Do You Truly Love Israel, Or do You Just Want to be ‘Right’?

March 11, 2013 12:01 am 2 comments

A shopping mall in Gaza.

Next time you take part in a debate about the Israeli-Palestinian situation, here’s how to spot the people who care more about point-scoring than progress: they will be the ones saying Israel does nothing right, and also the ones saying that Israel does nothing wrong.

I love Israel. I love her scenery, culture and food. Most of all, I love the vigor, innovation and loving forthrightness of her people. I think Israel’s supporters in the UK could do with more of these qualities. The Zionist Federation’s almost prehistorically boorish rejection of grass-roots advocacy group Yachad as an affiliate member exemplifies how far we can grow as a movement.

Many hasbara (Israel advocacy) clichés have become counter-productive. For instance, the claim that “the IDF is the most moral army in the world”. It may be true, but it is surely a nebulous contention unless you can prove you have measured the Israeli army’s ethos and record against those of every army in the world. In what specific ways does it trump the armies of, say, Panama and San Marino?

A new favorite is to claim that Gaza is a holiday camp, bursting with luxury swimming pools and decadent shopping malls. The same few photographs are re-posted across blogs and social networks to “prove” that talk of a humanitarian crisis is a con.

There is horrific suffering in Gaza. Selective photographs uploaded from the comfort of British living rooms cannot conceal that. By all means point to Hamas’s responsibility for the squalor but, by denying obvious truths, you lose the hearts and minds of any reasonable person. Similarly, the sweeping claim that every Palestinian who left in 1948 did so happily is as ridiculous as contending they were all driven out.

These topics are handled more honestly in Israel. Even among the most hawkish of my Israeli friends, debate is frank. People speak from experience more than ideology and fearlessly concede that their government has made mistakes. A case in point: British anti-Israel campaigners are denounced for saying Israel will have to choose between being a democracy or an apartheid state if it remains in the West Bank. Yet countless Israelis, including former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, make the same prediction. Whether one agrees or not — and I’m not sure it’s that simple — the messaging is discordant.

What are we afraid of? Sometimes it seems that we don’t have enough confidence in the truth and think spin will be more effective. But in the advocacy I’ve done in schools and universities, polished arguments have been a hindrance, while simple truths, delivered from the heart, have won.

Before I spent much time in Israel, I parroted the line that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East”. Now with some experience, I find it far more effective to share stories. At Eton, I told pupils about a gay Israeli Arab I interviewed, and how he looked directly at me as he said his trips to Tel Aviv had saved his life and given him hope. He cried as he revealed how close he’d come to killing himself and how even as an Arab he knew it was the acceptance he’d experienced as part of Israeli culture that had given him the strength to turn his life around. These kind of stories are more powerful than any sloganeering.

Like the Israeli people, we shouldn’t be afraid of admitting Israel’s mistakes and imperfections. A robotic defense of every government action — past, present, or potentially future — only convinces people that we’re too partisan to have a real debate. We present ourselves as either fools or liars, and that hardens people against us.

Even worse, there are people who could offer nuanced and effective contributions in support of Israel but who are staying away from debates because they don’t want to be shouted down by the usual suspects on both sides who don’t care about Israel or the Palestinians as much as boorishly trading well-worn arguments.

I’ve certainly been guilty of the mistakes I’ve outlined, and there are plenty of Zionists who are far more effective at the good stuff than me. We can all do better. As we watch Israel’s international image sink almost out of sight, will we try new ideas, or will we wave it off with one last shriek of: “But… Sharon withdrew from Gaza in 2005”?

This article was originally published by the Jewish Chronicle. Visit Chas’s blog here.

2 Comments

  • PINKWASHING!!!

    “A new study presented in Tel Aviv this week indicates a disproportionately high number of suicide attempts by gay teens in Israel, especially among those who consider themselves religious.

    While 3.5% of the 1,134 respondents (637 Jews and 497 Arabs) said they had tried to take their own life, that number skyrocketed to 20% for LGBT youth—112 times the rate of the general population. But the percentage among religious Jewish gays was even higher: “This is a sector that does not get enough notice, and it is a hotbed for suicides that you later hear about after the fact,” concludes the study’s author, Dr. Chana Bar Yosef. “The suicide rate among religious homosexuals is the highest because they experience more distress when confronting their families.”

    Full story here: http://www.queerty.com/study-suicide-crisis-among-religious-gay-teens-in-israel-20120907/#ixzz2NLBa9c9g
    Read more at http://www.queerty.com/study-suicide-crisis-among-religious-gay-teens-in-israel-20120907/#s9jbZDO4RPJ48aDg.99

  • Funny how textbook liberals, like Mr. Burden, have such a hard time understanding that on the battlefield all rules change. When the enemy is firing rockets at you it is useless, idiotic, to discuss social, political, and moral issues. Read the PLO, Hamas, and Hezollah Charters, then Choose a side and shut the hell up. They declared war, not Israel. And stop feeling guilty about wanting to survive. It’s Neurotic.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.