BDS Is a Disneyland of Hate
What truly puzzles the Israeli public is “Israeli Apartheid Week,” being staged on several US college campuses these last few weeks. A spin-off of the anti-Israel BDS movement, its “commercial” success can best be explained as a “Disneyland of Hate.” Activists are not fighting a real struggle for their own rights or anyone else’s. Rather, this is a pretend civil rights struggle for a mediated image of a subjugated victim of an evil oppressor in faraway Occupied Land.
The story is so rife with metaphors that it has become a radical paradise: Indigenous people lived in the beautiful land of Jesus, herding sheep and growing olive trees. All of a sudden enter a bunch of crooked-nosed, conniving, colonialist Jews, armed to the teeth and backed by vast financial resources, who cheat and kill the poor victims, rob them of their land, raze their villages, and drive them away to camps. Then they build a huge wall to keep them in perpetual captivity. The colonialists use their sinister, cutting-edge technologies to ravage their victims, extending their tentacles globally to influence politicians, the media and the public.
This is an activist Disneyland; it’s practically Star-Wars’ Evil Empire meets the Matrix. Other conflicts could be a hundred times bloodier, more oppressive, more local, but this small story is so photogenic that it hijacks them all.
For a very cheap ticket and very little risk, the activists get to be radical “Jedi” and “Neo.” At the same time, they arrogate the legitimacy to hate a distinct group of people, à la the Ku Klux Klan. Sporting a keffiyeh instead of a white sheet, they pass as bleeding-heart liberals.
In this “matrix” of their minds, continuously fed by “occupation porn” (imported from elsewhere, if necessary), they perform their futile activist-kung-fu together. It is only in the darkness of this theme park theater that Islamic jihadists, unquestioning liberal students, pseudo-academics and hippies without a cause can be found, huddled together in a hypnotic trip, appalling to any decent person with some historic perspective.
The Matrix, a post-modern, cyber-punk sci-fi trilogy, pays homage to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard by showing one of his key works, Simulacra and Simulation, for a split second. Upon seeing the film, he dismissed the gesture, and noted that the film distorts his ideas and misrepresents them.
Baudrillard actually criticizes the potential of image-generated violence, such as BDS. He describes our image-filled, post-modern existence as an endless procession of simulacra, images and representations that no longer represent anything but the story itself. With Disneyland as an example, we enter hyper-reality, with rides, monsters and characters – which barely refer to anything real.
With BDS, a movement that does not represent anything or anyone, we have a simulacrum of a civil rights movement. Hordes of “park operators” – journalists, academics, NGOs and politicians – are buying into the simplistic and catchy Disneyland of victimhood/hate, feeding their clientele vivid imagery and narrative symbolic of oppression: white-colonialist-Nazi-
At the same time, pro-Israel advocates keep running around those activists, trying to wake them up: “It’s complicated! See? Donald isn’t a real duck! The train leads nowhere, the alligators are plastic!” not realizing that Disneyland’s visitors and operators are not interested in the truth. They want to stay in their reality-free “safe zones,” fantasize their activist identities, and go about their detached, indiscriminate destructive chants.
The only ones left to rot are, of course, the ordinary Palestinians and Israelis, who at best, see the prospect of constructive efforts toward a viable peace settlement fade. With no realistic engagement and no constructive guarantees for accountability and security for both sides, this Disneyland of hate will likely bring about more destruction than peace and prosperity. As Baudrillard put it: the real world crumbles with misuse.
Igal Ram is the director of Firewall Israel project at Reut Institute. Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. This article was originally published by The Jewish Journal.