It’s not clear that a reality show like BDS which refuses to shut up or get off the stage can ever be cancelled. But if recent shenanigans at Harvard Law School are any indication, the “movement” is already way past jumping the shark.
With the disruption of Israeli speakers now considered a “free-speech” right of anti-Israel activists, it was just a matter of time before the unwillingness to hold protestors accountable led to a feeling of invulnerability. And, as we’ve all learned watching the BDSers’ erratic behavior over the last decade and a half, a sense of invulnerability inevitably leads to self-destructive lunacy.
In this case, the lunatic behavior was provided by second year Harvard Law student Husam El-Qoulaq who – lacking a mob to shut down Israeli political leader Tzipi Livni when she spoke at the school – dazzled the audience (now the world) with his ingenious repartee by asking the Israeli why she was “so smelly.”
Apparently, Mr. El-Qoulaq managed to get through four years at Berkeley and now two-years at Harvard – much of it spent obsessed with Jews and Israel – without realizing that “smelly Jew” is a bigoted slur right up there with “shifty negro” or “lippy broad.” If this weren’t bad enough, he also managed to get through a dozen years of primary and secondary school without learning that he shouldn’t act like a five-year-old in front of grown-ups.
But wait! There’s more!
In a move that demonstrates the difference between what happens when bigoted remarks are directed against a Jew vs. any other minority on college campuses today, Harvard Law School decided to issue a statement condemning El-Qoulaq’s atrocious behavior without calling him out by name. In fact, the school edited the incident out of a video of the event they posted on YouTube and refused to divulge the name of Mr. You-Smell! for several days (no doubt trying to protect him from the consequences of his action).
As it turned out, it wasn’t difficult for Internet-dwellers to discover the name Harvard tried to keep under wraps. For Mr. El-Qoulaq had left quite an online paper trail as a leader in the BDS “movement,” both at Berkeley and now at Harvard. Despite best efforts to wipe away that paper trail by deleting every account and web site featuring his name and track record as a BDS activist, Net-activists – including the folks at Canary Mission – were able to “out” him in days.
Putting aside my mixed feelings towards Internet mob-shaming in general and Canary Mission in particular, it strikes me that had El-Qoulaq come clean immediately and sincerely apologized for his gross behavior and anti-Semitic commentary, that shaming rituals would either not have been needed or might have backfired.
Instead, abetted by Harvard, he tried to keep his identity a secret. And, in the second-most ludicrous document generated during this whole absurd episode, he made one of those “I’m sorry my calling a Jew smelly was misinterpreted” pseudo-apologies which included an invitation to reach out to him despite his having gone to ground.
And what’s the most absurd thing to come out of this incident, I hear you cry out?
That award goes to this letter published by eleven “Jewish students and recent alumni of Harvard Law School” who sent it to Harvard Law Record in order to “write in support of our friend and peer Husam El-Qoulaq, and to condemn the efforts we’ve seen to defame his character.”
In addition to the usual tropes one expects in such an AsaJew missive: Cast Lead! War Crimes! “condemned by the U.N. and other credible organizations” (!), the key arguments his defenders present seem to include:
- The whole “you smell” directed at a Jew thing should be seen as a mischievous joke (maybe a pun or palindrome?) that is in no way akin to a bigot saying a Jew smells
- El-Qoulaq publically accused a Palestinian who doesn’t hate Israel of also being smelly, so he should be seen as equal-opportunity critic of odiferous opponents (unfortunately, this one doesn’t help against those accusing him of acting like a misbehaving five-year-old)
- This whole controversy involves insincere accusations of anti-Semitism cooked up to defame and silence a brave peace warrior because: you’re a racist!
- We’re Jews, and thus you must accept what we say when we declare our friend “Not guilty.”
Before leaving that last bullet point, I’ve been told that not everyone on the list of signatories is actually Jewish which, if true, would make their self-description as “Jewish students and recent alumni of Harvard Law School” the most beautiful piece of BDS-speak yet. (We said “Jewish students” and alumni, but we never said the alumni were also Jewish!)
Getting back to my original point, only a “movement” that feels invulnerable to consequences, one which looks only to the like-minded to confirm what is and is not appropriate would even think that acting in such rude, vulgar, ridiculous ways represents anything other than foolishness harnessed to fanaticism. But this is what passes for political theory and rhetoric these days in the land of BDS. Pity it’s the rest of us who have to pay the price for history’s most vicious and brutal case of political self-indulgence.