At the best blog I have found for BDS news on the web, Divest this! ..., the blog's author Jon writes probably the most clear thinking summary of the tactics of the BDS movement I've ever read.
Given how much they talk, it’s sometimes hard to remember that those pushing boycott and divestment really only have one rhetorical trick up their sleeve: to fill a room with heart-wrenching words and images of human suffering (only Palestinian human suffering, mind you) and insist that anyone who is emotionally impacted by these images has only one choice which is to do whatever the BDSers say.
In order for their “narrative” to succeed, its proponents must leave all history, politics and any information that does not fit their simple-minded storyline of pristine Palestinian innocence coupled with black-hatted, moustache-twirling Israeli villainy on the cutting room floor. But their one-trick, pathos-laden tactic benefits from the fact that those who use it also have a near sociopathic ability to ignore any and all information they don’t want to hear themselves (or, more importantly, to have others hear).These are not only the tactics of the BDS movement, but they are also the tactics of the entire propaganda campaign against Israel put forth by the Palestinian nationalists. It is a great example of aggressive/obnoxious speech that I defined when I first started writing this blog.
The counter strategy is simple: combat lies with the truth and expose their agenda. However, this work takes time and analysis. It is far easier for them to generate new outrageous and unfounded charges backed up with half truths than it is for well meaning people to defend against them. Young people and uninformed people are at the most danger of falling for this propaganda.
Unfortunately, the more vociferously you defend against the unfounded charges, the more easily you fall into the Anti-Semitic Whack-a-Mole trap, where you are perceived as nothing but an Israeli apologist. It is a double bind and there are no good strategic options. Fair or not, every victory against anti-semitism (in the form of BDS in this case) comes at a cost in credibility.
When you understand this, it becomes easier to appreciate the desire of the liberal zionists, such as Peter Beinart and the crowd at Open Zion to adopt a portion of the BDS argument. The strategy is theoretically a way out of the double bind. Take the half truths of the BDS movement, eliminate the worst of the lies and define a compromise strategy. Then you can present yourself as intellectually honest, supporting human rights, appropriately moved by human suffering... and willing to chastise other Jews if you feel it is appropriate. It has the benefit of at least trying to align itself with the truth. In its purest form, it is a good strategy and it is unfortunate that the liberal zionist movement is tainted by its partisan affiliations. It is too interested in the details of Israeli politics to make a very convincing case to the pro-Israel Jewish community.
There is a also another problem with this strategy. It hands a victory to the BDS movement and encourages more obnoxious, aggressive, and yes near sociopathic behavior. They don't have to win to win. All they have to do is make enough noise to affect people's decisions proactively. If people making decisions in the board room have to design a strategy against the the BDS movement, it is an unseen victory for them. It also sets Jews to fighting each other, which if Jewish history is any guide, is a bad sign for the Jewish community.
So, congratulations to the West Coast Jewish activists on a job well done.