The Biggest Mistakes Pro Israel Advocates Make #9: How To Avoid Seeming Holier Than Thou

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I know, I know, it’s not Tuesday. But I have a good excuse, I promise.

First of all, since Saturday night, I had to deal with rectifying this situation. I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But just because I was flattered doesn’t mean a mega ass-kicking wasn’t in order. Moral of the story: nobody messes with me and gets away with it.

Second, my internet got completely cut off for some reason, and by Tuesday morning I’d used up all my data. I had to wait until the tech guy came around 3:30pm and by that time the Israellycool staff were asleep for the night and couldn’t edit it anyway. So I figured I should cook dinner instead.

At first I wasn’t sure about including Mistake #9 because it just seems so obvious. Like anyone with common sense should be totally aware of this.

But unfortunately, common sense ain’t so common. I see this mistake committed regularly by some of the most articulate, outspoken supporters of our cause. I will not name names, but they usually fall under the category of pro-Israel Chabad, evangelical (or religious) Christian, or settler-zionist (you know what I mean). This mistake is:

chumashMistake #9: Making it a Religious Argument

I’m going to preface by saying that I’m religiously agnostic so this might cloud what I say below.

A lot of the articles and blogs I see written from those points of view argue that Israel is the land G-d chose for the Jews. It is the land that G-d gave to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (a.k.a. Israel), and the Children of Israel (a.k.a. the Jews). It is the land that was our refuge, our freedom that G-d led us to when we were slaves in Egypt.

The only thing I’m thinking when someone brings up purely biblical reasons for supporting Israel is: Cool story, bro.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate support for Israel wherever it may come from, but sometimes a purely religious argument does more harm than good, as it makes people think that such is all there is to Zionism. In fact, Zionism is not a religious movement. It is so secular that Chabad Jews don’t even call themselves Zionists because Zionism is too secular (though they support Israel unconditionally). Did you know that? I didn’t until yesterday.

I know all the Torah stories. I know that the Torah and by extension the Old Testament (Tanach) are some of the most Zionist documents on the planet. I went to Hebrew School. But therein lies a rub: the only people that argument is convincing to are other religious people, people who are already Zionists because they are religious. Any truly bible-believing religious Jew or Christian is a Zionist because the book they so treasure and follow is basically a religious Zionist manifesto. So you are stuck with this problem where you are strictly preaching to the converted, which means this argument does nothing to advance the cause of Zionism as a whole.

Worse yet, to anyone who is not devoutly religious, in other words, the majority of the Western world, the argument alienates them from the Zionist cause. The reason for this is that it makes our cause look vacuous, as if all there is to it is superstition, or something written in a book of fables published 3000 years ago. That argument distracts us from the other far more mainstream, compelling causes for Zionism and associates Zionism with religious fundamentalism. Since religious fundamentalism is currently a fringe movement that most people ridicule and look down upon, Zionism, which is currently associated with right-wing religious fundamentalists in many left-wing circles, is often the same by extension. Among the “young, hip, crowd”, anything associated with right-wing religious fundamentalism is basically the anti-cool. The last thing we want to be is the anti-cool, because being the anti-cool means that even people who agree with us will be too ashamed to admit it and eventually become absorbed into what they perceive is the anti-Israel majority. Since a lot of people assume that what the majority believes must be right, being the anti-cool is a death knell for our cause.

This is something we need to change.

We need to end religious-based arguments once and for all. Not only are they detrimental, but they are misleading, as the true nature of Zionism is purely secular.

That being said, I think that if you weave in the religious argument with the indigenous argument (i.e. that the Jewish religion arose from the Jewish culture, which had its genesis in the land of Israel) it can bolster it. That being said, arguing entirely from a religious standpoint is, in my opinion, completely futile.

Even if we may believe religious Zionist arguments, we should avoid them at all costs as they convince nobody but those who are already convinced, and they do more harm than no argument at all among secular people.

So what arguments can we use instead?

1) Israel is the indigenous homeland of the Jewish People. Cite archaeology rather than the bible. If archaeology proves the bible, you can use that evidence as the basis for any biblical claims you might make.

2) The Arabs as colonizers (turn their “settler colonialism” argument on its side)

4) Continuous Jewish presence in the land of Israel (also the fact that there has only been a Jewish state on that land, everything else was a colony of some larger colonialist entity).

5) This appeal to the left.

Have any other arguments that work? Post them here.

Not caught up? Check out the rest of the series HERE.

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Lex is a trained comedy actor who is Montreal’s second-favourite export aside from poutine.

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