Monday, March 8, 2010

BDS: The Hobgoblin of Tiny Minds

I had considered setting up a Google Alert to tell me if the San Francisco Jewish Federation took action after last year’s Jewish Film Festival fiasco to ensure that groups like Jewish Voice for Peace could no longer exploit the community’s resources for their own narrow-minded ends. But then, I figured, why bother? If the Federation did pass such a measure, an audible shriek would reach my East Coast ears from Northern California far faster than Google could deliver the news.

Sure enough, the Federation did decide that if JVP and similar organizations wanted to defame the Jewish state, they would have to do so with their own money. And a split second later, Muzzlewatch was on the air describing this decision as a McCarthyite call for ideological purity on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Aside from the pot calling the kettle black vis-à-vis narrowing conversation to just one point of view, Muzzlewatch spokesperson Cecilie Surasky seems to have forgotten that just a few weeks ago she was announcing their independence from the elites, declaring herself a general in some sort of Army of Davids that would win the war without the need to suck up to groups like the SF Federation.

But, of course, if they cannot infiltrate or attach themselves to more mainstream organizations, Jewish Voice for Peace remains exposed as the minority of the minority of the Jewish community, increasingly committed to just two tasks: advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and declaring any non-Jewish individual or organization accused of anti-Semitism “Not Guilty” (with a Jewish accent). And so, the Muzzlewatch Army continues it's Battle Whine of accusations against those who have the audacity to stop writing them checks.

Which gets me to Muzzlewatch’s second response to the Federation decision: their challenge to have Omar Barghouti debate Rabbi Doug Kahn, head of the SF, on the subject of BDS.

As background, it’s an old tactic to challenge your political enemies to a debate on your own narrowly restricted terms. For example, today I call on Cecilie Surasky to debate me on the following topic: “Muzzlewatch: Censoring Hypocrites, or Simply Self-Righteously Delusional.”

The purpose of such a “debate” is to put your political foes a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose situation of either fighting on someone else’s territory, or being declared too cowardly to address the issue. Now usually this tactic is not used in such a laughably obvious way, but here again we’re dealing with Muzzlewatch, a closed circle that has walled itself off from feedback that might make them realize how ridiculous they sound.

Take Barghouti’s challenge that the SF Federation, having established filters to avoid funding the defamation of the Jewish state, has demonstrated itself to be in favor of “boycotting” Israel’s defamers, and thus – in order to prove their consistency – must also support the notion of boycotts and divestment targeting Israel. But by that same token, shouldn’t JVP/Muzzlewatch/Barghouti then be in favor of US sanctions against Iran and Sudan (not to mention previous sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) to avoid accusations of hypocrisy?

Taking it one step further, aren’t Israel’s actions against Hamas-controlled Gaza simply an application of the BDS formula Barghouti and his friends would like to inflict on Israel and thus consistency demands that the entire BDS movement support Israel’s Gaza-related choices as well?

Now the whole Barghouti issue is complicated by the fact that this champion of sanctions, who travels the world demanding (among other things) that colleges and universities sever all ties to Israeli academia is currently a heavily subsidized graduate student at an Israeli university. So if we are all to follow his demands for consistency, shouldn’t JVP be boycotting Barghouti or (to be completely consistent) shouldn’t Barghouti boycott himself?

If this is all starting to sound like a trip through the looking glass, remember that Jewish Voice for Peace (in its various guises) is actually quite consistent: If you agree with their political opinions, then everything is allowed (boycott, blacklist, censorship, shouting people off the stage, etc.). But if you don’t agree with the JVP point of view or (God forbid) have the temerity to criticize the organization then you’re guilty of hypocrisy and censorship.

To anyone at Muzzlewatch who disagrees with my analysis, the invitation to debate me on this topic, here or anywhere else, remains open.


  1. Re: a "McCarthyite call for ideological purity on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict."

    Interestingly enough, many of the anti-Israel groups have a "principles of unity" (yes, a loyalty oath) you must agree to, if you want to attend or participate in organizational events.

    Does JVP find, for example Al Awda's principles of unity McCarthyite? I somehow doubt it.

  2. Jewish Voice for Peace co-sponsored a protest earlier this week of a friends of the IDF fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria, in NYC.

    They stood side by side with protesters screaming "F**king Christ Killers" and "Nazi Pigs", smiling self righteously at their friends expressions of free speech.

    Incidently, 1,400 people attended the fundraiser, which raised 20 million dollars.

    The only thing THIS Jewish activist has in common with Jewish Voice for Peace is that we're both ashamed that they are Jewish


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