Autumn Updates

Time to catch up on a couple of stories from earlier this year.

Starting with the forever-coming, but never-arriving “cultural boycott,” I’ve already pointed out that the spillover effect of Elvis Costello’s decision to ditch his Israeli fans didn’t seem to extend to his own bedroom (Costello’s wife Diana Krall played Israel over the summer). An astute Divest This reader provided the best summation of the whole effort to get rockers to boycott the Jewish state coming from Johnny Lydon (aka the Sex Pistol’s Johnny Rotten) who, while defying boycott calls and playing Israel, let it be known that: “Belief is a very personal thing, but when someone inflicts their view on other people, they’re a pig.”

Compare that short and peppy bit of truth-telling (or even Elton John’s one-sentence “We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.”) to Costello’s multi-page, mealy-mouthed explanation as to why screwing his Jewish fans amounts to an act of conscience. Let’s all hope that this leads to a Sex Pistol’s reunion (minus Sid, of course) at the next Superbowl.

Onto more serious matters, Dexter Van Zile (unsurprisingly) has provided the best follow-up to this summer’s Presbyterian divestment/Middle East debates. It’s on the long side (and well worth reading in its entirety), but in brief Dexter makes the case that this year’s excesses by anti-Israel activists within the church has finally awoken a new force – religious and lay leaders of several of the PCUSA’s largest urban Presbyteries – to the fact that the anti-Israel antics that have been allowed to run amok within the church are starting to take their toll on the reputation of not Israel but the Presbyterian Church itself.

It remains to be seen whether the dynamic of the last decade (whereby opponents of divestment within PCUSA only start to organize before a General Assembly whereas divestment supporters – and their enablers within the church bureaucracy – remain active continually between GAs) will change after this year’s conclave. Dexter sees cause for hope, but I’m withholding judgment until I see if the institutions created to build a fair case for church involvement in the Middle East conflict are allowed to do their job or (as in previous attempts to balance church policies) are hijacked once again by anti-Israel zealots for their own purposes.

Finally, after Spring’s antics at Berkeley, it’s a safe assumption that BDS will focus its efforts on student governments this year. Some of the folks who successfully organized against the Berkeley divestment vote are posting their story at Bluetruth. Again, it’s a longer (three-part) piece with part 1 and part 2 already posted. Well worth reading in its entirety. [UPDATE: Part 3 is up now – read it all.]

With school just getting started, supporters of Israel should assume that attempts to subvert student government for the narrow purposes of BDS are already underway and should plan, organize and act accordingly.

Rotten Luck

I’m still trying to find some time to do a little historical unreality fiction at the expense of my old friends at JVP, but in the meantime here’s one missed news story and one observation on the Olympia boycott (something I threw out on the Co-op’s message board that I thought my reader might enjoy).

On the newfront, it looks like Johnny Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols), who will be headlining a music festival in Israel next month, has told critics exactly what they can do with their boycott requests. And as a Pistols fan from the 1980s, I think it’s safe to say that when Johnny Rotten gives you the finger, you know you’ve been fingered.

Regarding the Olympia Co-op, it occurred to me that an interesting paradox is afoot with their decision to boycott Israeli products.

For by the co-op’s own standards, boycotts are directed at those who are guilty of something that is legally or morally repugnant. The guilt of the party which is being targeted by boycott is not in dispute, even if the specifics of the punishment must be negotiated.

But if you look at the number of co-op members who are voluntarily boycotting Israel since the boycott vote was taken, that number has not risen at all. Certainly members are being forced to shop in a place where the choice to buy or not buy Israeli goods is no longer available to them, but no members have made a personal choice (moral or otherwise) to boycott the Jewish state. In fact, many members seem to be going out of their way to purchase the boycotted and other Israeli products from other stores in the area (which are volunteering to carry these goods).

In contrast, many members have chosen to boycott an institution: the co-op itself. And by the co-ops own standards, an organization targeted by a boycott is guilty (although it remains to be seen if the co-op is guilty of ethical, moral or legal failures or some other crime).

So if an institution (the Olympia Co-op) that has been judged by its own standards (and members) to be unethical, immoral or possibly something worse is now sitting in judgment of someone else (in this case, Israel), then people need to ask by what standards this condemned institution is using to establish its moral superiority?