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BDS Movement and Code Pink Now Targeting Children’s Birthday Parties

Posted on February 8 2011 12:33 pm
Hannah Sternberg is a writer and video editor in Washington, DC. Her first novel, Queens of All the Earth, will be released this June by Bancroft Press. Learn more at
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I don’t know what else I was expecting from Code Pink, the group so inane its members interrupt their own interviews. When they’re not expressing their patriotism by crashing naturalization ceremonies, they unwind by targeting Israeli products for boycott. Boycotting is an easy, do-it-at-home form of activism for the Code Pinker whose boas are all at the dry cleaner.

The boycott in question is the Code Pink campaign against AHAVA beauty products. The embarrassing misstep? Listing, in their trove of media clips surrounding their efforts, an article from The Jewish Week about a mother whose 7-year-old daughter’s birthday party was spoiled by anti-Israel sentiment stirred up by the boycott. Code Pink, why would you list this among your PR victories?

Now, I can quite realistically write off this error as one of pure incompetence. But looked at from another angle, it is telling, of the bigger story: how the international Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement is not against perceived abuses of Palestinian rights or territory–it’s against Israel: the state, and its existence.

Even Julie Wiener, author of the Jewish Week piece, though she expresses skepticism for both sides of the political conflict, admits, “The BDS movement…with its singling out Israel among all the nations of the world — not to mention a confrontational approach that demonizes Israelis and puts them on the defensive — deeply disturbs me.” She insightfully points out that you don’t see Code Pink shouting reminders of Tiananmen Square outside of every store that sells a product made in China–a country with a near-universally undisputed record of human rights violations of staggering proportions.

I’m willing to believe that most participants in the BDS movement, particularly noted Jewish thought-leaders and organizations, are either unaware of this barely beneath-the-surface agenda, or they believe they can manipulate the movement to make it less about bashing Israel and more about encouraging a reasonable solution for peace.

Unfortunately, the BDS movement represents the politics of momentum: once one de rigueur group or individual pledges himself to a cause, others will follow until simply all the cool kids are walking out on anything related to Israel. Remember the 2009 Toronto Film Festival? Celebrities including Jane Fonda and Viggo Mortensen protested the festival’s spotlight on its sister-city, Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is not even remotely close to disputed territory, unless one believes that Israel’s very existence as a state is in dispute. While these celebrities claimed they were making a stand against the occupation of Palestine, in reality they were standing against Israel itself.

It’s easy in today’s pop culture of activism for many people–even some journalists–to mistake the phrase “cause célèbre,” originally meaning “an event of note,” to mean “celebrity cause.” And with YouTube, everyone with an axe to grind can be a celebrity, too. That makes it ever more vitally important to aggressively expose the BDS movement for what it really is: an attack on the state of Israel and its right to exist. To acknowledge this is to take one step away from prejudice, and instead to move toward the constructive and rational discussion of peace.

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