In the Passover Haggadah, we read the passage of the four sons:
The Torah refers to four sons: One wise, one wicked, one simple and one who does not know how to ask a question.
One of the obligations of the Passover seder, is “v’higadita l’bincha”, “you should tell it to your child”. This requires communicating and teaching one’s child using an individualized, differentiated approach. The Haggadah presents a question from each child, as well as an answer that caters to their cognitive ability and nature.
The passage of the four sons can also be applied to four categories of anti-Zionists. When one is passionate about a cause like Israel, it is tempting to paint all anti-Zionists with a broad brush and chalk it all up to antisemitism. In fact, just as not all children learn and understand in the same manner, so too not all anti-Zionists are alike, either. The parable of the four sons can provide insight into how to understand and respond to four types of anti-Zionists: the intellectual, the blatant antisemite, the humanitarian idealist, and the ignoramus. Hopefully, this individualized approach can help plant some seeds of conciliation and consideration for Israel in their hearts.
The Wise Son: The Intellectual Anti-Zionist
What does the wise son say? “What are the testimonials, statutes and laws Hashem our G-d commanded you?” You should tell him about the laws of Pesach, that one may eat no dessert after eating the Pesach offering.
– Passover Haggadah
Modeled off of the wise son, the intellectual anti-Zionist appears well educated. Sadly, he has probably learned his “facts” about the Israel/ Palestine conflict in university. The trend among radical professors and historians is to let ideology and prejudices color their interpretation of facts, rather than pursuing the truth. Ilan Pappe, an oft quoted anti-Israel British professor admitted in an interview that
My ideology influences my historical writings … the struggle is about ideology, not about facts … We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truth seekers.
This dishonest academic approach leads to bias in favor of the “eternally victimized” Palestinians and results in outright lies. For example, indigenous right activist and Israel advocate Ryan Bellerose observed a Birzeit University professor at telling students at UC Davis that “Arabs in the entire Middle East are oppressed by Israel”.
Professors who fall into this category are more difficult to reason with since it is their life’s work and passion and the facts become irrelevant (more about this type of intellectual can be found in Alexandra Marcus’s excellent article, “4 Types of Anti-Israel Leftists”). Students who are anti-Zionist due to their education can hardly be blamed for the beliefs they hold; they may not have known very much about Israel prior to commencing their education, and therefore they have no reason not to trust their seemingly intelligent, erudite professor (although this evidences a problem with modern education not encouraging critical, independent thinking if students are this impressionable).
The wise son in the Haggadah displays a thirst for in depth, detailed knowledge and one is instructed to answer him completely. Assuming the intellectual anti-Zionist is similarly open to learning, one should likewise present him with indisputable facts about Israel that refute common myths and accusations. It is worthwhile to engage this type of anti-Zionist in a respectful, academic discussion because their anti-Zionism is based on knowledge, and can therefore, hopefully, be reversed with a little more knowledge.
The Wicked Son: The Blatant Antisemite
What does the wicked son say? “What does this drudgery mean to you?” To you and not to him. Since he excludes himself from the community, he has denied a basic principle of Judaism. You should blunt his teeth by saying to him: “It is for the sake of this that Hashem did for me when I left Egypt. For me and not for him. If he was there he would not have been redeemed.
– Passover Haggadah
While it can be argued that anti-Zionism is the modern antisemitism, few self-respecting individuals would actually admit to harboring Jew-hatred. However, it is not hard to identify an antisemite hiding behind the politically correct mask of anti-Zionism.
Antisemitic anti-Zionists will persist in repeating the same hate-laced trope regardless of what anyone may say to counter their unfounded assertions. It does not matter how many times they are presented with refutations of the thoroughly discredited Khazar hypothesis , they do not care that a genocide usually involves a decrease in the victimized population and certainly not an 8 fold increase, they fail to consider that “antisemite” in every dictionary refers exclusively to “Jew hatred”, not to being “against Semites”, and they will refuse to believe anything short of Jews being land thieves with the entirety of Israel being an illegitimate, occupied state. As one fellow Israel advocate expressed,
The part I find the most frustrating is that these people refuse to engage in debate, no matter how polite and civilised, because the fact that you challenged them seems to infuriate them even more. They take huge offense as if you’ve insulted them personally. They refuse to back up their claims with facts.
The blatant antisemite is, appropriately, compared with the wicked son in the Hagaddah. The wicked son’s question is rhetorical. This son is not open to receiving an answer; he has made up his mind and his question serves the purpose only of frustrating and mocking believers. The Haggadah instructs us not to engage in dialogue, but to answer bluntly and harshly, and move on. The same advice should be followed when confronted with a blatant antisemite. Do not waste time trying to enlighten such a person.
The Simple Son: The Humanitarian Idealist
What does the simple son say? “What’s this?” You should say to him “With a strong hand Hashem took me out of Egypt, from the house of servitude.
– Passover Hagaddah
Some anti-Zionists believe they are supporting a humanitarian cause in their advocacy. They see horrific images of injured and dead children, the “disproportionate casualties” and come to the uninformed, instinctual conclusion that Israel is the oppressive aggressor against the poor, disadvantaged, landless Palestinians trapped in an “open-air prison”.
These humanitarian idealists, or, as Alexandra Marcus terms them, the “naive bleeding heart” are good-natured and cannot fathom the possibility that their emotions are being manipulated strategically by the Palestinian propaganda machine.
Humanitarian idealists, like the simple son, ask simple, straightforward questions and make naive but well intentioned assertions. The appropriate response, as inspired by the Haggadah, is to answer on their level, without too much detail or information. It is likely that they already see Zionists as being cold, calculating, and methodological, and therefore it is important to convey empathy for the Palestinians’ plight, sadness over unnecessary deaths, and hope for peace. After seeing that the same sentiments and goals are shared, the humanitarian idealist may be open to learning about the aid and support Israel provides to the Palestinians even during war, the efforts Israel has consistently made to promote peace including multiple attempts towards creating a Palestinian state, and the large role that the Palestinians play in maintaining their own status quo. Slowly this genuinely good person may come to realize that Israel is the real underdog in this conflict and certainly is not the oppressor she is made out to be.
The Son who does not know how to Ask: The Ignoramus
And the one who does not know how to ask, you start for him, as the Torah says: “And you should tell your son on that day, saying ‘It is for the sake of this that Hashem did for me when I left Egypt.’
The ignoramus is unaware and apathetic. If he expresses anti-Israel sentiments, it is simply because that is what he has been exposed to. The ignoramus is compared with the fourth son, the one who does not know how to ask. The educational approach with such an individual is to “start for him”, to pique his interest and curiosity. It is our job as Israel advocates not only to know how to refute the claims of anti-Zionists, but also to reach out and spread the truth about Israel, and to help those apathetic individuals see why it is a cause worth supporting. As well known Times of Israel contributor Fred Maroun, an atheist, Canadian Arab from Lebanon asserts, supporting Israel “is a natural consequence of my belief in peace, justice, and human rights.”
On Passover, we celebrate our liberation from servitude to freedom, and we are commanded to imagine as though we personally were slaves redeemed from Egypt. While anti-Zionism and antisemitism remain forces to be reckoned with, we have miraculously returned to our indigenous homeland, the beginning of our final redemption. May we be successful in our efforts and thereby do our part in ushering an era of peace “next year in Jerusalem!”
Special thanks to Fred Maroun and all of the “Progressive Zionists” who continually inspire me with their tireless efforts advocating for Israel.