David's Harp / The Flaming Eggplant boycott goes too far
Student cafe's 'moral' sanction of Israel is empty and hypocritical, since it entails no sacrifice.
In case you didn't notice, let me bring to your attention that last week the Flaming Eggplant café, a student-run cooperative at Evergreen State College in
The act was of no real consequence, but it does say oodles about the international campaign to promote boycotts, divestments and sanctions against
The Flaming Eggplant took an extreme position on the boycott. It didn't limit its ban on Israeli products to just the settlements, as many boycotters do, but imposed it on anything and everything made in
It announced its decision in a strangely-worded declaration that failed to employ the word “apartheid” (a favorite of the BDS movement to describe
No matter, the more interesting thing about the Flaming Eggplant's decision is how much coverage it received in the BDS world.
The café is small and its values ("We strive to serve … ecological and socially just food," its website proclaims) are hardly representative of the Wal-Mart-shopping, Burger King-eating American public.
Most interesting of all, the Flaming Eggplant doesn't seem to have been serving any Israeli products before it decided to ban them. Besides being organic and socially just, the café uses only locally grown products. Its hummus - an obvious product to boycott since two Israeli companies are among
So what do we learn from the Flaming Eggplant episode?
Drop that pita!
We need not care about the Flaming Eggplant doing damage to Israeli exports or even delegitimizing the state. It will do neither. The ideas and attitudes expressed by it and other like-minded groups might be the start of a tide of anti-Israel feeling – certainly the BDS movement portrays its campaign that way – but more likely it will never go beyond the confines of a few university senates, leftish clergy and European labor activists where it thrives today.
What deserves our attention is the moral universe in which The Flaming Eggplant is a minor planet. In that universe, unethical behavior is like a disease that gets passed on from sufferer to sufferer without being diminished along the way.
It’s not enough act and think properly. You have to avoid contact with anyone or any institution that fails to do so, even by several degrees, for fear of contamination. The BDSers would prefer to call it complicity, but the complicity is so tenuous and distant that you can only compare it to a contagion. If you order, say, hummus made by Osem or Strauss at the Flaming Eggplant, you are contaminated by the association with a restaurant which inter alia does business with an Israeli company, which inter alia pays taxes to the Israeli government, which inter alia uses some of that money for the army of occupation and to subsidize settlers.
The problem with this moral universe is that it is only workable if travel you it with blinders.
If the Flaming Eggplant isn't going to serve Israeli hummus, why should it waiters be allowed to wear sneakers made in sweatshop conditions? Should the building be heated with oil imported from oppressive dictatorships? Should soldiers who might have served in
Indeed, given the nature of the Israeli economy, to employ the moral contagion philosophy to boycott
The other disturbing element of The Flaming Eggplant statement is its hypocrisy. It insists it is doing good when it is in fact doing nothing because it entails no sacrifice. You see this with demands from student unions, like at the
It's not that there is no room in the world for moral decisions, but they should be ones you take upon yourself, not imposed on solely others, and with the caution and understanding that the world is a complicated a place that rarely offers simple problems or solutions. That Palestinians would choose to boycott