Monday, September 09, 2019

Last week, the BDS “movement” suffered another in a string of defeats within academic associations when the American Political Science Association rejected efforts to start the ball rolling on a boycott of Israeli scholars.

This defeat took place at an early stage in the BDS playbook during which partisans within the association organized “discussions” of boycotting the Jewish state in an attempt to set the stage for an actual boycott vote at subsequent meetings.

Historically, these one-sided propaganda exercises (announced as “conversations”) take place outside public view, and given how few people are aware that groups like the American Political Science Organization even exist (and how few members participate in annual meetings), infiltrating a committee is often the best way to get BDS on the agenda unnoticed.  Unfortunately (for the boycotters) their efforts to subvert academic associations over the last several years has put their once-furtive efforts on the opposition’s radar. 

The BDSers generally focus on one category of target for several years before moving on, and given the number of eggs they’ve placed in the academic boycotts basket over the last five years, it’s safe to say this continues to be their priority.  Their optimism with regard to academic associations is based on having gotten the American Studies Association to come on board several years ago which triggered hope that academic boycotts would go mainstream.  As noted here, however, no major group has followed ASA’s lead: not the American Historical Association, not the American Anthropological Association, not the Modern Language Association (which actually voted to stop the boycott propaganda activity that had been forced on the group year after year after year).

One can look at this week’s victory for our side in different ways.

If you’re inclined towards the half empty, you could point out that exercises in academic boycotts are simply a feint, designed to inject anti-Israel poison into academic discourse, regardless of whether a boycott gets voted on or not.

If you’re more of a glass-is-more-than-half-full kind of person, you could describe this string of BDS fails as the result of the Jewish community rousing itself to fight back through groups like the Academic Engagement Network (AEN) which has responded to attacks and helped rally members of targeted associations to reject attempts to politicize their disciplines.

While I tend to favor the optimistic latter vs. pessimistic former interpretation, I believe what we are seeing might represent another example of a branch of civil society immunizing itself against the BDS virus. 

As just mentioned, BDSers tend to run to wherever they think they can find success, often anchoring years of effort in one victory within a category of institution.  For example, many years ago a single food coop in Olympia Washington (fondly referred to as “Oly”) announced that it had decided to boycott Israeli products which led to efforts by Israel haters across the country to get other food coops to follow suit.

But even as the boycotters were fanning out to demand other coops follow Olympia’s lead, chaos was breaking out back at Oly as members revolted against a pollical move that had been made without their knowledge (much less involvement or consent) in the dead of night behind closed doors.  The mayhem that ensued, which has gone on ever since, sent a powerful message that countered BDSers’ claim that joining a boycott was a simple, uncontroversial idea aligned with the (usually progressive) ethos of the coop movement.

One coop, which actually held their debate on the issue in the light of day, also performed research that convinced them such a boycott would run counter to the very principles the coop movement was founded upon.  With “Oly” as an example of what can happen when anti-Israel politics gets injected into a community, and more and more coops justifying rejection of boycotts on well-thought-out grounds provided by those who had previously rejected BDS, the entire food coop movement eventually became immunized from further BDS infection.  And thus a category of civic groups the BDSers placed their hopes on for nearly a decade translated to years of wasted effort.

One can look at the American Studies Association playing a similar role within the category of academic associations that Olympia played for food coops.  In the years since the ASA boycott was passed, some members resigned, others sued, and many began to question the wisdom of allowing the organization to fall into disrepute, just to allow a handful of partisans to attack the academic freedom of fellow scholars.  To make matters even worse, the ASA boycott call was never acted upon with the number of American Studies departments at universities implementing the boycott standing at zero six years later, meaning all the damage was caused so that a few partisans could pretend a boycott was in place.

With this “shining example” of what happens to an academic association that embraces BDS so vivid, groups like AEN, allied with scholars who don’t want to see their field politicized for the aggrandizement of a few radical hacks, have the vaccine they need: arguments that highlight that boycotts damage not Israel, but the organizations that participate in them.

It’s too early to say whether BDS is dead within academic associations since, as the head of AEN pointed out, the boycotters will be back given that they are always the last to realize how much they overplayed their hand.

But even with this victory, we need to keep in mind that academic boycotts, like BDS as a whole, is simply the propaganda wing of a wider war against the Jewish state.  This means boycott and divestment tactics will never disappear until those who started that war call it off.  Since that’s not us, we will continue to have to man the walls until those who believe another century of warfare is worth it change their minds.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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