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November 11, 2015 7:28 am

How to Win a Debate With an Israel-Hater (REVIEW)

avatar by Michael Lumish

Email a copy of "How to Win a Debate With an Israel-Hater (REVIEW)" to a friend
The cover of 'Winning a Debate with an Israel-Hater. Photo:  Amazon.

The cover of ‘Winning a Debate with an Israel-Hater.’ Photo: Amazon.

Despite Michael Harris’ substantial previous work as a pro-Israel advocate — including lectures, panel discussions, media appearances and work with Stand With Us — his new book, Winning a Debate With an Israel-Hater, is probably his most significant contribution to Israel advocacy. The book is concise, often funny, and I would not send a Jewish student off to university without a copy in his or her backpack.

The primary virtue of the book is that Harris manages with humor and concision to cover the key arguments made by what he calls People with Israel Derangement Syndrome (PIDS). Whether it is the bogus “Israel apartheid” slander or hypocritical BDS moral posturing, or the cynical “right of return” tactic, Harris efficiently outlines the case against the PIDS’ attempts to defame the lone, sole Jewish state. He also makes sliced deli ham out of anti-Israel “experts” like Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe and John Meirsheimer, among others.

Harris provides a number of positive suggestions for both action and analysis. His proposals for action are standard. Write a letter to the editor, join local pro-Israel organizations like Stand With Us, join the buycott and purchase goods manufactured in Israel, and so forth.

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From the analytical end, he recommends, for example, using Natan Sharansky’s 3-D Test to determine if an argument against Israel is antisemitic; that is, is Israel held to a double-standard or subject to demonization or delegitimization?  If the answer is “yes,” then the argument is antisemitic. However, and rightly in my view, Harris warns against flinging around charges of antisemitism as if they are confettim because doing so will likely backfire among the very people that pro-Israel/pro-Jewish people should be trying to reach.

Harris is not trying to reach anti-Zionists, whom he recognizes are often beyond rational discussion, but the regular onlookers who do not necessarily have a dog in the fight. The fundamental idea is that the good guys will carry the day among regular folk if they argue for a peaceful conclusion of hostilities within the framework of a negotiated two-state solution. This is true because, ultimately, antisemitic anti-Zionists wish to see the elimination of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people and that must be pointed out.

When framed in such a manner, most regular Americans — if not your average European — will recognize that the pro-Israel side is the side of justice, while the anti-Zionist side is the side of at best ignorance, and at worst, genocidal malice.

This, however, brings me to my problem with the book.

Harris insists that if we want to win the debate with Israel-haters in the eyes of regular, moderate friends and neighbors, then we must make the moderate argument, which Harris argues, is the case for the two-state solution.

I agree… to an extent. But the problem, as Harris recognizes, is that the Arabs have never shown the slightest inclination toward implementing two states for two peoples within normalized relations and economic cooperation. This is precisely what the Jews have wanted since the beginning of the modern conflict, early in the twentieth-century, and what the Arabs, both citizenry and governments, have always rejected and continue to reject.

Concerning the two-state solution, Harris writes:

…this is the solution toward which we will be heading, however slowly and fitfully, if and only if the Palestinian leadership ever decides that having a Palestinian state is more important than working for the elimination of Israel.

Precisely… if and only if. 

However, since the Palestinian-Arabs have never shown the slightest interest in any such thing, it renders the argument in favor of two-states moot. There can be no two-state solution without the cooperation of the Arabs, and since the Arabs do not want two states for two peoples there cannot be two states for two peoples. One can sing the praises of two-states from the hillsides like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, but unless that is what the other side wants, it can never come to be.

Nonetheless, as a pro-Israel primer on the major issues surrounding the conflict, Winning a Debate With an Israel-Hater can sit comfortably on the bookshelf, right next to Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel. Send one to your college kid.

He or she may very well need it.

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  • boat memory

    i would also add in this absurd and endless “argument” against Israel that if the palestinians and the people of israel were in reversed positions, in other words, if the people of israel were without a state, by choice, and surrounded by a dozen or so nations that were entirely jewish in composition, let’s say a billion jewish people, i doubt very seriously there would be much international sympathy for their plight.

    but as it stands, the people of israel are essentially alone in the world, a world that holds no more than 20 million jewish people total–and they live in a world surrounded by at least a billion hostile people who would joyfully push a button to eliminate israel if they had the chance; i mean the demographic numbers alone defy the bullshit argument that israel is the aggressor. israel is surrounded.

    and the jewish people know their history and they will always be hounded and hunted and scapegoated no matter what they do. they know that if they lose even one fight, they lose israel forever. and to me (full disclosure, i am not jewish, but i have a tremendous sympathy and empathy for jewish people and jewish culture and believe they have been hounded and persecuted in the most sickening fashion mainly because of their immense and obvious gifts as a people, their warmth and genius and community and culture–my wife’s father is jewish so my daughter has a jewish grandfather and i am quite proud of this)…

    the pseudo-left constantly attacking israel reveals itself daily as the world’s worst hub of hypocrisy and nasty futility. as for the nazis, well they never really went away. in this world you either stand with or against israel and i personally believe you have to be some kind of neanderthal reactionary to even hesitate to stand with israel.

    well, here’s at least one goy that will always remain loyal to the cause of israel and the jewish people worldwide. you are a great people and you have led civilization and given the world so much–I AM WITH YOU straight down the line. and to the ridiculous critics, i suggest you put down your new york times and your counterpunch and take a good long look at the world and the people in the world and consider who has done what in world history. do you stand with civilization, or do prefer hate?

    again and again, i say loudly and clearly, here’s to israel!

  • Wow, someone else who thinks the Israel dialogue is sorely in need of apply humor and satire to the Israel dialogue!

    I wonder what he would think of Chelm-on-the-Med Online (OK, I started this website of zany news from Israel 7 years ago). To clarify: The Chelm Project reports the wildest and wackiest news stories ‘hiding’ in the Hebrew press.

    In many cases it’s a war of images – and we need to do two things 1) abandon the lectern and hit the streets with equally impressive images a) they have ‘play soldiers’ harassing innocents at a mock roadblock? Add ‘kids’ with pipe bombs or knives in their school satchels and pregnant women laying in mock ambulances with suicide belts under them…and accompany this with placards of the actual media reports. Add some sobering statistics of Israeli fatalities before the ‘Wall’ and after – matched by a per capita (times 40) equivalent if this was the USA… b) I’d wager that many of the wild and wacky stories I report could be weaved into serious advocacy. If you don’t believe me, check them out. They not only lighten the exchange; they leave indelible impressions. Check them out at http://www.chelm-on-the-med.com.

  • Sherlock Holmes

    PM Barak and PM Olmerte each made Arafat an opffer no realistic leader could reject — but Arafat demanded the right of return for about four million hostile Arabs, return to Israel, NOT to Palestine! The Arab world sees the splitting of ‘Palestine into two states as a step toward the destruction of Israel. Few people who see Israel as Goliath crushing the David-like Palestinians, is likely to recognise that Israel is about the size of Wales or New Jersey and about ten miles wide at its narrowest point. The Arab states surrounding Israel are significantly larger in size and population, but this is not the media image.

  • Cember

    Mr. Harris’ advocacy for a two-state solution is fine. The problem is advocating a NEGOTIATED solution. Since the basic Zionist ideal of a democratic, Jewish majority state is both non-negotiable and in direct conflict with the basic, non-negotiable Arab requirement of the right of return to their families’ former homes, there is no common ground to find via negotiation.

    Any two-state solution must therefore be imposed. Israel is the only entity with both the political will and the military ability to use the force needed to impose it. She must now find the political will to clearly and openly propose the final parameters of the the solution.

  • Mike P.

    Dan, we mustn’t tell those with fragile egos and those who are narcissists (the Left) that Israel has never had a dance partner for a two-state solution. This would burst their bubble and deprive them of their self-righteous indulgences, self-hatred, mea culpas, moral grandstanding, and fantasy of the existence of the noble savage.

    These weak and innocent and narcissistic people (the Left) might then go insane and no longer be able to conduct their daily affairs of teaching, writing news stories, preaching at mainline churches, administrating TV news, acting, organizing, working at NGO’s, and going to protests.

    Of course, we won’t need to worry about the impact on our factories, military, or high tech, namely those who actually make stuff or defend our freedom. They aren’t weak narcissists and don’t depend upon soapboxes, self-blame or fantasies to get through the day, since they are people of substance.

    • boat memory

      i would also add in this absurd and endless “argument” against Israel that if the palestinians and the people of israel were in reversed positions, in other words, if the people of israel were without a state, by choice, and surrounded by a dozen or so nations that were entirely jewish in composition, let’s say a billion jewish people, i doubt very seriously there would be much international sympathy for their plight.

      but as it stands, the people of israel are essentially alone in the world, a world that holds no more than 20 million jewish people total–and they live in a world surrounded by at least a billion hostile people who would joyfully push a button to eliminate israel if they had the chance; i mean the demographic numbers alone defy the bullshit argument that israel is the aggressor. israel is surrounded.

      and the jewish people know their history and they will always be hounded and hunted and scapegoated no matter what they do. they know that if they lose even one fight, they lose israel forever. (full disclosure, i am not jewish, but i have a tremendous sympathy and empathy for jewish people and jewish culture and believe they have been hounded and persecuted in the most sickening fashion mainly because of their immense and obvious gifts as a people, their warmth and genius and community and culture–my wife’s father is jewish so my daughter has a jewish grandfather and i am quite proud of this)…

      the clowns of the pseudo-left –these people are not truly progressive or leftwing, but they style themselves thus, as in establishment stooge noam chomsky–these clowns, constantly attacking israel, reveal themselves daily as the world’s worst hub of hypocrisy and nasty futility. as for the hardcore nazi types, well they never really went away. but it is all quite simple, in this world you either stand with or against israel and i personally believe you have to be some kind of neanderthal reactionary to even hesitate to stand with israel. no matter what leadership changes exist. israel one of history’s most important and beautiful projects.

      well, here’s at least one goy that will always remain loyal to the cause of israel and the jewish people worldwide. you are a great people and you have led civilization and given the world so much–I AM WITH YOU straight down the line. and to the ridiculous critics, i suggest you put down your new york times and your counterpunch and take a good long look at the world and the people in the world and consider who has done what in world history. do you stand with civilization, or do prefer hate?

      again and again, i say loudly and clearly, here’s to israel!

      • boat memory

        sorry about the double print…unable to figure out how to edit my comment.

  • anon

    I win every argument at which point the other party says, “Sure change the subject” (from apartheid, murder, torture of Palestinians, and baby-killing). Or they say, “Hasbara”.

    They are in the BDS-bubble.

  • Alexi

    Nice one Mike. Maybe we should send copies to the Obama admin. for FACTS and Israeli representatives for coaching!

  • Wallace Edward Brand

    David Abel is right. It IS high time the ownership of the Jewish People to the collective political rights to self-determination in Palestine west of the Jordan River is recognized. See the proposal that the United States made at the Paris Peace talks that was adopted at San Remo and incorporated in the Palestine Mandate, a trust document. These rights have now vested.
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/17872#.VkSWeIRRA_s
    The British adopted the same view in its explanation of the Balfour Declaration in the memo of the British Foreign Office on December19, 1917. This explanation was in the month following the publication of that Declaration.

  • Where can I buy it?

    • Rebecca T

      Its available on amazon, in both a Kindle and a print version

  • David Abel

    Agreed!

    I would add: recognizing that the REALITY that the Israel/Palestinian conflict is nothing less than a full blown spiritual war in which one side (Hamas & CO)totally rejects the rights of the other side (Jewish state), it is high time that advocates for Israel also begin stressing the JEWISH RIGHTS to Judea & Samaria (the Jewish heartland).

  • Dan

    Yes — “It takes two to tango.” Too bad that groups like
    Peace Now (“Peace for our time” in even more of a hurry)
    don’t realize that Israel has never had a dance partner.

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