BDS = ‘Don’t Buy From Jews’
A paper in Santa Monica, California published a piece of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) propaganda by someone called Kelley Hayes-Riatt. There was nothing remarkable about it. Designed to inspire opposition to a bill in the California legislature that would boycott the BDS boycotters, and adorned by a picture of two armed Israeli soldiers confronting a Palestinian, it featured the usual charges about water and electricity theft, made much of illegal hilltop settlements and referred to videos of Palestinian schoolchildren being stoned by settlers. It also enlisted BDS and the “socially conscious” organizations that support it in the calendar of saints like Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In other words, the usual tripe.
In focusing on the “evil occupation,” Hayes-Riatt, like all the BDS-ers, counts on her readers not to have noticed the three refusals by the Palestinians to accept the end of the conflict, since ending it by making peace would require them to live with a Jewish state. She counts on them being soothed and uplifted by references to Gandhi, and not to know what it means that Mr. Abbas is planning to challenge the Balfour Declaration in an international court, thus again making clear the Palestinian rejection of any Jewish rights in Israel. She counts on her gullible readers not knowing that the chief of BDS, Omar Barghouti, has made very clear that Israel has to disappear. She cants on about the occupation because her real case — the destruction of Israel and likely its six million Jews — would shock even those she hopes to make her tools.
However, this particular propagandist was eager to show off her historical knowledge, and in doing so, she let the cat out of the bag. Thus, she informs her readers: “The term ‘boycott’ was coined in Ireland in 1880 when poor farmers were evicted from their homes by a land agent named Charles Boycott. Calls to shun him were so successful that his farm, stable and house workers refused to work, local businessmen refused his business, and even the postman refused to deliver his mail!”
In one piece of misplaced erudition, she thus reminded her readers of the real purpose of a boycott, which is to vent moral indignation, to stigmatize the object of the boycott as someone to be shunned, expelled from the human community, as a pariah, a leper, someone unworthy of ordinary human contact. The purpose isn’t economic so much as moral and even quasi-religious. A boycott says implicitly that even to buy and sell with such people is a pollution that no decent person would allow. The Nazi boycott of Jews made the same point — these people are beyond the pale. “Kauft nicht bei Juden! [Don’t buy from Jews!]” meant “Jews are filth.” So, too, did the counter boycott of Nazi Germany. Only then, there was excellent cause for moral indignation, as the Nazis really were filth, and certainly not only because of how they treated the Jews.
Of course, shunning, defaming, degrading, excluding is precisely the purpose of BDS. The boycott hurts Israel economically much less than it hurts Palestinians (cf. the SodaStream case). That doesn’t matter to the BDS-ers and their “socially conscious” dupes or their witting allies. Since Israel is too strong to be destroyed militarily, it has to be undermined in the world, stigmatized, falsely made analogous to the apartheid regime in South Africa. And the boycott is the right, dramatic mechanism to do it. The real analogy, the really scary one, is not of Israel to South Africa, but to the old “don’t buy from Jews” slogan of the 1930’s.
The appeal to moral indignation is the strength of BDS. But it is also its weakness. It is good to know the facts that refute the lies about apartheid and water theft. It is even better to carry on the polemical battle by citing those facts and destroying the credibility of the BDS propagandists. But even more important is to recognize that the facts don’t matter all that much to people who are seeking moral purity; BDS is attractive to the morally vain, which is, alas, a large proportion of Western educated elites. And therefore it is important to show what this religion of Jew-shunning really is about and how foul, racist and cynical its ancestry is.
In the end, BDS makes a moral argument. True, it is a perversion, right out of Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels’ handbook. But that is why it has to be shown up for the hate-mongering and Jew-baiting that it really is. As state legislatures one after the other show that they understand something about the ugliness and hypocrisy of the BDS movement, it is necessary to make explicit the deep intuition that seems to be guiding them. Yes, the charges about the West Bank are mostly false. What is true and must be said clearly and repeatedly, is what the real BDS agenda is and what kind of an entity having that agenda makes it.