#BDSfailfail: the paranoid schadenfreude of the keyboard warrior

The only thing more pathetic than taking systematic joy in others’ failures is taking systematic joy in others’ inevitable and inconsequential failures.

This makes popular hashtag #BDSfail the pinnacle of pathetic. It was originally used to facilitate slightly smug, but ultimately inoffensive, tweets about the defeat of institutions’ boycott policies or proposals. So when students at Sussex University resoundingly voted down a BDS motion in 2014 (following an innovative pro-Israel anti-occupation campaign), that was a classic occasion to use the hashtag.

But the more schadenfroh fringes of the maniacal pro-Israel Twittersphere have, as is their wont, taken it too far and fashioned it into a blunt instrument which serves no purpose other than bashing enemies (and mainly imagined enemies at that) arbitrarily.

When it was reported that aliyah from Britain to Israel was up by 25%, North-West Friends of Netanyahu proudly posted the news with the addition ‘#BDSfail’. No, aliyah – the emigration of Zionist Jews from the diaspora to Israel – is not a #BDSfail. If anything it is a #BDSnonstarter.

Said maniacal fringes have even taken to branding their own events, for their own members, as magnificient #BDSfails in and of themselves.

Obviously the BDS movement is anti-Israel and thus in one sense the continued existence of Israel, along with all things connected with and incidental to it, is a #BDSfail. So, yes, technically, when President Obama visited Tel Aviv it was a #BDSfail. And when Jon Bon Jovi performed in Jerusalem it was a #BDSfail. And Intel’s recent $10bn investment in Israel was a #massiveBDSfail.

But equally, then, when Ady, 24, from Haifa, bought an orange from her local grocery it was a #BDSfail. When Matan, 26, from Eilat hugged his mum it was a #BDSfail. When Binyamin, 66, from Tel Aviv was voted into office by his fellow Israelis that was a #BDSfail. OK, OK, we get the gist of it. Move on, preferably getting a pretty significant and much-needed grip in the process.

I don’t tweet #theftfail or #murderfail every time somebody doesn’t mug me or kill me. I certainly don’t tweet #magicaltransformationfail every time I get through another day without being turned into a frog. These ‘successes’ of mine are to be expected and are so totally negligible that if I were genuinely gleeful about them it would say something most worrying about me.

Similarly, the fact that the overwhelming majority of the human race does not form part of the tiny, ignorant niche which believes blanket national boycotts to be a sensible way of promoting peace, is not a surprise and not worth commenting on.

Highlighting the BDS movement’s many failures – or if using the overbroad definition of ‘anything to do with Israel’, the BDS movement’s literally endless and infinite failures – only serves to draw attention to it and give it the oxygen of publicity.

A recent opinion poll found that only 12% of British people support boycotts of Israel. This finding was proudly presented in the Jewish Chronicle with the headline, “You might be surprised!”

Yes, we blooming well ‘might be surprised’, but only because your newspaper has spent what feels like most of the last decade telling us that BDS is an unstoppable menace reminiscent of the worst excesses of Nazi GermanyObviously BDS is a fringe, extreme nonsense. The sole reason anyone might have for thinking otherwise is your hyperbolic so-called journalism, O Chronicle.

The typical obsessed hasbaranik, caught up in their fanatical quest to present the BDS movement as both (1) a total flop and (2) a serious threat, neglects to clock the obvious self-contradiction.

When the British government announced plans to prevent local councils from boycotting Israel (a slightly deceptive announcement since such boycotts had always been banned until the Conservative-led coalition legalised them in 2011), the Friends of Israel groups were so enormously excited that they let forth a volley of tweets – you could practically hear their whoops of delight – taunting every known pro-Palestinian in the land, “How does it feel to fail?”

Perhaps a better question would have been, “How does it feel to be trapped in a primary school playground?” but aside from the puerile nature of the gibe, the contradiction is still there: if the banning of BDS is a failure for the movement, surely it had been successful up until that point? That, after all, is the only reason to ban something (albeit a very poor reason). Nobody is calling for boycotts of Sweden to be banned – because that movement has no traction whatsoever.

In fact, the BDS movement is a total flop and has always been a total flop. It is not a threat and has never been a threat. Comparing it to the ‘Achtung Juden’ campaigns of the 1930s isn’t just offensive, it overhypes it and smacks of a worrying paranoia.

And so does the Twittersphere’s distasteful #BDSfail schadenfreude at even the smallest setback for boycotts – such as the very existence of aliyah.

#BDSfails are to be expected. They are the normal, sane, rational, moral default. Don’t take pathetic glee at the default, or people might start questioning it.

About the Author
Gabriel Webber is a rabbinic student at Leo Baeck College, London