Even though many non-Israeli and non-Jewish individuals support Israel, they are far outnumbered by anti-Israel activists. For this reason, there is a need for pro-Israel supporters to be more effective. The following are six ways to make that happen.
The Achilles heel of the anti-Zionist movement is that it relies on lies, ignorance, and myths; consequently, the importance of knowledge in the Israel-Arab conflict cannot be overestimated. Anti-Zionists know this, and they try to stifle the free flow of information, especially in centers of knowledge (higher education and the media). They try to censor pro-Israel speakers, they try to intimidate pro-Israel groups, and they often plant false and distorted stories in the media. Knowledge is their enemy, and they do everything possible to fight it.
It is essential to have a strong base of knowledge on the history of the conflict. Please see appendix 1 for some recommended books. Keep your knowledge current by reading news stories, but do not limit yourself to pro-Israel publications. If you have a strong base of knowledge, you can read a story from any source and be able to judge which parts of the story are legitimate and which should be questioned.
One of the books listed in appendix 1 illustrates the amazing power of knowledge. Joan Peters was an academic and pro-Palestinian activist who was paid an advance to write a pro-Palestinian book, but being an honest academic, when she learned the facts of the conflict, she returned the advance so that she could be free to write the facts without undue influence. When she completed her book, it became a best-seller that shattered myths that she previously believed.
Put ethics ahead of partisanship
Being affiliated with a party does not mean that your vote or support should be taken for granted. Whether a candidate is friendly towards Israel or not should figure high on your list of priorities in deciding whom to vote for. If the candidate’s position on issues such as BDS are not well known, contact the candidate’s campaign and ask. If your party’s candidate is not friendly towards Israel (for example, the candidate supports BDS or opposes Israel’s right to defend itself), consider whether there is another candidate who is friendly towards Israel while still scoring acceptably well on your other priorities. In your analysis, also consider the party’s position on Israel and whether the candidate would follow party policy; if a party is solidly pro-Israel and the candidate is required to follow party policy, the candidate’s own opinions are less important than they would be otherwise.
Parties are artificial structures that are convenient tools for the democratic process, but they do not and should never replace the fundamental values that you believe in. When those values are shared across parties, working with others who share those principles can be very powerful. It is when parties use Israel as a wedge issue to gain votes that support for Israel is most at risk; when that happens, partisanship takes precedence over facts, and Israel may suffer the consequences. Put ethics ahead of partisanship, and work with people from other parties and groups towards the causes that you believe in, including support for Israel.
Jews are sometimes accused of dual loyalty (to their country and Israel), but that accusation is a logical fallacy. There is no contradiction between supporting your country and supporting Israel, any more than there is a contradiction between being a good Catholic and a good American. Supporting Israel’s ability to defend itself is in fact in full agreement with your country’s interests. A strong Israel has benefited many countries on a number of fronts, including innovation, agriculture, computer technology, medical technology, humanitarian aid, anti-terrorism, and national defense. Even the Arab world, most of which is still technically at war with Israel, has benefited from Israel. Supporting your own country as well as Israel is not a zero-sum game; you can and you should support both.
Speak up for Israel among your peers
In the political party and other organizations where you belong (union, school, parish, etc), make your pro-Israel voice heard. Members of these organizations typically have little knowledge of the Israel-Arab conflict, and they are easily influenced by anti-Zionists if that is the only point of view that they hear.
Having Israel’s side heard in every political party is of particularly critical importance because governments change, and a party that is in the opposition today may well be the government tomorrow. Because the facts are on Israel’s side, even a small presence of pro-Israel members within the party can make a large difference. It is incumbent on each of us to speak against anti-Zionism and antisemitism in our own party. It is easy to criticize other parties, but in reality, not that helpful. It is seen as partisanship and not much more. Those of us on the left must denounce the antisemitism that far too often disguises itself as anti-Zionism, and those of us on the right must denounce right-wing demagoguery that directly or indirectly encourages white supremacism. When only the right denounces anti-Zionism and only the left denounces right-wing demagoguery, it only serves to reinforce the entrenchment of partisanships, and it leaves both anti-Zionism and antisemitism unscathed.
To help make your case, invite Israeli speakers, including Israeli minorities, former IDF soldiers, and anyone else who articulates well the case for Israel. In many cities, you may find national organizations with local offices or like-minded local groups with whom to work in putting forward pro-Israel events: American Jewish Committee, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, Christians United for Israel, Hillel, Israel on Campus Coalition, a local Jewish Federation, My Truth, Reservists on Duty (which has a minorities project with Arabs, Muslims, Christians, and Bedouins), Stand with Us, and Students Supporting Israel.
Speak up wisely on social media
Anyone who has debated the Israel-Arab conflict on social media knows that there is never a lack of anti-Israel voices, but their weakness is that they fear facts. They react to them by compounding the lies, engaging in personal attacks, and allowing their antisemitism to come into the light, all of which discredits them in the eyes of fair observers.
When you debate them, follow these rules consistently:
- State your case clearly and concisely. Long or confusing comments are rarely read in full.
- To support facts that you advance, quote only sources that are widely seen as reasonably credible, especially by people who are not particularly pro-Israel. Good sources are The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post, and it also helps to use sources that are not typically seen as pro-Israel, such as Haaretz, BBC, The Guardian, CBC, CNN, Huffington Post, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
- State the facts as they are. The facts are almost always on Israel’s side, and on the rare occasion when they are not, it is better to be honest and to maintain your credibility.
- Do not confuse facts with hyperbole or rhetoric. Hyperbole and rhetoric may sound good to your friends, but they do not convince sceptics. For example, if a politician funds the UNRWA and you believe it is unwise, say so; do not jump to the conclusion that the politician supports terrorism.
- Avoid personal attacks, even when extremely tempting. Personal attacks do not convince anyone. If others engage in personal attacks against you, comment on the inappropriateness of the attack then move on.
- Avoid comments that could be interpreted as anti-Muslim or bigoted in any way. Such comments divert from the pro-Israel message and do not help your argument.
- If you use sarcasm, do it carefully because sarcasm is often misunderstood on social media.
- Do not mix partisanship and support for Israel. Israel is not a right-wing or left-wing issue. There are people who support Israel everywhere on the political spectrum except on the extremes, and it is essential to maintain that support. Making Israel a partisan issue alienates partisans of the other side.
- Use rational arguments based on evidence and reason, not based on religion. Religious arguments do not convince people who do not share your beliefs.
- Avoid getting bogged down in long discussions with people who debate in bad faith and who are wasting your time. Simply leave the discussion.
- Always remember that you are seen as the voice of Israel. That voice must be intelligent, confident, honest, and well-mannered. If at any moment, you do not feel up to maintaining that standard, do not debate the Israel-Arab conflict.
Support Israel’s economy
There are three ways to support the Israeli economy, short of moving to Israel:
- Buy Israeli products (see appendix 2).
- Invest in Israeli companies.
- Travel to Israel.
There is no greater way to get to know Israel than to visit and see for yourself what this country is about. If you happen to be Jewish and qualify, travel free through Birthright Israel. If not, travel with community groups, such as synagogues and churches, use a tour company, or if you are adventurous, plan your own trip. Israel is a beautiful travel destination that has numerous benefits compared to other destinations:
- Israel is safer than most destinations. This might seem counter-intuitive, but the violence that we see in the news is localized and is obviously avoided by tour guides.
- Pickpocketing is a much smaller problem than in most destinations, including Rome, Paris, and London.
- There is practically no panhandling or peddling in the streets, unlike most European destinations.
- In addition to Hebrew and Arabic, the English language is understood practically everywhere and is spoken fluently by many. There are also many Israelis who speak other languages, including Russian, French, Spanish, German, and many others.
- You will get to see with your own eyes what a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic democracy looks like in the Middle East, and you will love it.
After you visit Israel, tell your family and friends about it, and plan to go again.
Be a role model in respecting Israel’s democracy
Supporting Israel does not mean lecturing Israel on what to do with regard to peace negotiations, defense, foreign affairs, language laws, access to religious sites, and so on. Israel is a fully functional democracy and sovereign nation that chooses its own leaders and its own policies, and it has been very successful at it despite being in a part of the world that is constantly ripped apart by radical warring parties and dictators.
Israel does not need external interference, even if well-meaning; however, that interference is not typically well-meaning. Israel is often singled out for criticism while far worse offenders are ignored. The United Nations is notorious in this regard, and it is hardly alone.
As a supporter of Israel, you should be a role model on respecting Israel’s democracy and the will of its people. If you are Jewish, you of course have the option of making Aliyah, and then you can be a full participant in Israel’s democracy because being an Israeli, you also live with the consequences of Israel’s decisions.
Appendix 1: Books
There are hundreds if not thousands of good books on the Israel-Arab conflict. The following six are my top recommendations, sorted by date of publication:
- Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, 2018, 224 pages, by Yossi Klein Halevi.
- Israel: A concise history of a nation reborn, 2017, 560 pages, by Daniel Gordis.
- 150 Palestinian tales: Facts to better understand the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 2016, 380 pages, by Tom S. van Bemmelen.
- Catch the Jew!, 2015, 467 pages, by Tuvia Tenenbom.
- The Case for Israel, 2004, 265 pages, by Alan Dershowitz.
- From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab–Jewish Conflict over Palestine, 2001, 622 pages, by Joan Peters.
The following are another 22 excellent choices, also sorted by date of publication:
- The Case Against BDS: Why Singling Out Israel for Boycott Is Anti-Semitic and Anti-Peace, 2018, 318 pages, by Alan Dershowitz.
- Industry of Lies: Media, Academia, and the Israeli-Arab Conflict, 2017, 354 pages, by Ben-Dror Yemini.
- Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel, 2017, 848 pages, by Francine Klagsbrun.
- Reclaiming Israel’s History: Roots, Rights, and the Struggle for Peace, 2017, 256 pages, by David Brog.
- Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1929, 2015, 314 pages, by Hillel Cohen.
- Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, 2014, 624 pages, by Yossi Klein Halevi.
- Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul, 2014, 320 pages, by Daniel Gordis.
- Terror Tunnels: The Case for Israel’s Just War Against Hamas, 2014, 238 pages, by Alan Dershowitz.
- Palestine Betrayed, 2011, 352 pages, by Efraim Karsh.
- The Palestinian Right to Israel, 2010, 325 pages, by Alex Grobman.
- The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, 2010, 715 pages, by Yehuda Avner.
- Israel: A History, 2008, 848 pages, by Martin Gilbert.
- The Israelis: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Land, 2008, 492 pages, by Donna Rosenthal.
- A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, 2007, 1270 pages, by Howard M. Sachar.
- The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can be Resolved, 2006, 256 pages, by Alan Dershowitz.
- The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, 2005, 880 pages, by Dennis Ross.
- Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel’s Wars, 2004, 348 pages, by Yaacov Lozowick.
- The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, 2004, 666 pages, by Benny Morris.
- Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, 2003, 496 pages, by Michael B. Oren.
- Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine, 2002, 344 pages, by Samuel Katz.
- O Jerusalem!, 1988, 640 pages, by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre.
- The Siege: The Saga of Israel and Zionism, 1986, 798 pages, by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Appendix 2: Shopping for Israeli products
The site BuyIsraelGoods.org provides information on where to find Israeli products in the U.S., Canada, and a few other locations. It includes both local stores and online stores.
The following are some online stores dedicated to Israeli products, and some of them also have their own stores or sell their products through other stores:
- Ahava (ships to USA and Canada): cosmetics.
- Ajudaica (ships worldwide): religious Articles, Judaica, Dead Sea cosmetics, and other products.
- Antelope (ships worldwide): footwear.
- ART Judaica Online Stores (ships worldwide): Judaica products.
- Blessed Buy Israel (ships to USA): chocolate, olive oil, ceramics, cosmetics, honey, date syrup, jewelry, soap, tea, glass mezuzahs, t-shirts, and other products.
- Galilee Green (ships worldwide): olive oil.
- Holy Land Marketplace (ships worldwide): various products.
- Israel-Catalog (ships worldwide): various products.
- Israeli Products (ships worldwide): various products.
- Judaica Web Store (ships worldwide): Judaica, Israeli art, and other products.
- Lev Haolam (ships worldwide): monthly packages that include chocolates, sweets, olive oil, tea, cosmetics, wine, dried fruits, artisan ceramics, and Judaica.
- Makolet Online (ships to USA): various food items.
- Yardenit (ships worldwide): religious products, Jewelry, food, cosmetics, clothing, books, and other products.
- Yoffi (ships worldwide): food items (including many vegan items) and gourmet gifts.
Many Israeli products can also be found through sites such as Amazon that sell Israeli products among other products.