If you're going to boycott Israel, do so properly

If you’re going to boycott Israel, do it properly. #BDSFail

Every once in a while, the internet experiences a viral sensation. Somebody shares a video or photograph – and in no time flat, it comes, from out of the blue, to be just what the whole world is talking about. It will be a source of immense glee to many Jews the world over, therefore, that the latest viral photograph exposes the sheer ridiculousness of attempts to boycott Israel by highlighting the hypocrisy and, by implication, the moral bankruptcy of the anti-Israel boycott movement.

Wadham College, Oxford, is known as a hotbed of radical leftist politics: the quad is named for Ho Chi Minh, and the college was the alma mater of Emily Cousens, the student who proposed a nationwide boycott of Israel at the Oxford student union in February (the motion fell). It is unsurprising, therefore, that an Apple Macbook was found in the college library with a sticker reading: “Boycott Israeli Goods”. When Engineering student Ed Klinger saw this, he was quick to spot the irony. So this old schoolfriend of mine deployed that sharp-as-a-whip, mischievous sense of humour of his and left an anonymous note:

“Hi there! Just thought you should know, the flash-drive in this computer was designed and built by Anobit, an Israeli technology company! If you don’t want it any more, please pass it to the desk behind you.”

It was a bit of harmless fun, which he photographed and shared on Facebook with his friends. Ed found the placement of the sticker “hugely ironic” because “Apple computers (and lots of other electronic goods) use a whole range of technology which only exists because of Israeli engineering and design. If someone advocates the Boycott of all Israeli goods,” he explains, “they should try hard to understand the full implications of their actions. This sticker was too silly to ignore!”

Nothing could have prepared Ed for what followed. For at the time of publication, his original status has been liked 5,966 times and reposted by 3,053 people, which is only the tip of a growing iceberg: one further reposting garnered a further 12,272 likes and 1,682 additional shares. Mako covered the story (because by now, it had become an item of news). Ed was shocked, and completely distracted from his tutorial sheet as he watched the numbers climb at an exponential rate on his phone. 

In the next 72 hours, Ed was inundated with over one hundred messages from random strangers across the world, most of which were “overwhelmingly positive”, he says. “Yea, thank you very very very much!” said a certain Dana. The Israeli Embassy in Lisbon asked for permission (how unusually polite!) to share the photograph. “I don’t know if you have any idea what your post just did, and I don’t know if I can even begin to explain but… somehow I have the need to say ‘thank you’. Thanks,” added Noga. “Congrats man! You’re officially famous in Israel!” added Yoav. Several people even offered to host Ed in Israel as a token of gratitude! 

Other messages were, as Ed says, “just plain old meanypants”. A rather bitter soul by the name of Sajra told Ed, “Hitler was proud of you, you nazi version of 2013.” So not everyone was happy.

The really funny thing is, for someone who has managed to unmask the double-standards of the boycott movement better than any hasbara department or pro-Israel advocacy group, this achievement has been a complete accident, for Ed Klinger was not intending to make a public anti-BDS statement, only a private joke.

The fact that this middle finger at the BDS was raised by someone from outside Israel or the traditional Israel advocacy groups, hit an emotional nerve. “Just wanted to say that the fact that you ‘don’t have any political allegiance to Israel’ makes it all the lovelier to me as an Israeli,” Ed was told by an admirer. Clearly the knowledge that there are people outside Israel who feel no ties to the country but still vociferously oppose boycotts against it, is heart-warming. It reminds Israelis that they are not alone: even disinterested parties are acutely aware of the hypocrisy of those who purport to boycott Israel, but could hardly survive twenty-four hours without the aid of Israeli technology.

So why has this photograph gone viral? “It highlights quite an obvious problem with boycotting all the goods produced in one nation,” Ed explains. “It’s extremely difficult to do so without being hypocritical. This applies perhaps particularly strongly to Israel, which is one of the most advanced nations in the world in terms of healthcare, engineering and other advanced industries.” The fact that the message was “all in good humour”, rather than being “mean or offensive”, only augmented the power of its message. 

But the internet is already awash with long lists of technologies one would have to forgo if one were serious about boycotting Israel: this photo went viral because no other phrasing of this message has ever been so punchy. The placement of the “Boycott Israeli goods” sticker on a piece of (semi-)Israeli technology provides a striking visual juxtaposition, which says far more than its explicit message. Its broader comment, about the double standards behind most anti-Israel propaganda, is implicit, and that understatement resonates loudly.

This viral hit underscored what we all know, but nobody has been able to express so succinctly: that anti-Israel boycotters are hypocritical kedayniks (opportunists), who are committed to the Palestinian cause only so long as it does not require personal sacrifices of them, whilst attempting to inflict pain on the very people who provide so much of their material wellbeing. These sanctimonious moral narcissists espouse a self-righteousness that is totally empty. They bite the hand that feeds them but still demand to be fed. They want to have their baklawa and eat it too. 

Cheers, Ed. I owe you a drink.