WUJS- Personal Politics in Israel Advocacy
|Zionism||Zionism on the Web||definitions||about||FAQ||history||timeline||documents||links||personalities||antizionism||contact|
(editor's note - Text in blue italics and links have been added or changed by the editor)
Personal Politics in Israel Advocacy
An important moral and tactical question for the Israel activist is whether he or she should always defend Israel, even on occasions when he or she may not agree with the actions of the Israeli government or military.
Jewish students are often identified as representatives of Israel. People look to Jewish students for explanations of Israel's actions, and unfortunately can exaggerate a lack of support for a specific action to mean far more than it does. When prominent Jews criticize Israel it is very damaging, and Israel needs all the support that she can get. However if a Jewish student genuinely disagrees with an action taken by the Israeli government, why should he or she have to defend it? Could a Jewish student even do a good job half-heartedly defending Israel?
Consider the real meaning of the attack
Try to consider what the intention is behind an attack on Israel. Is the attack really about a single incident or specific policy, or is it being used as an excuse to attack Israel in general. If an attack on Israel exploits a particular incident as an excuse to attack Israel then this ought to be exposed. Here, the incident is not the issue, and the real debate the person attacking Israel wants to have is the wider one.
Take the example of a pro-Palestinian activist arguing in front of a large crowd that:
"It was disgusting for Israel to destroy those houses, they are oppressing the Palestinian people and forcing them to live in awful conditions. They have no right to be there"
In this case the specific criticism is just used to introduce a wider attack on Israel. Wholeheartedly agreeing with the claim would only lend the apparent support of a Jewish student to a far-ranging attack on Israel. An Israel activist could respond by disputing the general claims: "Regardless of this incident, it is not true to say that the Palestinians as a whole are being oppressed by the Israelis. In fact, 99% of Palestinians are currently living under the Palestinian Authority and not under Israeli rule. Things will no doubt return to normal when Palestinian terrorism stops." This approach accepts the criticism of Israel, but quickly reframes the debate in a wider context.
Criticize Actions not Existence
In general the role of an Israel activist is to defend Israel (as a country) and the idea of Zionism, but not necessarily to endorse every action of the government, army or people. If a Jewish activist genuinely disagrees with some action, it is legitimate to say so, provided this is done in a way that defends and supports Israel as a country, and attempts to place the action in the context of a complex situation. This can be done by reframing comments, for example: "I understand where you are coming from, personally I also think that it was wrong of the army to destroy those houses, however you should also consider that Israelis are under a daily threat of terrorist attack and…"
On some occasions defending certain actions is counterproductive to Israeli interests and morally wrong. For instance when the Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein massacred Palestinians at prayer in Hebron in 1994, the Israeli Government condemned the action. It is always right to immediately condemn actions of this sort.
Thankfully it is rare that situations are this clear cut. In more ambiguous situations Israel activists should find ways of accepting justified criticism, while still defending Israel as a country. When an Israel activist accepts a limited criticism of Israeli Government action, it demonstrates openness and balance, and can increase the chances of being trusted when talking about other issues.
It is important to distinguish between specific and general criticisms of Israel. Even Israel activists who don't support the approach of a specific Israeli Government should be wary of criticizing the government in general terms. Criticism leveled at ministers or the government can undermine attempts to defend Israel at a later date. People who start by making specific justifiable complaints about Israel often go on to make unfair general criticisms. Israel activists need to be careful to tread the fine line between being true to themselves and the facts as they see them, and not allowing enemies of Israel leverage to attack Israel unfairly.
There is an argument that Jews living in the Diaspora have no right to get involved in debates about Israeli policy, and ought instead to support Israel's every action. However... Jewish students, as the targets of anti-Israel attacks, are affected by Israeli policy. For these reasons, it is generally considered reasonable for Jewish students to express opposition to specific Israel policies, but, as noted above this ought to be done in a constructive manner that doesn't give ammunition to those seeking to undermine Israel's very right of existence.
Remember that you are yourself, not an Israeli official. You have an obligation to yourself to defend the truth as you understand it. The truth is our best "propaganda weapon" and your belief in your positions is your most precious intellectual asset: integrity.
You have an obligation to make it clear that your views are not those of the Israeli government necessarily or of "Zionism" in general. On the other hand, outsiders will necessarily view you as a "representative" of Israel and "the Jews" no matter what you do. If you happen to advocate violence, you will leave the impression that all all Israelis or all Jews are violent. If you express racist opinions, outsiders will get the idea that "Zionists" are racists.
Remember that any point anyone offers as honest criticism is invariably distorted and used in the propaganda war against Israel, Zionism and the legitimate rights of the Jewish people to self-determination and self-defense. It is comical, for example, to see the arguments of Ahad Ha'am, an ardent Zionist, voiced over a century ago, used as ammunition against Israel.
Contents - WUJS HANDBOOK ONLINE
Accusations and Rebuttals:
Back to Zionism and Israel - Issues and Answers - Main page
More About Zionism:
This page is copyright ©2005-6 by Zionism and Israel Information Center and Ami Isseroff. You are welcome to quote or selectively use materials from this page - for nonprofit use in promoting Zionism and the Israeli cause only. However, do not copy entire pages, and remember to credit Zionism and Israel Information Center, linking to http://www.zionism-israel.com Information about Zionism and Israel . and to t - Zionism and Israel - Issues and Answers FAQ.
This site provides resources about Zionism and Israeli history, including links to source documents. We are not responsible for the information content of these sites.
ZNN - Zionism News Network - News and Views about Zionism, Israel and Antisemitism - serving a network of Zionist Web sites.
Zionism - Definition and Brief History - A balanced article that covers the definitions and history of Zionism as well as opposition to Zionism and criticisms by Arabs, Jewish anti-Zionists.
Labor Zionism - Early History and Critique - Contribution of Labor Zionism to the creation of the Jewish state, and problems of Labor Zionism in a changing reality.
Israel-Palestina - (Dutch) Middle East Conflict, Israel, Palestine,Zionism... Israël-Palestina Informatie -gids Israël, Zionisme, Palestijnen en Midden-Oosten conflict... Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a European perspective - Dutch and English.
ZioNation - Zionism-Israel Web Log Zionism & Israel News Israel: like this, as if History of Zionism Zionism FAQ Zionism Israel Center Maps of Israel Jew Israel Advocacy Zionism and its Impact Israel Christian Zionism Site Map