News, News, News

Boy, it’s been a busy news week in BDS-land (which must explain why Captain Israel has decided to become involved right now).

First off, the latest attempt to sacrifice academic freedom for political posing has come a-cropper in Germany. About a week or so back, the organizers of an academic event in Deutschland decided they would “take a stand” by alerting an Israeli professor that he was no longer welcome to address the group at their October conference.

This story was interesting since the professor in question is involved with Ariel College in the West Bank, which made this issue a test case for the recent BDS mutation of “targeted boycotts,” i.e., banning Jews, (whoops I mean Israelis, whoops I mean Zionists, whoops, I mean “settlers”) if they can be connected in some way to institutions in the disputed territories.

As the enraged reaction against the decision and its ultimate reversal makes clear, freedom of debate, discussion and inquiry still trumps partisanship in the academy. It is also interesting to note that the sputtering arguments made by the originator of the boycott decision: that his banning of Israelis – and only Israelis – from the family of scholars was simply a matter of “international law” (defined by him, of course) held so little water.

On another news front, the Olympia Food Co-op is now being sued in civil court for breaking its own rules in implementing a boycott of Israeli products last year. If you recall that story from way back when, the Co-op’s rules require consensus among the staff in order to implement a boycott. But when that consensus failed to emerge, the organization’s board (in cooperation with BDS partisans and no one else) decided to simply implement one anyway, so there is clearly a case to be made that the organization violated its by-laws at the expense of many of its members.

As regular readers may already know, I tend to question government intervention (either via legislation or the courts) in the fight against BDS, given how well we seem to be doing via straightforward grassroots counter-boycott campaigns. And in the big scheme of things, the real story regarding BDS and food co-ops is how Olympia put every other food co-op in the country on notice of how ruthless boycott activists can be in trying to get their way, and how much misery they bring in their wake (which is why there has not been a single co-op boycott in the country since the Olympia decision).

That being said, the board of the Olympia co-op has certainly run roughshod over its staff and many, many members in its hell-bent decision to implement and hold tight to their little boycott, regardless of the cost to others. It will be intriguing to see how they behave now that a bit of that cost must be borne by them. And it will be particularly interesting to see what the results of a discovery process unearth, given the weak arguments the organization has put forth over the last year and a half regarding why this decision, made behind the backs of the membership, is legal.

And lest you think the news is all new, BDS champions at Loyola University have gone back to the future with (wait for it…) calls for a Sabra hummus boycott! (Hasn’t anyone told them that this food fight went stale months ago?)

Now last I heard, among the thousands of people murdered by the genocidal Assad regime in Syria were countless Palestinians who dwell in that country. I just bring that up to demonstrate how well the “human rights” champions and “Friends of the Palestinian People” at Loyola are ordering their priorities.


First off, can anyone tell me what the logo for the BDS “movement” (pictured above) is supposed to represent?

But seriously folks, what shall we make of a “movement” that is trumpeting about its latest success, which as far as I can see consists of their failure to get DePaul university to stop selling Sabra Hummus?

As some of you may remember, DePaul was once home to Norman Finklestein, the tenth-rate pseudo-scholar vying to play a four-generation photocopy of the 160-year-old Noam Chomsky on the well-paying “Israel Sucks” circuit. But sadly Mr. Finkelstein was not granted tenure at that institution (the greatest crime since the Holocaust, according to his supporters) which means that the next time you visit DePaul, you’ll be able to enjoy a nice Sabra roll-up but, alas, you will not be able to hear the ravings of Norman F.

But seriously folks (really this time), I think we have now found the defining “victory” for the BDS project: the decision by some Scottish towns to ban Israeli books from their libraries as well as brand Israeli products with a distinguishing mark so that they can be more easily boycotted. Hmmm, does that ring a bell in anyone else’s head?

Princeton [hearts] Israel

This week at Princeton University, history – no History – was made when students overwhelmingly demonstrated their undying support for Israel, a campus-wide devotion to Zion that can be traced back to the founding of the university by Thurston and Lovey Princeton in the 1420s, a passion that is likely to continue until the stars themselves burn out in the heavens.

Don’t worry! That was simply my impression of the Evil Divest This Blogger from The Enemy Within (Episode 5), the one where a trasporter accident inadvertently mingled my DNA with that of a BDSer, causing me to inflate the most trivial, irrelevant decisions regarding Israeli (and even non-Israeli) products into events of monumental significance.

As noted previously, the boycott and divestment crew, despairing of ever getting a college or university to divest a single dollar from Israeli companies, has turned its attention to snack food. But even here they can’t bring themselves to actually speak honestly about their goals (which are always the same: to get their Israel=Apartheid message to come out of the mouth of a famous institution like Princeton). And so the ever-boasting, but always losing BDS “movement” had to contend itself with calling a campus-wide vote on whether or not the school cafeteria should stock two rather than one brand of hummus.

You see their current brand, Sabra, while made by an American company (and produced in Queens) is half owned by The Strauss Group, an Israeli conglomerate which (in addition to owning a lot of other food companies) does a fair amount of charitable work, including contributing to the well-being of Israeli soldiers. And since Israeli soldiers are eevvilll, Strauss group is pronounced guilty, which means Sabra Hummus is rendered traif (by BDS standards), meaning Princeton students should be given a choice between evil and non-evil hummus, meaning… getting confused…growing weary…cannot keep my eyes open…

Whoops! Sorry about that. Now where was I? Oh yes, Princeton.

Well anyway, even this non-sensical, third-hand attempt to put Israel in the dock on the Princeton campus couldn’t muster anything more than a nearly two-to-one trouncing at the polls. Which basically translates to the latest boycott fad (Sabra Hummus seems to be the flavor of the month regarding BDS targets) being just as big a zero as every other campaign they’ve had in the decade since BDS became priority numero uno for the “Israel is always wrong” community (the same decade when Israel’s economy doubled in size – go figure).

As Palestinian iconoclast Hussein Ibish said after the Berkeley student council divestment bill went down to defeat in the Spring: “The bottom line is this: if you can’t get divestment through UC Berkeley, you’re done.” But just how “done” (or “well done”) does the BDS “movement” have to be if it can’t even manage to pull off a third-hand, bait-and-switch, sort-of boycott motion masquerading as a way to let college students eat more stuff?

Food Fight

BDSers never seem to have much luck when they take their fights to the food aisles. Perhaps it is the necessity of food coupled with the pleasure it brings that highlights the fact that boycotters are threatening the former and completely lacking in the latter whenever they wave their fists at a package of Israeli couscous or, now, non-Israeli hummus.

The Battle of Coucous was waged last year when BDSers declared a Day of Rage directed at Trader Joe’s for daring to refuse to strip Israeli foods from their shelves, just because the boycotters demanded they do so. The Internet buzzed with threats that hundreds of protestors would descend on Trader Joe’s stores nationwide to picket and “deshelve” the hated Israeli couscous in protest of the store following its own conscience, rather than the will of the boycotters. But by the time the smoke cleared, the only activity the threatened boycott managed to gin up was thousands of Israeli supporters buying out Trader Joe’s Israeli stock across the country.

Today, the battle has turned to hummus, not hummus produced in Israel but Sabra hummus produced in the US. While not my personal favorite brand (although I did buy a bunch of it on Buy Israeli Goods Day yesterday), Sabra is owned by the Strauss Group, an Israeli food conglomerate that does a fair amount of charitable work within Israel in areas such as education, sports and health. In addition, they make donations of money, sports equipment and recreation facilities to two units of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

“Foul!” cried the BDSers who, while spending morning noon and night claiming that their boycotts are only aimed at “The Occupation” (albeit with an infinitely elastic definition of that term), decided to go after an Israeli company selling an American-made product for supporting soldiers in their own country (the equivalent of attacking the Girl Scouts for providing cookies to US troops out of hostility to the US war in Iraq).

The first front opened up when someone contacted the Strauss Group to complain that they were offended by the company highlighting its support for the Israeli Golani Brigade that led (for some inexplicable reason) to that support being temporarily removed from the Strauss Web site. Whether this was just an over-eager response to a customer complaint or something else, the Internet was yet again ablaze with “We Win Again!” boasting by those perennial BDS losers.

Fortunately, all it took was one phone call by a West Coast Israel activist to clarify the situation, getting get the company’s Golani support back on the Strauss site. [Note to activists: It’s that easy to effect change – just pick up the phone!]

But according to the “momentum theory” of BDS whereby any single, tiny, irrelevant and temporary victory must instantly be capitalized upon, the hummus wars have moved onto campuses. The divestniks are still as far from getting a single college or university to divest from Israel as they were ten years ago, but by God they can try to get Sabra hummus removed from the cafeteria at Princeton!

Well not really. For you see, while their desire is to somehow get their complaints against Israel to appear to come out of the mouth of a prominent institution like Princeton, the final question they have posed to students in a ballot measure on the issue is whether or not to stock an additional brand alongside Sabra for hummus lovers who want to strike a pose without having to sacrifice their favorite snack.

Now I’m as much into a good BDS fight as anyone, but somehow I just can’t get myself worked up over whether or not a vote to stock two vs. one brand of condiment is going to amount to a hill of chickpeas, (even if it passes). After ten years of embarrassing failures at colleges and universities, churches, cities and towns, et al, the fact that the boycotters have been reduced to bait-and-switch ballot measures involving bean spread is the most telling detail of this whole chapter of an ongoing effort to pretend that boycott, divestment and sanction represents the opinion of anyone beyond a narrow-minded, joyless minority.