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BDS Fail. Let the (Micro) Chips Fall Where They May

Just when one thought the anti-Israel boycott movement (BDS) could not get any sillier, it outdoes itself.

Those tireless activists are taking aim at a new target, moving from chickpeas to chocolate. But whereas the hummus wars have largely been confined to co-ops and college campuses, the cacao campaign is being fought on the public streets of Australia. Activists have focused their ire and fire on Max Brenner stores (“Chocolates from the Bald Man”). The sophistication of the protesters may be gleaned from their slogan, “Max Brenner, you can’t hide! You support genocide!”

Yikes! Sounds as if he should change his nickname to “the Bad Man.” But the rationale in the one case is as specious as in the other: Strauss, the parent company of both Sabra hummus and Brenner, has occasionally made charitable donations of food and recreational equipment to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). As I’ve said elsewhere, this is tantamount to boycotting companies that send “care packages” to US units in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of which have likewise been charged with misdeeds while serving in wars that some critics regard as intrinsically unjust or illegal.

In fact, let’s pursue that analogy. If you want to boycott corporations that make similar donations to US troops — even if you won’t miss Bass Pro Shops fishing and hunting gear and Jack Daniel’s, or Harry and David’s gourmet snack foods (depending on which way your tastes incline) — you’ll still have to learn to do without, among other things: Fedex packages, Schick razors, Starbucks Coffee, J C. Penney’s clothes and household goods, and Kraft and Oscar Mayer products, from cheese to hot dogs. Ouch.

Company Founder Oded Brenner, who calls himself “a man of peace,” responded to the first protests two years ago:

"Everything that has to do with conflict seems stupid (to me),' he said. "Whether it is in Israel or not, anything to do with violence, aggressiveness or appearing at protests or boycotts seems silly (to me). But then again, I am just a chocolate-maker."

“Just a chocolate-maker”: that pretty much sums it up. He confesses to being “perplexed and dismayed.”

He’s not the only one. The protests, which had been going on for months, grew increasingly abusive, and finally turned violent. After an altercation in which 3 police officers (but no demonstrators) were injured, the authorities made 19 arrests and released the 16 charged only under a restraining order. (Activists hysterically denounce this as an “unprecedented” attempt to “eradicate criticism of Israeli Apartheid and criminalise dissent.” Yup, sounds just like the Gulag.) The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission is investigating possible violations of the nation’s law against secondary boycotts. Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said the “deeply offensive and unacceptable campaign”  “offends the whole community and undermines our multicultural society.” Visiting the site of the clashes, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said, "I don't think in 21st-century Australia there is a place for the attempted boycott of a Jewish business. I thought we had learned that from history." Australian Workers Union Secretary Paul Howes was more blunt, describing the protesters as "mimicking the behaviour of the Nazi thugs." The issue has split the NSW Green Party and even prompted the head of the leading pro-Palestinian group to denounce the protests and harassment of customers as "indefensible" and "stupid."

An editorial in The Australian—”Not the way to make the point”—summarizes:

“Quite how a picket outside a popular Melbourne chocolate shop would bring the state of Israel to its knees was always something of a puzzle. . . .

“The BDS movement has every right to express its point of view but for any student of 20th-century history there is something deeply offensive about targeting a Jewish-owned business. Last month's protests outside the Melbourne Max Brenner store led to 19 arrests. Australians are overwhelmingly uncomfortable about such tactics, whatever their views about a Palestinian state.

“The BDS movement has surely lost its bearings when it likens this ridiculous protest to the actions of those who supported anti-apartheid boycotts against South Africa. Imposing internationally-backed sanctions against a rogue, racist state is one thing.

“The right of Melburnians to enjoy a fine cup of chocolate without running the gauntlet of a righteous, threatening mob is quite another.”

The editors see things clearly: these antics aim not to change Israel’s policies, but to delegitimize Israel itself—and in the process, they moreover trivialize the cause of Palestinian rights.

Even when the activists take aim at seemingly more serious targets, the attempt blows up in their faces. A prime foe is Motorola (1, 2), charged, among other things, with providing the IDF with mobile communication equipment.

The irony that the violent Jihadis on the Gaza Flotilla’s “Mavi Marmara” last year used Motorola devices to coordinate their resistance to IDF commandos apparently escapes the BDS adherents. Perhaps those Flotilla “activists” were just as clueless as the pitiful survivors of Hurricane Katrina who foolishly accepted $ 1.5 million in Motorola relief efforts.

Single-minded boycott activists nonetheless press the morally pure to persist. Last Christmas, they urged supporters to ditch Motorola phones in favor of those using Google’s Android operating system. Unfortunately, as Patrick Ross pointed out in these pages, they understood as much about technology as they do about “apartheid.”

“Android is a partnership between Google–who markets the system–and the Open Handset Alliance,” which includes—you guessed it: Motorola. Oops. And just this spring, in the biggest embarrassment of all, the Green-dominated council of Marrickville in Sydney had to rescind its BDS policy because it would have proven horrendously costly. In the words of an Israeli news report, “An Australian city wanted to boycott Israel but discovered that Intel, HP and Motorola operate from the Jewish State. The city chose its computers.”

Never mind.

But, if you thought the Marrickville debacle was bad: Wait (as they say on late-night tv infomercials)! There’s more!

Now, if we’re going to hold subsidiaries responsible for the sins of their parent companies, then it certainly ought to run the other way, too, right? Turn to today’s news. Google just announced plans to purchase Motorola Mobility.

So, let’s recap:

  • We are supposed to boycott Motorola.
  • Google will now own Motorola Mobility.
  • Ergo, Google is guilty.

Google—in Evgeny Morozov’s words, “the world’s most important information gatekeeper”—provides, well, a bucketload of services that we all use, from its hegemonic search engine, to gmail and Google+, to Google Books. There’s even Blogger software—which, irony of ironies, powers some of the most vitriolic anti-Israel sites: including advocates for boycotting Brenner (1, 2, 3) and: yes, Motorola (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

OMG! We’re going to have to boycott the whole internet!

I mean, after all, why not? It makes about as much sense as all those other boycotts.

Jim Wald is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist

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