What do you say when someone says Israel is a “racist state”?

by | Aug 30, 2013 | What’s Happening

Mondays, Sept. 16 and 30 and Oct. 14 and 28, 7–8:30 pm

You know it isn’t true. You want to stand up for Israel. You’ve got 30 seconds before you lose them. What do you say?

Actually, it takes about three minutes to make a clear case that Israel isn’t a racist state, but if the first 30 seconds are right, you might get the three minutes. Maybe they’ll even listen for a little longer. Maybe they can be convinced.

But after convincing someone that Israel isn’t a racist state, what next? What does it take to advocate for Israel?

Facts and focus.

Advocating for Israel requires knowledge of lots of facts. To advocate for Israel, knowledge of the facts means knowledge of ancient and modern Jewish history.

That still may sound like a lot…and it is. But it’s not a disconnected mass of information and data. It’s a dramatic and inspiring (and well-documented) historical saga. And you have a head-start. If you’ve read this far, if you have any interest in advocating for Israel, you already know at least some, and perhaps a substantial amount, of Jewish history. For instance, under the heading of modern Jewish history, here’s the first 30 seconds of the refutation of the “Israel is a racist state” lie:

All citizens of Israel, regardless of race or religion, have full civil and political rights, and are equal before the law in Israeli courts. Arabs in particular have more civil and political rights in Israel than in any country in the Arab world. Arabs vote in Israeli elections and are elected to and serve in the Knesset, Israel’s legislature. Arabs serve as cabinet ministers, government officials, diplomats and judges. An Arab sits on the Supreme Court of Israel. Non-Jewish immigrants can become naturalized citizens of Israel “regardless of race, religion, creed, sex or political belief.”

I bet a lot of that sounded familiar. Isn’t this easy?

No, it’s not. “Israel is a racist state” is one of the easier lies to refute because it’s so blatantly false. Unfortunately, there are many other anti-Israel slanders and lies that are nuanced and harder to expose. Distortions and half-truths are harder still, because they use part of the truth to create a lie. It takes facts, facts, facts to advocate for Israel.

However, in addition to facts, it takes focus. Focus is knowing where you want the facts to take the discussion, and how to keep the discussion moving in that direction. Knowing both where and how to steer the discussion is critical because, make no mistake, if you don’t make the next point, the anti-Zionist will. If you don’t control the direction of the discussion, the anti-Zionist will. While you’re drawing a breath, he or she will throw out another ugly and/or crazy lie, like “the Jews have no historical connection to Jerusalem” or “Israel treats the Palestinians like the Nazis treated the Jews.” Even potential supporters of Israel may innocently repeat falsehoods because of widespread ignorance and misinformation. In either event, you’ll then have to waste time refuting another lie instead of focusing on the truth about the cause and the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The Simon Family JCC Jewish Life and Learning department will offer a seminar to provide the facts and the focus needed to be an effective advocate for Israel. The four seminar sessions will be held at the Simon Family JCC. Issues to be discussed include: Israel’s historical, legal and moral right to exist as a Jewish state; Israel’s efforts to resolve the conflict; the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries; the portrayal of Jews in Arab media; and Israel as a democratic state. Dr. Sandra Haas-Radin and Mark Solberg will facilitate the seminar.

The cost for reference materials is $18 for JCC members and $25 for non-JCC members. Register by calling the JCC at 321-2338; in person at the JCC front desk; or online at www.simonfamilyj.org.

For more information, contact Miriam Brunn Ruberg, JCC director of Jewish Life and Learning at mbrunnruberg@simonfamilyj.org or at 321-2328.

The Simon Family JCC is a constituent agency of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

by Mark Solberg