‘Rina Ne’eman, what do you think of this?”

A friend, well-known for his love of all things provocative, posted, yet again, an article highly critical of Israel on his Facebook wall, tagging me so as to guarantee that I would have to respond.

Truth be told, to a large degree I have put myself in that position, having assumed a role as a self-styled ambassador of and advocate for Israel in my professional community of translators, which spans the entire globe. Does that make me a thoughtless parrot of AIPAC? Does it mean that I blindly agree with everything that Israeli government does? Am I proud, without exception, of everything that happens in Israel? I hardly think so.

There is so much in Israel that infuriates me, so much that I would like to be different. So much that I, myself, am critical of. But I think that holds true for every informed, intelligent citizen of every country on the planet with even a modicum of independent thinking.

Why do I unflaggingly advocate for Israel? Is it purely tribal loyalty or instinct? What makes me feel compelled to join in a social media discussion where we are denigrated and besmirched to a degree that I know I can’t possibly have an impact on the view of the participants, whose minds have already been made up?

Over the past few days, I’ve been pondering this question. And I realized the degree to which it reminds me of something very personal.

Full disclosure: I was a schoolyard scapegoat. The attitude of so many in the world toward Israel reminds me of nothing more than my school days, when I was fodder for every bully on the dodgeball field. It never mattered what I did or said, who I helped, what I wore or what kind of student I was. Quite simply, I was marked.

It was cool to pick on me. And even the non-bullies couldn’t risk being seen as aligned with me. So, to the extent that they did not exactly join in, they did not stick up for me or speak out on my behalf, either. Simply put, I was the kid who everybody loved to hate. Every schoolyard has one.

It wouldn’t have mattered one iota had I stood up and wildly protested that I really was a great kid who loved books and had good grades and was kind to animals and wanted nothing more than to be your friend and to be accepted as one of the crowd. ( I was. And I did.) It wouldn’t have mattered if I had given you my candy bar, every single day. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had quite literally picked you up and extended a hand to you when you were down.

Somehow, my detractors always found a way to attack and belittle me. It was incessant. It was unyielding. It was wrong.

Sound familiar?

Why? To this day, I don’t really know. It changed, of course. Bullied kids often grow up to be very successful adults. And today my position is quite different from what it once was.

Why do I unflaggingly advocate for Israel? Because somebody has to stand up and speak out on its behalf, in every circle and on every dodgeball field. Because patent untruths cannot be allowed to perpetuate. And even though I can’t stop them from becoming entrenched, I want to know that I have raised my individual voice and stood up for what I believe in. If it resonates with even one person, in this age of social media, I think that is worthwhile.

Still, I am finding that I sometimes refrain from engaging. It can be enormously draining. It is undeniably time-consuming. It is, in many cases, largely futile.

Why do I unflaggingly advocate for Israel? Because somebody has to stand up and speak out on its behalf.

Why do I unflaggingly advocate for Israel? Because somebody has to stand up and speak out on its behalf. (fist image via Shutterstock)

To my abject astonishment, I saw a post yesterday on Facebook referring to Israel’s attack on Syria this past week as constituting a reprehensible violation of that nation’s sovereignty, loudly proclaiming Israel as culpable should the situation deteriorate into a regional conflagration. That same friend clearly believes that we’re outrageously and irresponsibly making a mountain out of a nuclear Iranian molehill. We’re not talking about zealots or fanatics or extremists. We’re talking about an enormously intelligent, highly likable consummate professional, who genuinely believes that this is an enlightened and reasonable point of view.

How can I even begin to address that?

Take this post, written by a friend of my friend, on his Facebook wall:

This connivance of the Western nations with the atrocities and war crimes perpetrated by the fascist state of Israel is one of the greatest moral hypocrisies of our time… the sad truth is: the people that suffered the Holocaust is now a people that violates the human rights of their underdeveloped neighbors as if in a perverted identification with their former Nazi aggressors, like a molested child who becomes himself a child molester later in life, while the world, confused and astonished, looks the other way. There will be a historical price to be paid for this moral betrayal of our principles, however. Shame on you, Israel.

How does one respond to that degree of twisted, sickening untruth and distortion of historic reality? Should one even try? But then, how does one walk away without contending with it? Do I lend it more credence by arguing or by abdicating? I just don’t know.

I accept and even welcome the concept of “tough love.” My problem is that I am not seeing any love out there, of any kind at all.

And instead of our own (welcome and necessary) self-criticism being used for a force of good, it is used to justify others’ slogans and vitriol.  Almost like mice that pounce upon those items with glee: “See, Israel really is a racist state – even <enter Israeli name here> says so.”

My dilemma is not about whether or not to advocate for Israel. What I am debating is this: when do you participate? Under what circumstances do you engage? When do you just accept that there is no point in arguing with people who brand your country as a fascist or Nazi-like regime?

How do you prove that your mother’s not a whore?

I don’t know the answer with regard to when to engage and when to bow out. I don’t know to what extent effective Israel advocacy means getting involved in every so-called discussion or debate (often, I confess I think they are more like monologues). I don’t even know to what extent being a voice for Israel always has to be political in nature.

Why do I unflaggingly advocate for Israel? I advocate for Israel, loud and clear, because in a world that would not be all that sorry to see us go, I believe that we have the right and the imperative not only to exist, but to flourish.

I advocate for Israel because I believe that our country is a miracle, both by virtue of its very existence and in light of its myriad and stellar achievements in virtually every area of endeavor.

I advocate for Israel  because I am intensely, immensely proud to be an Israeli. I speak out for Israel because I believe that, in spite of our many flaws, we have so many reasons to be proud – of who we are, what we do, what we stand for and what we have accomplished. And I want the world to know it.

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