Reader Post: How To Debate Anti-Zionists – From a Progressive/Left Wing Perspective

debateOver the years, Israel advocacy has had more than its fair share of peaks and valleys. Although Israel has millions of supporters all over the world, it has just as many enemies (if not more). In particular, we seem to have a lot of trouble convincing the Western left of the merits and justice of our cause. With this guide, I’ve set out to rectify the problem. These steps should help you become a better advocate for Israel, especially when debating with anti-Zionists on the left. Here we go…

Step 1. NEVER use the Bible (or any religious text) in an argument. This should already be self-evident. Arguments based on the Bible might work on hardcore devout Christians, but everybody else will simply point and laugh. Atheists and leftists in particular will mock you. Even if you earnestly believe that the Bible is the “word of God”, don’t do it. You will only be harming our cause when you do. Same rules apply for using the Torah or the Qu’ran. Furthermore, we don’t NEED the Bible to make our case. We already have a valid indigenous claim based on history (REAL history), archaeology, identity, culture, genetics, and most importantly, international law. Jews meet all of the criteria for indigenous status adduced by Jose R. Martinez Cobo, whose definition is still used by indigenous rights activists and anthropologists alike to this day. These are cold, hard facts that do NOT make recourse to the Bible. Use them instead.

Step 2. Always use reliable sources. No Wikipedia articles, no tabloids, no right wing/partisan media sources (e.g. FOX News). Use Youtube videos sparingly, and with an eye for quality and reliability. Times of Israel, YNet, and JPost are all fine, since they are usually objective and accurate. Outside of that, don’t cite anything that you would not give to your professor in a research paper. If an opponent uses Electronic Intifada, If Americans Knew, Mondoweiss, AlterNet, PressTV, Salon, Rense, or any other highly biased (and often antisemitic) tabloid news source, feel free to shame the hell out of them for insulting your intelligence. If they cite a mainstream media source that has a documented history of dishonest/skewed reporting or outright anti-Israel agitation (e.g. the Guardian, BBC, al Jazeera, etc), point out their poor track record and cite examples. If they use “good Jews” (read: anti-Zionists) like Anna Baltzer, Miko Peled, Ilan Pappe, or Neturei Karta/Satmar, they are engaging in racist tokenization, so take the kiddie gloves off and let ‘em have it!

Step 3. Be careful with the “diversity” argument. It is easy to see why this point is so popular with Israel advocates. It puts a huge gaping hole through the “apartheid” smear, therefore it can be extremely effective, but only when it’s used correctly. It does come with a number of significant risks. Even though the majority of our people were dispersed to all 4 corners of the globe after the Roman colonists came, and underwent varying degrees of admixture during their travels, we are (and remain) a Semitic Middle Eastern people indigenous to the Fertile Crescent. In this sense, we are not “diverse” at all, because we’re still part of the same ethnic group. The diversity argument should remain limited to non-Jews living in Israel (and there ARE plenty), lest you run the risk of implying that Jews are really aboriginal to their former host countries and not Eretz Yisra’el, inadvertently lending support to the “settler colonialism” narrative against Israel. This is especially important with regards to Ashkenazi Jews i.e. Jews who settled in Central/Eastern Europe after their expulsion from Israel. They are the focal point and chief target of the anti-Israel campaign, not only because they lived in Europe until recent times, but also because the Jewish population of Mandate Palestine was overwhelmingly Ashkenazi prior to and during the 1948 war. These two factors are what allow Palestinians and their allies to draw a false link between Israel’s rebirth and European settlers/colonies throughout the rest of the world, thereby painting Israel’s War of Independence as a “crime” and a historic injustice that must be rectified (with Israel’s destruction). If this narrative becomes widely accepted as truth, it will not matter how many Ethiopian Jews win “Miss Israel”, or how many Arabs serve in the IDF. They won’t care how open and tolerant Israel is when they don’t even believe it should exist in the first place. So it is absolutely imperative to let people know that our claims to Israel are 100 percent legit, and to do this, you must tell the entire truth. Otherwise, you are only applying bandages to ax wounds i.e. you might stop some of the bleeding, but not all of it. Ashkenazi Jews are not white people, they are not Europeans, they are not Russians, Poles, Germans, Romanians, or Slavs. They are racially/ethnically an indigenous people of the Middle East. Their genome is predominantly Near Eastern (with most of the rest of it coming from converted Greeks and Romans), and virtually indistinguishable (with a few exceptions) from Palestinians and other Levantine Arabs in terms of phenotype (that is, facial features/appearance/skin tone). Don’t let anybody forget this.

Step 4. Don’t be reckless in calling people antisemitic. The majority of BDS supporters you see are not antisemites in the traditional sense. Most of them are just ignorant college students whose world view is limited to the Colbert Report, their professors, friends, or one of the aforementioned news outlets, according to a recent poll. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt. If you come off too aggressively, you will only drive them further into the arms of Arab/Islamic right wingers. Reason with them calmly, show them the facts. Don’t call them antisemitic until it becomes obvious that they are motivated by hatred/dislike of Jews. For example: if they become even more aggressive and more irrational in the face of overwhelming and irrefutable facts, that is a red flag.

Step 5. Don’t make bigoted comments about Arabs or Muslims. This should be obvious. Don’t call Arabs “savages” or “animals”. Don’t call Islam an “inherently evil” religion. Don’t tell Palestinians they are “just Arabs”, or that they belong in Jordan (seriously!). Even if they don’t meet the anthropological criteria for indigenous status, they are still our blood brothers and they still live there legally. It is their home too, and they have just as much right to be there as we do (provided they don’t try to kill, expel, or oppress us).

Step 6. Refute everything they say in minute detail. As tempting as it may be to simply poke one or two holes in an anti-Zionist argument and then leave, it is too risky. If they post a massive wall of text on a message board, dissect the entire post and systematically shoot down every single point they make. Let NONE of the lies stand. Don’t be lazy.

Step 7. Don’t lose your cool in an argument. Israel advocacy is not easy, and you will encounter some very nasty people along the way. This is why it’s important to always remain calm, no matter what. Don’t post multiple exclamation points or question marks. Don’t resort to ad hominem attacks. This will only turn people off.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

About Binyamin Arazi

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  • Shy Guy

    Keep on trying to run away from the Torah. How’s that been working for us all these years? Bad advice from the get go.

    • juvanya

      Hes not saying run from Torah. He says dont use it in arguments with people too thick to get it. Even so, even in Torah times, our ancestors didnt just wave around and pray. They took action, and Hashem was with them.

      • Shy Guy

        Nowhere did I say not to take action. Nowhere.

  • Vlad Tepes

    There is nothing progressive in the left wing. Communism is a tired 200 years old ideology responsible for killing more than 100 million people (at least) and destroying the life of countless others. They keep rebranding themselves, like painting a blood stain on the wall over and over. Their present alliance with the jihadis is very telling.

    “Don’t call Islam an “inherently evil” religion”. Of course not. Just sugarcoating it, calling it the religion of peace – exactly as it was done every day since WW2, with excellent results.

    • Larisa

      Why does left wing have to equal Communist? That really seems like tarring the entire left wing with its most extreme brush.

      • CableLegend

        I think it’s a reaction to some on the left tarring all right of center folk as Nazis and fascists. I’d agree w/ you that such hyperbole and over generalization serves no real purpose, however.

  • Dan Lewis

    I frequently refer to the Koran as it is extremely hostile to the Jews (therefore cannot be dismissed as biased) yet makes no mention whatsoever of Palestinians. It does however refer to Jews in the region (and how they should be killed). That pretty much eradicates any claims to Palestinians historic presence in the area.

    If the Koran doesn’t believe in the Palestinians, why should I?

    • juvanya

      The Koran doesnt mention the French either.

  • werewife

    “Even if they don’t meet the anthropological criteria for indigenous status, they are still our blood brothers and they still live there legally. It is their home too, and they have just as much right to be there as we do (provided they don’t try to kill, expel, or oppress us).” And there, in a nutshell, is the difference between us and them.

    • unpluggged

      To acknowledge Arab rights to the Land is the greatest mistake ever.

      • juvanya

        Its best to sidestep it and emphasize that half the palestinians are not long term residents but recent immigrants. The Arabs that stayed had longer routes. Anyone who might advocate expelling the Druze for example (who might even be Jewish) is an evil person.

  • CableLegend

    Good write up, although in my experience w/ lefties the only book they don’t mock is the Quran. For some reason that is off limits to them, probably as some sort of effort to show they are “inclusive” and not “islamophobes”. It’s open season on the Torah & the Bible though.

  • The Bobcat

    Great guide. I’m a left of center Jew and I endorse this 100%.

  • A F

    “no right wing/partisan media sources (e.g. FOX News)”

    You forgot to caution them about using “LEFT wing/partisan media” sources.

    I know you are writing this from the perspective of a “left wing” but in your caution to avoid partisan sources you make a statement that is itself reflexively partisan.

  • juvanya

    Good stuff. Ive argued for Israel for over 5 years online as both a socialist and now a libertarian. This is pretty much universal stuff for everyone. A line by line refutation can be good, but can also be a waste of time. Sometimes a clever line will knock them out of the park.

    My rules usually are:
    1. Know your topic very well. Read the Myths and Facts page, keep up on stuff with Israellycool, Elder of Ziyon, Camera, and Richard Landes. The way to have the best advantage in war and in arguments is to be more equipped then your enemy.

    2. Quickly determine if you are arguing with an antisemite or an ignoramus. If its an antisemite, theres nothing you can say to change their mind. If an ignoramus, patiently poke holes in their views. Ive seen it done so many times that Ive lost count.

    3. Remember who your audience is. There are dozens of people reading and not commenting or even liking comments. Thats because theyre on the fence or loosely affiliated. Gear your arguments to these people. What that means is that you need to make your opponent look stupid and insane, but dont ever say that they are. SHOW that they are.

    4. If you find an antisemite, drive the off the cliff. Mock them at first, then poke at them, then mess with their heads. Ive had more than a few of these creatures go completely ballistic and start throwing insults in all caps. Its so much fun to do this to people and it will make many more balanced Israel critics take a step back and laugh.

    5. I had a fifth but I forgot it.

  • justinalexander

    Why is Wikipedia off limits?

    • AlexandreM

      Wikipedia is not a core source. If you want to use Wikipedia to research, that’s very fine. But go back to the original sources quoted to make your arguments.

      Remember that anyone can modify a Wikipedia article.

  • Alexi

    Good list. One more thing to keep in mind… MOST OF ALL

    The argument to be WON is the emotional argument. The “facts” put forth are just “cover” by the other side. Their REAL argument is that Jews don’t have the right o be practicing Self Determination at HOME. That’s the crux. It’s ALWAYS the crux. It must ALWAYS LOSE. The rest is mental gymnastics.

  • jhertzli

    One argument I sometimes use is to claim that, if the Palestinians are the legitimate government of the land, then the Jews are illegal aliens and, by liberal standards, must be defended.

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