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August 15, 2016 1:07 pm

Delegitimization Fighter Provides Pointers to Israeli Travelers Encountering Anti-Zionist Protests Abroad

avatar by Ruthie Blum

A protest in Melbourne against the war in Gaza in 2009.

A protest in Melbourne against the war in Gaza in 2009.

Israeli travelers, increasingly encountering anti-Zionist protests while vacationing abroad, would be well-advised to be prepared, an activist fighting the delegitimization of the Jewish state wrote on Sunday.

In his blog for Israel’s Channel 2, director of Israeli Students Combating Antisemitism Ido Daniel provided pointers on how Israelis should respond when coming across an unfriendly mob.

“After departing Ben-Gurion Airport and landing safely at the destination of your choice, you now want to walk around and get to know the area. You have put on your sneakers and set out to do this, when —  just as a waft of French pastry fills your nostrils — you hear rhythmic shouting, familiar to you from some clip-gone-viral on Facebook.”

He continued:

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The closer you get to the source of the bedlam, you make out the words being chanted by the crowd: “Free, free Palestine! Free, free Palestine.”

Suddenly you see dozens of anti-Israel activists waving green-and-red flags and holding signs denouncing Israel. What can you, as Israelis who believe in the right of your state to exist, do in such a situation?

Daniel proposed a number of options.

First and foremost, he wrote, “Pay attention to your surroundings. Not every anti-Israel demonstration is the same. Some can be very small and calm… and others can be more massive and vocal. The greater the number of protesters, the greater the chance that less-than-nice people will be joining.”

Daniel said that whenever he comes across protests abroad, he approaches activists as though he were an innocent passer-by curious about their cause.

“You would not believe what one can hear from activists during relaxed conversations in the middle of the street,” he wrote. “In most cases, the arguments you’ll hear will be full of slogans and words like ‘apartheid,’ ‘fascism’ and ‘genocide’ — spiced with utter ignorance about the goings-on in the Middle East.”

Daniel suggested that such events be taken as opportunities to become familiar with false claims, so as to be able to refute them. However, he stressed, “No pro-Israel argument, as important as it might be, is worth your involvement in a violent incident.”

He then went on to give tips on the tone to use with a person engaged in delegitimization — someone who likely never met an Israeli in his life.

“Try to steer him into reality. The wars of the Shiites and Sunnis, for example, claim the lives of hundreds of victims every month. The Iran-Iraq War alone was responsible for more than a million casualties on both sides. As of 2015, approximately a quarter of a million people have been killed in the civil war in Syria, and it is far from over. Whereas in Israel, approximately 91,000 Arabs have been killed in all of the wars put together — wars the vast majority of which were initiated by Arab states against Israel. Palestinian casualties are in the single thousands. Though each person is a world unto himself and all conflicts are tragic, a little perspective is warranted…”

Try also, he wrote, “to share aspects of Israeli life other than the security situation. Here, your anger at the high cost of living might arouse human interest… as can personal stories, about what it’s like to live a normal life alongside the constant threat of terrorism.”

“Personal stories have the power to break barriers between people everywhere,” he wrote. People abroad, he added, “are still amazed when I tell them about my childhood during the Second Intifada, when I used to sit next to the bus driver on the way to school, so I could warn him if I saw a suspicious person boarding.”

Indeed, wrote Daniel, “Israelis live normal lives in an abnormal reality, and the story of each and every one of you could change the point of view of someone with whom you’re conversing.”

His final piece of advice was: “Be yourselves. It is possible you will persuade the other side of the justification of your position and it is possible you won’t. But your greatest achievement is planting doubt in the minds of those you meet, as well as others who might have been listening from the sidelines. Perception doesn’t change overnight; it is an ongoing process. Do not underestimate your ability to contribute to this process, even among the most stubborn activists…”

Daniel wrote that, according to a report released this week by the Israel Airports Authority, during July this year, nearly 2 million passengers travelled out of the country from Ben-Gurion Airport – a 9% rise from the same month last year. It is estimated that, by the end of the summer, four million passengers — some 85,000 per day — will have done so.

During the summer of 2014, Daniel wrote — at the height of Operation Protective Edge (Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza) — anti-Israel activity in Europe and elsewhere was extreme. And though “protests of that degree are not being held at the moment, anti-Israel activity is a permanent fixture in dozens of locations across the world.”

He concluded: “As you know, the anti-Israel circus never needed an operation in Gaza or any other excuse to justify its existence.”

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