TIAA CREF and PCUSA: BDS Friends or Foes?

At first, I was annoyed that last week’s TIAA-CREF BDS hoax was going to take time away from things I wanted to say about the upcoming Presbyterian divestment vote.  But then it dawned on me that these two stories were intimately connected.

Before explaining how, I wanted to first highlight one important aspect of last week’s TIAA-CREF tale that has gone unmentioned until now.

When the BDS “movement” was resurrected in 2009 and began using the strategy of fraudulently claiming institutions were divesting from Israel, one of the big payoffs for them was free media coverage.  The Hampshire hoax was their biggest success in this regard in that the story made national news for weeks before the truth finally got out.  In fact, I read about Hampshire while vacationing in Montana that year (and started this blog soon thereafter).

Once bitten, the mainstream media became a bit shyer about taking BDS press released at face value, which meant that a series of hoaxes related to various financial institutions (such as Blackrock, PGGM and TIAA-CREF) were only covered in some corners of the Jewish press.

But these stories mostly provided those of us who write on the subject an opportunity to debunk this new series of fraudulent BDS claims, which meant that even the Jewish press finally got tired of being had by BDSers looking to manipulate both them and the public.

This time around, the “TIAA-CREF Divested!  No wait!  We mean MSCI divested!” story has gotten virtually no coverage outside of blogs and web sites dedicated to promoting or fighting against BDS.  The closest they came to genuine media coverage was The Forward which last week published a brief story based on a Jewish Voice for Peace press release, only to take down that original piece and replace it with a more accurate one a day later.

In a media age when anyone can be a publisher and mainstream media has been shedding things like fact checking (especially for smaller stories), the currency for getting your story published is a reputation for credibility.  And after years of being caught time and time again fraudulently trying to pass off financial decisions by major institutions as politically motivated, the credibility of the BDS brigade (regardless of how much they huff and puff on their own web sites) seems to be shot.

Getting back to what the CREF story might say about PCUSA, keep in mind that both of these institutions are not considered enemies of Jewish Voice for Peace and similar BDS organizations but potential allies.  As such, you would think the normal way of recruiting people to your cause (such as engaging in conversation, presenting reasonable arguments, and listening to their concerns) might represent good strategies.

But think for a moment how TIAA-CREF has been treated by the boycotters over the years.  In 2010, the divestment cru sent out press releases declaring that CREF had followed its lead and divested from specific Israel-related assets for political reasons (a lie), which required CREF management to spend time and effort clearing the air by alerting the media and angry investors that the story was a fake.

Rather than explain themselves or apologize (or simply avoid the subject of TIAA-CREF altogether out of fear of further embarrassment), instead Jewish Voice for Peace declared that their biggest campaign for 2011 was going to be getting TIAA-CREF to actually do what they just pretended they did the year before.

And after more than a year of that campaign going nowhere, last week they reverted back to hoax mode taking a simple indexing measure that required no conscious decisions by TIAA-CREF and using it to declare the academic retirement as all aboard the “Dump Caterpillar” BDS bandwagon (throwing in the fantasy that CREF made these decisions in defiance of JVP’s political enemies for good measure).

When I penned this little parody that involved my BDS protagonists torturing the CEO of TIAA-CREF while trying to convince him to do their bidding, I thought nothing could ever come close to my time-wasting fantasy.  But the whole Hoax – Campaign – Hoax sequence we’ve seen over the last three years has convinced me that fantasy has got nothing on BDS reality.

How does this relate to the upcoming PCUSA debate?  Well keep in mind that the boycotters will be showing up in droves at the upcoming Presbyterian General Assembly bearing two messages: (1) other institutions are dumping Caterpillar (and so should you); and (2) trust us.  And like TIAA-CREF, the Presbyterian Church is not seen as an enemy, but as a potential ally of the BDS “movement.”

Now it may be that they can keep up enough momentum from their fraudulent CREF/MSCI story going to convince some of the more credulous Presbyterians already in their camp of precedence for the votes they are being asked to take.  But if word gets out regarding not just this most recent BDS fraud but the BDS “movement” history of trying to pass off hoaxes, then that will undermine both of their messages (especially the message that the boycotters should be trusted to tell the truth – either about themselves or about the Middle East in general).

And if the Presbyterians start wavering in their support for divestment, we’re likely to see the kind of hostility and misbehavior we saw during the recent Methodist divestment debate (which ended in yet another BDS failure), wrath one would normally see a political organization direct at its political enemies, rather than someone you are feigning friendship towards.