In addition to the wars that Israel must fight on the ground to defend itself, Israel is also assaulted constantly in the verbal battle for the world’s public opinion. The aim of international anti-Zionists is to defeat Israel by breaking down its military and economic alliances.
So far, anti-Zionists are not succeeding. The recent visit by India’s Prime Minister to Israel, a historic first visit by an Indian Prime Minister, appears to indicate that Israel’s influence is growing rather than shrinking. However, anti-Zionists are ready for the long haul, and they are making tremendous gains at the grassroots, particularly on the left. These gains, if they continue, are bound to translate into electoral victories.
In the recent British election, Jeremy Corbyn, an unabashedly anti-Israel politician came close to becoming Britain’s Prime Minister. In the United States, anti-Israel voices are becoming louder in the Democratic Party, leading renowned pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz to threaten to leave the party.
The Zionist movement is slowly losing the battle for public opinion. There are a number for reasons for that, including antisemitism, intellectual laziness, and sympathy for the Palestinians. But it seems that the Zionists’ own arguments are contributing to that trend as well. Here are some of those arguments.
The “Palestinians do not exist” argument
This argument is based on the claim that Palestinian nationalism was created for the single-minded purpose of destroying Israel and that it is not a valid national project. Without debating the validity of such a claim (which I did in a previous article where I described the “Palestinian paradox”), there is no question that Palestinian nationalism exists today and is not going away. Pretending that world opinion can be convinced of the contrary is naïve and comes across as both insensitive towards the plight of Palestinians and delusional.
The one-state argument
This argument claims that Palestine must never be created and that Israel must annex the West Bank and perhaps even Gaza. There are many problems with this argument which I have discussed in previous articles, particularly “The one-state delusion”, but the main problem is that it implies that Israel’s only chance of survival is to deport large numbers of Arabs. In practical terms, there is no other way that Israel could annex large amounts of lands inhabited by Arabs while still surviving as a Jewish state. This implication is not lost on members of the general public who are exposed to this argument, and it leads in their minds to the conclusion that Israel is as unethical as its enemies say it is.
The “Arabs are not indigenous to the Levant” argument
Anti-Zionist arguments that Israel is a European colony have led to the Zionist counter-argument that Jews are indigenous to the Levant (which is obviously true) while Arabs are not, and that therefore Arabs have lesser rights than Jews. Arab friends of Israel are deeply offended by the second part of this argument. By some definitions of the term “indigenous”, there may be a basis for the claim that Jews are more indigenous than Arabs to the Levant, but this has no value beyond academia, and it certainly does not imply any lesser rights for Arabs who have been on that land for generations. Zionists can ill afford to lose the few outspoken Arab friends that they have, especially through an argument that is pointless and that comes across as racist.
The “Muslims are the enemy” argument
Some Zionists insist on making the argument that Israel is at war with Islam. There is no question that much of the Muslim world hates Israel and uses war-like rhetoric against it, but Israel is not at war with Islam and never has been. Israel is a multi-cultural society that deeply respects the religious rights of Muslims even more that liberal Western nations do. As I wrote in the Jerusalem Post two years ago, “Lumping together 1.6 billion Muslims into one reviled abstraction is a disservice not only to Israel but also to Israel’s values of democracy, diversity, tolerance, and human rights”.
Does it matter?
The government of Israel has never made these absurd arguments and most Israeli politicians would consider them laughable, but the debates between Zionists and anti-Zionists happen on social media where many of the world’s voters form their opinions.
While in real life the Israeli government acts cautiously and upholds ethical standards that are far ahead of its neighbors and even the Western world, social-media Zionist “warriors” far too often project an image of Zionism that is intolerant, violent, and supremacist.
Of course anti-Zionists use even worse arguments than these, but anti-Zionists are judged by a standard that is different from the one used for Zionists, just as Israel is judged by a standard that is different from the one used for Arabs. It is an unfair reality that Zionists have no choice but to accept.
This extremist Zionist rhetoric is largely the natural consequence of sixty nine years of Arab obstructiveness against the very existence of one tiny Jewish state and the natural consequence of the world’s complicity with Arab antisemitism. These Zionists feel that the world is against them and they have nothing left to lose, but they are wrong about that.
Zionists have Israel to lose. Despite the world’s complicity with Arab antisemitism, Israel’s situation could become far worse if some key world leaders became actively hostile towards Israel rather than hypocritically “neutral”. This could well happen, and it is the risk that Zionists take when they let their legitimate frustrations translate into extremist language on social media.
August 12, 2017: Updated the point about indigenous rights.