What Would Normal People Do?
A couple of news items and some recent exchanges in the comments section got me thinking again about the vast gulf between BDS and any normal political movement.
Starting out with the news of the day (actually, yesterday), an Israeli court finally exonerated the Israeli Defense Forces from charges that they deliberately ran over Rachel Corrie with a tractor. And given that an American court refused to take on a similar case against the manufacturers of said tractor, at least two justice systems seem to be in agreement that the person who places herself in a war zone bears some responsibility if they get hurt or even (tragically) killed.
Now a normal political movement might stop for a moment and reflect on the possibility that their own behavior and choices did far more to contribute to the situation that ended Rachel Corrie’s life than either the IDF or a tractor company. But as we all know, BDS (or, in this case, the part of the BDS “movement” represented by the International Solidarity Movement or ISM – Corrie’s handlers) is not a normal political project.
Given the time, money, energy and resources they have put into not just suing everyone around them but also launching campaign after campaign to demonize the Jewish state as deliberate child murderers, couldn’t the ISM (and other contributor’s to Corrie’s martyrdom) spare even a few moments to reflect on their own responsibility for her death? After all, ISM still exists and is still doing the very same things that preceded Corrie getting killed in Gaza those many years ago.
So if it turns out that helping people slip into Israel under false pretenses, organizing protest trips to conflict areas and encouraging members to place themselves in harm’s way actually does contribute to injury or death, ISM leaders seem completely disinterested in thinking about what this might mean in terms of their own responsibility. Which means it’s just a matter of time before they get someone else killed (and use that corpse to generate new momentum for their propaganda campaigns).
Turning to more local news, a Boston-based food coop has rejected appeals that they put a boycott of evil Israel-supporting hummus to a member vote, despite months of effort by BDS activists insisting they had no choice on the matter.
But the coop did have a choice, a choice to not allow a group of single-issue partisans to wreak havoc on a community organization that exists for purposes other than serving as a plaything for local Israel haters.
Now a normal political movement would never have considered trying to shove a boycott the leaders of the coop clearly didn’t want, a boycott vote that would have needlessly alienated and antagonized large numbers of coop members, down the throat of the organization.
But BDS is not a normal political movement, is it? Rather, it is an abnormal movement of the self-centered and selfish who have lost another battle against an organization that made the normal decision to not hand decision-making power over to a bunch of obsessive jerks.
Finally, we get to the justifications we’ve seen in the comments section lately regarding why a movement that allies itself with the most reactionary, human-rights abusing political entities on the face of the earth simultaneously considers itself the gold standard of progressive politics.
The usual excuses are unfurled whenever one brings up the fact that the BDSers' devotion to human rights never seems to extend to other victims of human rights abuses, even other Arab ones, even other Palestinian ones. And pointing out the repression of women and homosexuals in lands such as Gaza (where organizations like ISM work tirelessly to smuggle supplies and break a fully-legal blockade) just brings up accusations of “pinkwashing,” a fake phenomena created by the boycotters to avoid having to talk about subjects they would rather not even think about.
Now a normal political movement could handle this by simply saying that they understand Israel is not the greatest human rights abuser on the planet or that their calls for immediate and unconditional Palestinian statehood might have the unintended consequences of triggering more conflict and extending gender and sexual Apartheid even further in the Arab world, but insist that this is a price worth paying for what they perceive as a greater good.
But such an admission would not allow them to also pose as the arbiters of who is and who is not progressive. Rather, it would highlight that BDS is simply a participant in a political conflict: not a peace movement, not a human rights project, but the propaganda arm of a war effort. And the refusal to face up to this obvious truth is the most abnormal thing of all about BDS and those who participate in it.