October 14, 2020
What enables . . . the good general to strike and conquer, taught Sun Tzu, is foreknowledge.
So it is wise to pay attention when enemy strategists describe their plans and vulnerabilities.
There is a clarity in fighting against BDS that could provide traction in the Jewish world and beyond. In the current climate, Israel advocates are always going to lose a fight over “settlements” and “occupation,” or at best get mired in stalemate. BDS shifts the terrain, making the battle one over Israel’s right to exist, over the legitimacy of Zionism, over the anti-Semitic tropes shaping the anti-Israel movement, and the rank anti-Semitism behind the disproportionate, obsessive focus on Israel. It is also a battle about freedom of speech and of open discourses, given the BDS attempt to shut down normal flows of learning and commerce with Israel. This is a battle we can win – and (shhh, don’t tell anyone) have been winning so far, in many ways, in many communities.
[. . .]
BDS means very little to most people – and sounds like a communicable disease (which in some ways, like anti-Semitism itself, it is…) The awkwardness of the language, and the venom behind the sentiments, together provide a double opportunity. We can rename and reframe their movement. We need to point out how BDS crosses the line from legitimate criticism to historically-laden, anti-Semitic messaging. We should note that BDS fails the “Sharansky Test” of Demonization, Double Standards and Delegitimization” because it singles out Israel for special condemnation, speaking for example about the “apartheid nature of the state” rather than specific policies. [emph. mine]
‘Israel advocates are always going to lose a fight over “settlements” and “occupation” . . . [But] the battle . . . over Israel’s right to exist, over the legitimacy of Zionism . . . This is a battle we can win’.
In war, Sun Tzu also advised, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. And the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.