzl!

Quaker Quotes


 

Sorry about the graphic (I couldn’t resist).

Anyway, one of those friendly BDSers who regularly visits the comment section showed up last week to announce, yet again, a new stunning victory which I and everyone else is in complete denial over (since said victory means BDS is just inches from bringing the Zionist entity to its knees).

This time, the triumph in question has to do with the Quakers who allegedly sold off their shares in Hewlett Packard and Veolia, two divestment targets that the boycotters can’t seem to get anyone else to divest from.  Which left most of us panic-stricken Israel supporters asking some obvious questions, namely: “You mean to tell me there are still Quakers out there?” and “If they are out there, what are they doing in the financial services business?

Apparently, the Quakers also divested from every BDSer’s favorite boogeyman, Caterpillar Tractor (or Caterpillar Killdozer, if you prefer) at the beginning of the year (which makes you wonder why this precedent wasn’t even noticed, much less mentioned during the summer’s Methodist and Presbyterian divestment fights).

News of the Quakers, HP, Veolia (and Caterpillar) have been doing the usual circuit on the Israel-hating web sites (and will no doubt be showing up on their handwritten posters and mimeographed fliers soon – BDS being the only movement left that still uses mimeograph machines).  And it may very well be that the Quakers (who do indeed exist outside of oatmeal boxes and actually do maintain various investment funds for members) did everything the boycotters claim they did.

But if that’s the case, one wonders why the way these decisions were described in the boycotter’s own breathless press releases leaves so much room for alternative explanations.

Perhaps I’m just splitting linguistic hairs, but let’s tour the wording of the Quaker announcement as it appeared on the main BDS web site and see if we can determine what represents fact vs. self-serving interpretation. (Quotes from said press release appear in italics.)

Hewlett Packard was removed from Friends Fiduciary’s investments because they provide information technology consulting services to the Israeli Navy, said Jeffery W. Perkins, the Executive Director of Friends Fiduciary. 

Given that Jeffery W. Perkins was supposed to have said this, one wonders why this statement does not appear in quotations?  After all (and as I’ve said many times), the only way to know for certain that an institution has divested for specific political reasons (in this case, in protest of Israel vs. protest of military-related investment generally) would be for the organization to explicitly state that this is what they did.

So, in this case, the quote we are looking for from Perkins would not be one that says they have sold off their HP stock because HP is partially in the weapons business (since weapons manufacturing of any kind is anathema to the pacifist Quakers), but that they were specifically divesting from this company because of its relationship with Israel.

Veolia Environment, the world’s largest water privatization company, was removed because of “environmental and social concerns.” According to Global Exchange, Veolia provides segregated water services to Israeli settlers in the Palestinian Territories and runs a large landfill in the occupied Jordan River valley.

In the first sentence of this paragraph, we are told that the Quakers divested from Veolia for reasons that had nothing to do with Israel (i.e., they did so because of “environmental and social concerns” – with the statement in quotes this time).  But in the BDSers second sentence, they’re talking about an entirely different organization (Global Exchange) condemning Veolia over Israel and settlements and segregated water, and yadda, yadda,  yadda.

Now it may be the case that the Global Exchange organization feels that way (or at least some sub-group within it has made such a statement).  But even if they did, this does not make those accusations true.  More importantly, it provides no link whatsoever with financial decisions made by the Quakers.  So why quote one organization (Global Exchange) to explain a choice allegedly made by another organization (the Quakers), unless such a juxtaposition is the only way to present a decision that had nothing to do with the Middle East as being Israel/BDS related?

Friends’ Fiduciary’s decision to drop Hewlett Packard and Veolia follows on the heels of another important action, says Anne Remley of the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, which initiated the divestment requests. In April, 2012, Friends Fiduciary’s removed Caterpillar Corporation from their list of socially responsible corporations based on the 360-year old Quaker Peace Testimony, which disavows support for war.

This paragraph strongly resembles the first one on HP in that (1) it provides no quotes from any actual decision makers within the Quaker’s financial organization (instead it gives us a statement by someone within a particular Quaker community who advocates for divestment); and (2) it gives us nothing to indicate that this decision was Israel related vs. general defense/military related (in fact, the statement seems to indicate the latter).

Again, our friends on Planet BDS may show up tomorrow providing direct quotes from the Quaker financial establishment (I never thought I’d be typing that phrase) which explains in uncontestable language that these divestment decisions (1) occurred; and (2) were specifically taken in protest of Israel (not just as part of a general policy to avoid any investments in companies doing business with any military whatsoever).

As we wait for more detail, I think I’m going to find out if the Shakers also run their own retirement and investment funds.   If so, I’m joining.

Veolia – Ain’t the truth pretty?

Every now and then, someone steps up and does the legwork regarding debunking BDS claims so well that one can only stare at their work in silent admiration.

But having gotten that silent moment out of the way, it’s time to praise this remarkable piece of research by the UK groups Lawyers for Israel and Christian Middle East Watch which helps put endless claims of victory by BDS supporters campaigning against the French transportation and engineering firm Veolia into the proper context.

And what is that context?  Well, as we’ve noted before, Veolia has become the latest punching bag (along with Ahava and Soda Stream) of Israel haters endlessly searching for victory stories they can pump into a pipeline they have created for communicating with supporters about BDS momentum and triumph.

But, as Divest This readers know, such victories have been so thin on the ground (and, when they exist, so trivial and irrelevant), that BDSers need to apply a little creativity to generate fake victory stories that tend to not come about all that often here in reality (despite a dozen years of intense effort on the part of the boycotters).

A trend we’ve seen again and again in the financial world involves BDS press releases claiming that normal financial decisions were actually the result of anti-Israel lobbying.  This is similar to the hoax that re-awakened the BDS “movement” in 2009 in which Students for Justice in Palestine claimed that investment decisions at Hampshire College that explicitly had nothing to do with Israel were dressed up as divestment victories.

In the case of Veolia, you’ve got a company which contracts with numerous municipalities around the world.  And since these municipalities normally allow for public input into decision making, this has given the boycotters an opening to put the company on trial for “supporting ‘The Occupation’” due to their limited involvement in a light railway project linking Jerusalem and certain areas that are under dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

When this tactic has been tried in the US (as it was in California recently) the result has tended to be a firm and certain “No” to requests that municipalities make decisions based on the political whims of a shrill minority.

But in Europe, they have gotten around the problem of having to win an argument by simply attacking Veolia within any city or town it is doing business, and then claiming victory whenever the company loses a contract.

They seem to be counting on the public not understanding the fact that any company will win a few and lose a few in the game of government contracting.  And their hope seems to be that this public will buy into the BDSers post-hoc fallacy that since the boycotters complained to a government organization before Veolia lost a contract, that their protests much be the cause of such losses.

Fortunately, the aforementioned report provides a case-by-case breakdown of each and every instance where BDSers claimed success in a municipal boycott of Veolia, providing that in each case decision-makers made their choices based on normal business factors, not political ones (about Israel or anyone else).

We’ve seen in the last week how the forces of BDS cannot seem to shake themselves of the habit of sneaking behind people’s backs and subverting democracy in order to claim even a marginal success.  But with the Veolia report, we can now combine their contempt for others with that other fine feature of the boycott “movement:” that they’re a bunch of liars as well.

UCSA BDS OYVAY

I frequently find myself flabbergasted by the way the forces of BDS, while trying to seize the reputation of someone else for their own purposes, repeatedly shred their own reputation in the process.

And no divestment story I’ve ever encountered illustrates this phenomena better than this week’s hijacking of the University of California Student Association (UCSA).

If the BDSers were simply cynical, and not incompetent, the decision of the California legislature to pass a bill condemning their project (called HR 35) could have provided them political gold.  For all they had to do was to publically press for a counter-condemnation of grown-up interference in student affairs and they would very likely have gotten their way (or at least generated publicity that would place them squarely in the camp of “sticking it to the man,” a powerful place to reside in student politics).

Instead, they over-reached (as always) and, desperate to claim to speak on behalf of the entire student body of the UC system (despite that student body having rejected divestment time and time again), they ended up demonstrating how right the legislators behind HR 35 were all along.

What could have possibly possessed them to write not just a bill condemning HR 35, but one that effectively made UCSA a partner in the entire BDS project, putting the organization in opposition to all of the individual UC Student Councils that have voted down BDS, Councils the UCSA is supposed to be representing?

The decision to lard the UCSA resolution with pro-BDS propaganda and anti-Israel smears both identified the text as having originated from the keyboards of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and forced its proponents to work in secrecy so that they could try to eke out a “victory” before anyone knew what they were up to.  It never seemed to occur to them that their intentional decision to hide what they were doing and ram the whole thing through on the Shabbat right before the start of the High Holidays would not only become the story, but would demonstrate to all the boycotters’ understanding that they were destined to lose anything remotely resembling a fair fight.

Like night follows day, the BDSers justification of their atrocious behavior consists of an unrestrained attack against their critics, anchored with a peek into their fantasy world in which their loss at Berkeley in 2010 was the result of outside threats to ruin the lives and careers of BDS supporters.

Within this fantasy, there seems to be no room for what really happened during the 2010 vote (a vote which involved the boycotters – not their opponents – reducing student council members to tears through endless all-night browbeating).  And as for outside forces, I seem to recall it was the BDSers who called in the troops to surround the student union with black-shirted supporters, and BDS Central that was beaming messages around the world to bombard student council members with demands they vote to support divestment.

Fortunately, the public and media long ago realized that even on those rare occasions when student governments have not rejected BDS and have instead passed some sort of impotent divestment resolution (which was immediately ignored or condemned by administrations that actually get to make investment and divestment decisions), these stories are not even newsworthy (much less politically meaningful).

And speaking of newsworthiness, while everyone’s heard of Berkeley and Harvard and MIT (all schools that have shown BDS the door), the same cannot be said for UCSA, an organization whose first public exposure outside the narrow world of UC campus politics has introduced it as an organization ready to trash its own principles to allow a narrow group of single-issue partisans to get their way at the expense of the students UCSA is supposed to represent.

Perhaps this should be a lesson to all of us what can happen if perform work (especially dirty work) on the Sabbath.

UCSA UGH

What is it about Israel haters and the Jewish holidays?

Any number of you out there can probably list the times anti-Israel events, conferences, programs and activities were scheduled to begin, oh, around sundown on Friday and continue until right around sundown Saturday.

But last weekend, we seemed to have entered new territory in which proponents of BDS decided that the Sabbath preceding the start of Rosh Hashanah was the perfect time to try to sink their infected fangs into the University of California College system one more time.

If you recall, the UC system has been the site of countless divestment battles over the last several years.  One of the biggest divestment fights in recent memory took place at Berkeley in 2010, a fight that set the stage for numerous BDS defeats in the coming years as university student unions around the country (including many on other UC campuses) voted down one toothless divestment resolution after another.

In each of these cases, student governments showed BDS the door and students across the state raised their voices in anger at a fringe political movement that kept insisting on speaking in the name of every student in the UC system, a movement that seemed metaphysically incapable of taking no for an answer.

So what do you do when your proposals get voted down by representative student governments again and again and students themselves keep saying that Students for Justice in Palestine (or whatever the Israel-dislikers are calling themselves this week) do not represent their views?  Find a new venue!

In this case, the target was the University of California Student Association (UCSA), a group of UC student government representatives whose stated purpose is “increasing the accessibility, affordability and quality of the UC system through advocacy and direct action organizing.”

Notice the lack of anything to the effect of “and speaking in the name of every student on any campus where we have representation on topics of international politics” from that mission statement.  Nor does this organization claim to act as an uber-government, superseding decisions of member student councils to make statements on behalf of campuses.

Yet last Saturday (yes, the Saturday right before the holidays), this organization passed a resolution allegedly claiming to condemn the California legislature’s recent bill condemning BDS and other anti-Israel activities on state campuses.  I say “allegedly” because a quick read though the actual text of the resolution reveals it to be a goody-bag of BDS talking points regarding everything from the legitimacy of boycott and divestment (ignoring the fact that UC students have rejected divestment again and again), with a healthy share of “we have the right to speak the truth that Israel is an Apartheid State! Blah! Blah! Blah!” boilerplate.

If this resolution sounds like it might have been drafted by SJP and then handed over the UCSA for rubber stamping, with no input from anyone other than partisans interested in getting a UC stamp of approval on some kind of hate-Israel motion, that might be because (you guessed it), when this vote was only the partisans and SJPers knew anything about it.

There doesn’t seem to have been any attempt to communicate that such a resolution would be discussed (much less voted on) to members (including members who might have objected had they known what was going on).  Nor did anything seem to consider it bad taste to take a vote that would represent one more slap in the face of Jewish students on the eve of the Jewish New Year.

In fact, given the BDSers proclivity to sneak their squalid little resolutions in through the back door in the dead of night, it’s a safe bet that the timing for such a vote was no accident, but an intentional attempt to get an anti-Israel measure passed before Jewish students had the chance to know what was going on, much less respond.

In theory, this resolution is about a measure by the state legislature decrying the irresponsible and reprehensible behavior of boycott activists on campuses.  And while I’m not a big fan of government action (either legislative or judicial) to shut down debate on any subject, I’m not exactly sure why elected representatives don’t get the chance to have their opinions heard on this subject.  Especially when the boycotters have just gone so far out of their way to prove that everything those legislators, actual student governments, and students through the UC campus system already know: that when it comes right down to it the BDSers ARE a bunch of reprehensible jerks.

Time on Their Hands

My current semi-hiatus from Divest This blogging (i.e., not a leave of absence, but a temporary lowering of posting frequency during a period when I’ve been involved with a particularly engaging work project) has gotten me thinking about another advantage enjoyed by the BDSers vs. their opponents.

For while I have been expending creative energy in other areas (at the temporary expense of political blogging), those in BDS land have not rested.  Just here in my hometown of Boston, they are busily continuing to torture the local food coop, while also planning a full Fall of protests and “educational” activities designed to turn students attending universities against the Jewish state.

And this does not include their own blogging, Twittering and Facebooking or their own organizational meetings and communications, all designed to push lies across the Commonwealth faster than the truth can get it’s shoes on.

This phenomenon of incessant anti-Israel activity often comes up in conversation with grassroots pro-Israel activists who marvel at the time their opponents seem to have to put into tabling at food coops, writing letters to the editor, or hosting endless propaganda events (films, lectures, etc.) masquerading as human rights and education work.

The conclusion is that the boycotters (unlike their opponents) must not have jobs, given how much time they seem to have on their hands to commit to their “movement.”  But I would guess that the bulk of them are gainfully employed, but have managed to carve out the time they need for politics at the expense of other parts of their lives since (as I’ve also observed), for the fanatic, loss of personal time means nothing. (Or, possibly, political time becomes personal time in communities made up entirely of those sharing the same obsession.)

This fanaticism is just one more advantage the boycotters bring to the fight, along with their willingness to say and do anything (including lie to and manipulate others – including potential allies) to get their way, coupled with an absolute refusal to acknowledge any point of view other than their own.

If you combine this with a simple propaganda message: “Israel Bad! Palestine Innocent! See Pictures!,” you can begin to see why BDS has such staying power, even in the face of endless losses (my favorite being the second rejection by California legislators in the last two months of demands that municipal governments kick out a vendor – Veolia –  in order to acquiesce to the boycotters’ politics).

But the advantages the BDSers hold does point out an obvious question as to why they keep losing, despite their ability to bring such high levels of fanaticism and ruthlessness to any battle.

I have no simple answer to this conundrum, other than to point out that, over time, such fanaticism and ruthlessness is no substitute for reality, honesty and genuine human connection.

In reality, Israel is not the cause of all suffering in the Middle East (or even in the territory it controls), a fact made all the more clear as riots break out across the Middle East, and the corpses of Americans testify to the fiction of an “Arab Spring” that is rapidly turning into a nightmarish winter.

And, in all honesty, propaganda that relies solely on gruesome images and hiding facts people need to know to make a decision regarding who is right and who is wrong in the Middle East will eventually hurt the reputation of those who propagate it, especially once people start doing the last thing the BDSers want them to which is think for themselves.

And, as has been pointed out again and again here on the web site, the more people get burned by BDS (members of the Olympia Food Coop come to mind), the more people at similar institutions come to realize that the boycotters are peddling poison that they want no part of (no matter how many times the Israel haters insist they have no choice in the matter).

I suspect that even when I return to more frequent blogging and other political activity later in the year that I and fellow Israel supporters will still only be able to put a fraction of the time into defending Israel compared to the time the boycotters will dedicate to defaming her.

But time spent can be time wasted.  And given the Israel-dislikers continuing decision to double and triple down on a strategy that’s as big a loser as BDS, we can only hope that this project continues to be a time sink for them, preventing them from doing damage to anyone other than themselves and their cause as history continues to pass them by.

A response to Mike

As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, some obligations in the second half of the year have left me with limited time to, among other thing, post or respond as frequently to comments as I would like.

But one of our visitors (Mike who runs the excellent site Israel Thrives) was taken enough with the debates that have been going on in the comments section (particularly debates over where BDS and anti-Zionism fit into left-leaning political culture) that he has continued that discussion on his own site and his new blog on the Times of Israel site (BTW – congrats on the new gig, Mike!).

The author’s key argument is that there is no question that BDS and anti-Zionist (and even anti-Semitic politics) has found a home on the political Left and that anyone who ignores this has his “head buried in the sand” (possibly over conflicting identities as both a supporter of Israel and of liberal causes).

Now Mike goes out of his way to not attribute those attitudes to me.  Which is just as well since with regard to his first argument (that anti-Israel politics has a home on the Left), I would not only agree with him but would go much further.  For my understanding of this issue comes from reading the works of Robert Wistrich who has not only documented the phenomena of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic themes evolving in Left-wing politics, but has traced the phenomena to its origins in the works of Marx and specific anti-Zionist Soviet propaganda programs of the 20s and 60s that still provide the foundation for most left-wing anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism today.  (BTW – Wistrich has just come out with a new book that I’ve not read yet, but I predict will be the seminal work on this subject.)

Obviously ignoring this problem would be akin to ignoring how anti-Semitism first grafted itself onto nationalist politics in the 19th century (which many of the Jews of Europe did do, with disastrous consequences).  But I differ with Mike with regard to his characterization of many left-leaning friends of Israel as having their “heads buried” (i.e., as intentionally ignoring the obvious due to partisan blindness).

My difference with Mike over this question centers on the definition of a single word.  Not the obvious ones you would think of (such as “Left,” “anti-Zionism” or “anti-Semitism”) but over the humbler word “home.”

For in talking about BDS and other anti-Israel activities and attitudes having a home on the Left, it makes a difference whether we’re talking about the home you offer a beloved family member or the home set up by a virus or other disease in a body that it was never invited into.

If we define home in the family-member sense, then we would be making the argument that anti-Zionism (and even anti-Semitism) are an intrinsic component of Left-wing ideology, much like eyes are intrinsic to human beings, which would lead us to very different conclusions than if we treated anti-Semitism on the Left as the same kind of infection that permeated nationalist and Right-leaning politics in the first half of the 20th century.

Because political ideologies (Left, Right or something else) are creations of man (not natural occurrences), I tend to discount theories that claim they have an intrinsic nature (good or bad).  And given that what we call the political Left is so broad that it includes everyone from former Klansman Robert Byrd to BDS cranks and the Occupy Wall Streeters, it seems just as obvious to me as Mike’s theories are to him that anti-Zionism is one of many political sub-movements vying for position within a huge coalition that roughly falls into the Left end of a Left-Right axis that I already find too broad and dualistic (a dualism we reach for far too hastily in order to explain a world that may not fall into two easily-defined camps).

But the disease definition of “home” helps explain many of the phenomena I’ve encountered in my anti-BDS work, especially with regard to the continuing broad coalition of Left-Right support for Israel in mainstream political organizations (like the Democratic and Republican parties), as well as the fact that most of the people I have fought alongside in major BDS battles have been progressive Jews and non-Jews who reject the notion that BDS be allowed to speak in their name.

We fortunately have an historic analogy we can use to understand this question: the relationship between “The Left” writ large and 20th century left-wing totalitarianism in the form of Marxist-Leninist Communism.

As with Mike’s original assertion regarding anti-Zionism, it would be folly to claim that Marxism had not found a significant home on the Left end of the political spectrum throughout the West.  But it would be just as fallacious to claim that this meant all left-leaning and progressive politics of any stripe were a front, or at least permanently tainted due to the inability of progressives to fully remove Marxists from their big tent.

This inability did not prevent Democratic Presidents (such as Truman and Kennedy) from taking just as strong a stand against Communist expansion as Right-leaning politicians (such as Eisenhower and Reagan).  Nor did it prevent thoughtful liberals from creating the intellectual antibodies needed to help institutions like the Democratic Party and US labor movement from becoming Marxist front groups (the fate of many unions and political parties in Europe).

Just as claiming Marxism to be the true face of the Left (which would leave thoughtful liberals with no choice but to abandon the movement or face charges of “burying their heads in the sand”), claiming anti-Israel politics to be the true face of today’s Left would mean that progressives (including progressive, Israel-loving Jews) are wasting their time trying to challenge anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, fight against BDS, and generally battle the infection of anti-Semitism from within.

Now it could be that Jews are deluded regarding who their true friends and enemies are, and that their only sensible choice is to abandon liberalism/progressivism/”the left” entirely and join a different political movement (conservativism/”the right”) where their only genuine supporters allegedly dwell.

But just as I tend to be suspicious of any analysis that divides the world into just two categories of Left and Right, I also prefer to think about these types of choices during a period when they will not be clouded by other political agendas (such as the play for Jewish votes during a US election).

And now to get back to some of my allies and correspondents (both Left and Right leaning) who I still owe thanks to for making 2012 the least successful year in BDS history.