Here’s what I believe:
1. Bibi is corrupt. He is not a partner for peace and any hope for a two-state solution revolves around him not being in power. Biden’s embrace of him was a mistake. Any policy we make should be contingent on him being out of power. Bibi had no qualms interfering in our politics to scuttle the Iran deal and to hurt Biden in 2020, we should have no qualms supporting someone else.
2. I don’t think our aid should be unconditional. Aid to Israel should be contingent on a legitimate commitment to a two-state solution and an ACTUAL withdrawal from the West Bank.
These are not the views of someone who is an Israeli militant or hates Palestinians. These are tough, but fair, approaches. Yet it seems impossible to get into a conversation about Israeli policy without it veering off into me sounding like a right-wing Bibi apologist.
I don’t think I’m an aberration among Jews.
I remember Hasan Abi reacting to this video. Acting in the way most “reactors” with a grind behave. He would listen to a sentence, insult what the guy had to say, go to the next sentence on and on ad nauseum. This is tedious and annoying. I’ll admit I didn’t listen to much as his reaction to the 28-minute video took AN HOUR AND 45 MINUTES AND HOW THE FUCK DO PEOPLE EVEN HAVE TIME FOR THIS NONSENSE?!?
Aside from basically heckling the creator for almost two hours, he also didn’t link to the video which he was “reacting” to. Making it difficult for people to decide for themselves and stealing his content without giving him the chance for monetization and making me waste valuable time finding the original video. So, Hasan’s a dick. In case there’s any doubt, if the creator does a “reaction to his reaction” and doesn’t link to Hasan, I’ll certainly say the same of him.
However, of the small amount I could listen to there was an interesting part. In it, Hasan dismissed the creator as lying when he said he did not support Netanyahu. He went on to say something like, “That’s what they always say”. As if to say that people who say that are automatically lying.
But the descriptor “Pro Israel, anti-Bibi” perfectly describes me, just as “Pro USA anti-Trump” perfectly describes me and 99 % of Daily Kos.
The fact that Hasan admits to “always” hearing that and has never asked the obvious follow up question, “In what ways do you disagree with Bibi?” shows that Hasan is much more interested in heckling than dialogue. Somehow his video got 1.5 million views so obviously I know nothing about creating content people want to see as I’d rather have my testicles stretched over my head than watch that for two hours. To me, a FAR more interesting video would have been for him to offer a dialogue as to how Bibi’s policies are awful and how best to replace them and get rid of him as a leader.
Yet, if he’s “always hearing that” shouldn’t he wonder if his rhetoric is causing people to have that reaction? I truly despise Trump. So, if I ever find myself now or in the future defending Trump it’ll be something like:
Mr. Strawman: “Trump is worse than Hitler!”
Me: “What? No, he’s not!”.
Mr. Strawman: “Trump apologist!”
The problem MAY be your rhetoric, not me being a Trump apologist.
There is a sizeable contingent of “Anti-Bibi, pro-Israel” people. Possibly most Jews in the United States and Israel fit that description. They CAN be spoken with. They’re not being spoken with because people are stuck in “Worse than Hitler” inanities that make people critical of Israel’s policies, but in favor of Israel’s existence get defensive.
So, if you REALLY want to have a dialogue rather than a mindless argument, here are some suggestions:
1. Acknowledge Israel, and many Jews, are in pain. 10/7 was a horrible offense, FAR worse in the psyche of Israel then 911 was in the psyche of the USA and 10/7 was just a little over a month ago. The pain is still VERY raw. Yes, the casualties were lower, but 1,200 people in a country of just 10 million is equivalent to over 40,000 in a country of 330 million. A month and a half after 9/11 how receptive would you be to someone saying, “Osama really had a lot of good points, you know”? So, if your opening to a dialogue is something akin to “I condemn 10/7 but…” or even worse “Israel had it coming because of…” or worst of all “When has Israel minded children dying?” You may as well stop there. Any chance of constructive conversation has come to an end. You’re just being a troll.
The obvious follow up, “Palestinians are in pain too” is completely valid. While I am in favor of military action to stop Hamas, I’m willing to hear alternatives providing you acknowledge the pain of Israel and that SOME step should be taken to ensure that it won’t happen again. Obviously, if I can stop future occurrences without death, or with considerably less death, I would choose to do so.
2. Don’t use the word genocide. Just don’t. Maybe you REALLY want to use the word because the irony that people who are among the biggest victims of genocide are now the perpetrators of it tickles you. However, this fact is precisely why you shouldn’t use that term. We’re incredibly sensitive to it. The accusation is painful and you’re going to get an extreme pushback.
Israel has legitimate military goals, none of which are the complete destruction of the Palestinian people. To dismantle Hamas tunnels, wipe out command infrastructure and take their weapons to prevent another 10/7 (which Hamas has vowed to repeat). We had similar goals in Afghanistan after 9/11 and we killed over 75 thousand Afghans in our failed attempt at accomplishing this. Despite the FAR greater casualties (let’s not even get started on the more than a million Iraqis we killed for reasons no one can explain) I NEVER heard the term genocide. People were able to articulate opposition to that war without going there. We should be able to question whether Israel's goals are appropriate or whether they’re going about obtaining those goals in a proper way that will mitigate civilian casualties without pretending that their goal is genocide.
Plus, there are atrocities taking place, not just in the world, but in that very region, and not just in the distant past but right now, that are far worse. The Syrian civil War has claimed half a million lives and it’s believed Turkey has wiped out more than a hundred thousand Kurds. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone describing these events as genocide. The ENTIRE death rate of Palestine AND Israel’s 75-year struggle is STILL less than JUST the casualties we inflicted in Afghanistan. And, of course, far less than we inflicted on Iraq. We, rightly, opposed those policies without using that word. Jews have a right to wonder why that phrase is applied to them and not other, worse actors. Fair or not, many, if not most, will attribute that discrepancy to antisemitism.
3. Avoid arguing on whether Israel has a right to exist and just accept the fact that it’s here and not going anywhere.
I’m reminded of a passage in one of Douglas Adam’s books in which it was argued that a translator fish- a fish people put in their ears that masticated words in different language and defecated them into one’s native language proved that God didn’t exist. It went something like:
Since the translator fish is such a Perfect creation it HAD to have been created by a divine being!
However, since God is dependent on faith to exist and since this is iron-clad proof of God’s existence, God can therefore not exist.
“Oh”, says God and disappears in a puff of logic.
I KNOW that the US was founded on stolen land from Native Americans. Saying the USA should not exist isn’t really a good argument when it comes to talking about US policy towards native Americans. The inevitable next question is, “Ok, and?” If you use that fact to say NA deserves better treatment, fine. If you’re saying that I should get on the Santa Maria and return to Spain, that ship has, unfortunately, sailed.
I truly believe this is NOT the case with Israel. I believe there has been a Jewish presence in Israel going back thousands of years and that the partition of land made by the UN in 1948 was based on existing Arab and Jewish communities that were founded on existing tribes and Jewish land purchases going back since at least 1917. But let’s say I’m wrong, and the Jews, who didn’t even have a country or army prior to 1948 were somehow a colonial power. And you spend hours convincing me of your great overwhelming truth. Then what? Does Israel disappear in a puff of logic? No, all you’ve accomplished is sticking it to the Zionist with your great overwhelming truth! That and wasting your time and mine. Israel is not going anywhere. Saying it shouldn’t be there in the first place does nothing for anyone. It’s just going to create an argument, not a dialogue. Which brings us to my next point.
4. Stop using Zionist as an epithet. If you say the tired phrase “I’m anti-Zionist not Antisemite”, what most Jews hear is “I’m not racist, but…”
When you use Zionist as an epithet or dismiss the desire for a Jewish state as some kind of religious mumbo-jumbo based upon superstitions from a two-thousand-year-old book you’re throwing the Holocaust, blood libels, Russian and Arab Pogroms down the memory hole. Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, was certainly no religious nut. In fact, many believe he was an atheist.
Regardless, his desire for a Jewish State came from his fear that there would be another massive execution of Jews. Unfortunately, about thirty years after his death, Hitler came to power proving those fears prophetic.
If you dismiss Zionism as religious mumbo jumbo, or people feeling entitled to land based on racialism, you’re engaging in, if not a form of Holocaust denial, certainly a form of Jewish persecution denial. Zionism is, by definition, the belief that Jews have a right to their own state. It’s a belief founded on an undeniable history of persecution going back thousands of years.
Right or wrong, Israel IS that Jewish state. Many Jews, particularly now with antisemitism seemingly running rampant on Twitter, in Russia and in the halls of Congress won’t be persuaded that the fear that made us want Israel is no longer valid. If you say “I’m just antizionist” we, rightly or wrongly, take that as antisemitic as you’re denying a persecuted people a right to a homeland where they can defend themselves. Even if you win the argument that Zionism is bad, Israel will not disappear in a puff of logic.
If you’re constantly fighting with people who claim to be Anti Netanyahu, then maybe you should look inward at how you’re engaging.
The phrase “I’m not a racist but…” is, rightly, looked at as funny. But if you’re having conversations about race in a normal way you should only hear that occasionally and only from, well, racists. If you’re hearing that every time, maybe you shouldn’t start all conversations about race with, “Why are you such a racist?”
Likewise, if you’re constantly hearing defenses of Israel from people claiming to be against the Israeli government, maybe you shouldn’t start the conversation with “Why are you such a genocidal Zionist?”