Vaccines instead of medicine: How we should fight the BDS movement

I’d like to start this new year off with a post about the BDS movement and how to fight it. I recently learned that yet another artist canceled a show she had scheduled to play in Israel after caving in to pressure from BDS activists. The artist was Lorde, who also happens be one of my favorites.

What happened is what happens every time. An artist schedules a show, the BDS movement finds out, send emotional letters with tales of baby murders and blood-soaked streets to the artist, tell them that they will be indirectly contributing to said baby murders if they perform in Tel Aviv, and the artist, keen to avoid negative publicity, cancels. And then comes our response. Suddenly every Jew in the world is involved. I say Jew, rather than Israel supporter, because this is the fact of the matter – rabbis start sending letters, Jewish media outlets call for boycott of the artist in question, Israeli diplomats invite to conversation, and we all cry about antisemitism and unfair treatment, questioning why the artist chooses to play in various other countries with various other problems and not Israel.

What I just wrote sounds harsh, but such is reality. Here is the problem: our response is useless. It is completely and utterly useless, and not only is it useless, it actually harms more than it helps. Even the most legitimate argument against the boycott of Israel, which we no doubt have, doesn’t translate, because it is hidden behind an army of frustrated voices who apply the highly inefficient “let’s give her a taste of her own medicine” approach; an approach that only comes across as pathetic.

What we fail to do every time is get to the root of the problem and fight it from there. The artist in question is not the root of the problem. It is not Lorde’s fault that she canceled her show in Israel. She is the ultimate target of the BDS movement – a young, up-and-coming artist from a country about as far away from Israel as possible. We cannot possibly expect every 21-year old New Zealander, of all people, to have enough knowledge and understanding of the incomprehensible complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict to be able to form an educated opinion on the matter, and make an informed response to the always aggressive, always intimidating international BDS movement.

Targeting the artist is our first mistake. Our second mistake is that we are defensive rather than pre-emptive. Going into crisis mode once the artist has already canceled is about as helpful as drinking water to cure that New Years hangover on January 1st. It might feel as though we’re solving the problem, but really we should have drank that water about 15 hours ago when we were in the middle of downing vodka shots. No artist will cancel their cancelation of a performance. It would make them look like an idiot. I’m sure there are exceptions, but rather than praying for one, it would be much more beneficial to beat the BDS activists to the punch.

For every artist that has a scheduled performance to play in Israel, we should be the first to send out our own letters. And instead of hateful ones, these would be kind and informative. We should send letters that warn the artist of a possible BDS backlash, and explain to them why they shouldn’t listen. This is where our very legitimate arguments should be communicated, and if done so correctly, they may actually be heard.

About the Author
Olivia Flasch was born in Sweden to Polish-Ukrainian Jewish parents. After high school, she spent a few months volunteering in Israel. She then completed her Bachelor's Degree in International Law (LL.B) in The Hague, The Netherlands, and her Master's Degree in Law (MJur) at the University of Oxford. She currently lives in London.
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