The recent capture of Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, otherwise known as El Chapo, in the aftermath of an interview with actor Sean Penn, is deeply revealing of human nature and of the human condition, on multiple levels. This exposé ranges from our fascination with crime and criminals; to the development of our understanding of our deepest desires; to the assessment of our relationship with systems such as governments, the world around us, and beyond.
In a nutshell, evil has an easy time selling itself. It plays into varying, easily or shrewdly identified, weaknesses of individuals and societies. Like the magic mirror of the wicked queen in Snow White, it displays only what we are ready and willing to see. For us mere mortals, our weaknesses are difficult to accept and require much willingness and self-awareness to deal with.
The BDS campaign, at times misrepresented as a “movement,” is just that, a campaign. It calculatingly exploits blatant lies, maliciously warped into catchy slogans, to advance its openly expressed genocidal objective – the destruction of the State of Israel. Playing into some of the identified weaknesses of our global, layered reality, in which sound-bite opinions are confused with facts, it spreads its intentional, wellplanned, distorted, concise, clear messages. It is easy to do that when you lie.
The successes of the BDS campaign indicate that, very possibly (and contrary to popular opinion) ignorance, rather than knowledge, is power. In the poignant words of George Eliot, “It is a common sentence that Knowledge is power; but who hath duly considered or set forth the power of Ignorance? Knowledge slowly builds up what Ignorance in an hour pulls down. Knowledge, through patient and frugal centuries, enlarges discovery and makes record of it; Ignorance, wanting its day’s dinner, lights a fire with the record, and gives a flavour to its one roast with the burnt souls of many generations.”
It is thought-provoking that this was so profoundly understood by a brilliant woman who used a male pen name, among other reasons to ensure her works would be taken seriously, but that’s for another day. While generations have passed since those words were penned, the successes of the BDS campaign indicate that the human condition and human nature have not evolved much. They suggest that thus far, the attempt to equip individuals with knowledge and skills required to empower them to become the thinking, analyzing, synthesizing beings that humans have the capacity to be, has been unsuccessful. The fact that the hateful, insidious BDS campaign is not exposed for what it is, despite its clearly stating it, is a testament to the fallibility of human nature. True change would have paved the path to the transcendence above real or perceived differences of religion, gender, age or ethnicity and led to the exposure of the true nature of the BDS campaign, leading to its disregard and ultimate disappearance.
As if to make the point, in his interview to Sean Penn, the notorious El Chapo reportedly stated: “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats... Look, all I do is defend myself, nothing more. But do I start trouble? Never.... If there was no consumption, there would be no sales. It is true that consumption, day after day, becomes bigger and bigger. So it sells and sells.”
The BDS campaign, perhaps because it sells and sells, has taken our collective eye off the ball.
It has succeeded in manipulatively grabbing our attention and is consuming tremendous resources in a manner that, de facto, further plays right into the weaknesses of human nature and the human condition. We are responding in an emotional, disconcerted, reactive and scattered manner. The result of these valiant and well-intentioned efforts threatens to undermine the understanding of the true danger for which BDS is merely the ad campaign. It prevents us from comprehending and communicating the transcendent, intersectional relevance of this threat to so many around the globe. In a reality where resources are limited, even if we win the proverbial battle waged against the BDS campaign, we may lose the war against that of which it is but a symptom.
If we are to emerge triumphant from the war, exposing the BDS campaign for what it truly is, is but a first step. The real challenge is to fully comprehend what this campaign is a symptom of, to openly declare who is leading it, and to unabashedly expose all that is at risk. BDS is merely an indicator of the alarming, potent risk to Western, democratic values and all that they represent.
In order to address this existential threat, the first step is to recognize it as such, and not misplace our energies in treating the symptoms.
Once recognized and named, the next step is to approach it with determination, humility and trepidation and with the same seriousness as we regard physical, tangible, military threats. Just as security threats are (one hopes) dealt with, it must be addressed by the formation of one, collaborative, all-encompassing leading infrastructure that takes into account the full spectrum of interdisciplinary considerations and creates a long-term, proactive action plan. It must identify and take into account the shared values, while encouraging and applauding real and perceived differences. It must enable and facilitate deep and difficult conversations about values and identity, not only internally but while engaging partners across oceans and continents. It must be implemented strategically, while “connecting- the-dots” and taking into account new realities as they present themselves.
A final thought. The Jewish people and the State of Israel have surprised themselves and the world time and again with creativity, ingenuity, flexibility and resiliency. Surely we can put our heads together, pool resources, minimize considerations of ego and maximize collaboration to tackle this challenge. As always, with challenge comes opportunity. If this is done right, we will emerge strengthened, with redefined common values, vision and goals.The writer grew up in Canada and Israel, in a universalist, humanist, Canadian, Zionist home. Having made aliya to serve in the IDF as a lone soldier and officer, she received her LL.B from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her LL.M. at McGill. She currently serves as director of international external relations at IDC Herzliya and is an active board member of Tzav Pius.