Now They’ve Done It: JCPA/JCRC vs. BDS

Some interesting news out of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) last week. By a unanimous vote, the organization decided to confront the issue of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), and urged the constituency of the organization (which includes Jewish Community Relations Councils across the country) to make thoughtful but forceful confrontation with the issue a top priority.

As I had a small role in the drafting of this resolution, I thought it might be valuable to let you, my reader, know something about its significance. JCRCs form the backbone of Jewish community life in many parts of the country, especially with regard to interaction between Jewish groups and the wider world. Outreach to local government officials, minority groups and religious organizations frequently flows through a local JCRC.

In general, JCPA/JCRCs tend to compartmentalize between domestic and foreign-policy positions, focusing on what they refer to as “social justice” issues (such as healthcare and civil rights) domestically while dividing their international activity between Israel-related matters (most recently how to deal with a nuclearizing Iran) and the needs of Jewish communities in the Diaspora (JCRC’s have played a particularly important role in revitalizing Jewish towns in the former Soviet bloc, for example).

These positions are not without their controversy (debate over gay marriage, for example, has divided more than one JCRC). But putting those debates aside, an important aspect of last week’s vote is that it marks an important fusion of often-disconnected domestic and foreign-affairs agendas. Simply put, the JCPA vote recognizes in no uncertain terms that BDS – the propaganda campaign to delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the American public as well as internationally – is a domestic threat to American Jews and a threat to the State of Israel that must be confronted and defeated.

As people who have been following this blog know, BDS has always been more about noise than actual success. In fact, during the last decade when BDS has been the strategy of choice among Israel’s opponents, support for the Jewish state as well as economic success of that Jewish state have both skyrocketed, attesting to the enduring failure of boycott and divestment as an actual economic threat.

But the wider Jewish community now recognizes that as a propaganda threat, BDS must be challenged head on. While it’s easy to mock and ridicule a “movement” that has accomplished so little after so much effort, we should also not stop confronting it (a confrontation that will include continued ridicule of its pretenses and fiascos) until the boycott/divestment does what Israel haters always do once a decade: realize their latest campaign has been a flop, slink away to lick their wounds before coming up with another nasty strategy to inflict on the public for another decade.

What does this mean for American Jews? Well, at the very least it means that the fight against BDS is now on the radar and part of the mainstream Jewish agenda (always a good thing, especially after divestment took people largely by surprise 7-8 years ago). Among other things, this means that activists working on local campaigns can point to the unanimous JCPA resolution when trying to get the support of local synagogues, Hillels or other community organizations.

And how about the BDSers? Well no doubt they will declare the fact that JCPA has noticed them enough to pass a resolution condemning their activity as yet another triumph (it’s hard to find anything that happens anywhere that the boycotters don’t consider a victory). Yes, the noise level of BDS has finally reached the point where mainstream Jewish organizations are no longer ignoring it. But as I’ve said before, considering that a success is similar to a loud drunk measuring his sexual prowess by how many women tell him to piss off in a single night.

Having spent years screaming at the top of their lungs and waving their metaphorical privates around in order to catch someone’s notice, the divestment crew can hardly complain once last week’s vote turns into actions that continue to ensure BDSers ongoing reputation as a L-O-S-E-R.