Zionism is not offensive, but we should go on the offensive. For one thing, we should BDS right back at them.
Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer
The great tragedy within contemporary Zionism is that Zionist leadership and articulators operate on a continuum of defensiveness, always reacting to the latest attack on Israel’s legitimacy. This “reactive defensive Zionism” is the same whether we look at Jewish organizations, Jewish political figures, or even at college Jewish activists. In striking contrast from Israel’s present Operation Protective Edge, Zionists perpetually “play defense.”
Defense certainly is an important part of a winning strategy. The best hockey and football teams still need to field a goalie. American Football teams need a defensive squad and a special unit for a “goal-line stand,” and baseball strategy includes defending against a bunt, pulling an infield-in, and over-shifting towards right field when a left-handed hitter comes to bat. Even so, no team ever wins if it fails to score. And teams well ahead of their opponents see their leads disappear when they excessively shift into a “prevent defense mode” that concedes offense exclusively to the opposition.
We who follow spectator or competitive sports understand this philosophy so clearly — the primacy of offense — yet abandon this simplest of survival principles when Israel’s survival is on the line. Thus, we wait for others to call Israel “racist,” and then we respond that she is not. They slanderously speak of an “Apartheid wall” being constructed along Judea and Samaria, and we reply that the wall is not separatist but protective. They accuse Israel of starving out the citizens of Gaza, and we counter with photographs of shopping malls in Gaza and with statistics of food supplies that pass into Gaza through Israel. They protest the “slaughter of children in Palestine,” and we try explaining that Israel is faced with Hamas terrorists who mercilessly, corruptly, and cynically hide behind human shields.
They accuse Israel of human rights violations, and we respond that Israel is humane and protects gay rights. They attack Israel for bombing medical facilities or schools, and we try showing videos of Hamas rocket launchings staged from hospital grounds and photographs of terror rockets stored at UNRWA schools. They say that “the land belongs to Palestinians,” and we present compromise: “Let us have a two-state solution if only the Palestinians will recognize our right to live.” They propose boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), and we produce reasons not to boycott Israel, not to divest from holdings in Israel, not to sanction Israel. Always on the defensive, never offensively taking the fight for truth to them.
Seventy years ago, Sid Luckman was the most prominent Jew in American football. A star quarterback for the Chicago Bears, he once brought his immigrant parents to a game to watch him. With Luckman masterfully at the helm, the Bears won handily. After the game, he proudly asked his parents what they thought of his performance. Even though he successfully had scrambled away from defensive front-linemen all afternoon, evading their desperate but hapless efforts to sack him, and had a wonderful passing game that day, American Jewish sports legend recounts that his parents responded: “Sidney, you know those gorillas trying to hurt you would you all day would leave you alone if you would just give them the ball.” But Sid knew that victory comes to those who use the ball to score.
It is time for Zionists to stop “giving them the ball.” Without necessarily pulling the goalie out of the net, it is time for us to start putting some points on the scoreboard.
We need to initiate the discussion, not to react. We need to be creative in our presentation, not predictably defensive. We need to capture the imagination by shifting dynamically, as Sid Luckman did on the field, into a T-formation with men in motion.
1. BDS Right Back at Them. It is time for Israel’s supporters to start a nationwide campus and union movement to boycott, divest, and sanction Arab racist regimes like Qatar — the bankers of Islamist terror throughout the world — and Saudi Arabia, the country that gave America 15 of the 19 destroyers on September 11, 2001. It is true that they manufacture virtually nothing useful to boycott, so we have to find that something besides oil — and also oil — and start a BDS campaign on campuses throughout America. Demand, for example, that the next World Cup be moved from its planned venue in Qatar. We need to be the ones circulating our petitions on campuses, calling attention to racism — particularly against Black people who are enslaved and gay people who are tortured and murdered — in the Arab world.
We need to petition and demand BDS against those Arab countries and societies that tolerate gender discrimination and that perpetrate religious intolerance. We need to BDS Arab Moslem countries that will not allow women to work equal hours for equal pay . . . or to drive a car. We need to BDS those societies that not only compel gay people to hide in the closet but that even raid the closets to discover them and then stone them to death. We need to promote boycotts of travel to any Arab country that mistreats Christians and that tolerates the kinds of church burnings that we would execrate if happening in Mississippi or Alabama. We need to stage boycotts at the docks, organizing longshoremen to refuse unloading ships from Arab ports of call if they bear the flag of countries that bash Gays, crucify Christians or burn their churches, enslave Blacks, and treat women as second class. We need to promote sanctions against the destruction of churches throughout the Arab world.
In short, we need to go on the offensive and let people know how bad that world’s racism, misogyny, homophobia, religious hatred, and bigotry extends in the specific Moslem Arab countries who are human-rights perpetrators.
2. Bring Ethiopian Jews to Speak to Americans. We need to start bringing Ethiopian Jews from Israel to American campuses and to African-American communities to tell them their stories. Israel is perhaps the only country on the face of the earth – perhaps in all of recorded human history – that ever expended national resources including risked lives and material resources for the exclusive purpose of freeing Black people from slavery in Africa and further bringing them into their own country to join the landed classes in freedom. Others — British, Americans — have taken Blacks out of Africa in order to make free men into slaves. By contrast, no one but Israel has brought Black Africans out of slavery and into their country just to join them in freedom. By now, those Ethiopians freed in the mid-1980s, families like those whom Israel hosted and financed in the thousands in the mid-1980s at absorption centers like Merkaz Klitah Beit Eliezer in Hadera, have seen their children grow into full sabras. Sixty of their kessim (priests) are employed by Israel’s Ministry of Religious Services, and a new generation of ordained rabbis of Ethiopian ethnicity are emerging. Miss Israel 2013, Yityish Aynaw, who contended as Israel’s representative at the Miss Universe pageant, is of Ethiopian descent. Ask her to visit American campuses for a year.
Stop sending us lifelong diplomats who barely can speak English and who feel precious television-interview time with space-filling sounds of “eh, eh” — and who have no sense of engaging dynamically in polemics. Send the Miss Universe candidate instead. She does not have to speak to win over supporters. And if she has a story to tell, she can impact thousands. Send us Americans who made aliyah twenty and thirty years ago, brilliant and charismatic people like the rare examples of a Michael Oren or the younger Bibi Netanyahu — people who know the American lingo, know the turf, and know how to “mix it” with Americans. The survival of Israel and the standing of Zionism is too important to be traded as a payoff for a pakid (clerk) who has earned a two-year assignment in America by pushing papers loyally for thirty years in the Israeli foreign service (misrad ha-chutz).
3. Stop Saying “West Bank” and Call “Judea and Samaria” by the Real Names. We need to fight “Jewish COPD” — a disease marked by those who simply cannot take deep breaths — and we need to expend extra breaths, using the full eight syllables to say “Judea and Samaria,” even though we prefer the two-syllabic “West Bank.” We have to stop saying “West Bank.” There is no “West Bank” other than Jersey City, New Jersey, which lies on the west bank of the Hudson River. No one can see any river from Hebron in Judea or from Karnei Shomron in Samaria. We Americans know the rules of lingo, the power of “correct” speech. We have been taught to say the seven-syllable “African American” instead of the two-syllable “Negro,” and we follow the rules. We say “Native American” instead of “Indian,” and we say “Mizz” instead of “Missus.” We say “Gay” instead of “Homosexual,” and we say “Latino” instead of “Hispanic.” Words have meaning and power. It is time to bring out the offensive unit and to teach people to say “Judea and Samaria” by saying it ourselves. It matters whether the Falkland Islands are called that or the “Malvinas.” As the Left so well demonstrates, language is powerful. If we fear that the listener will not understand us when we say “Judea and Samaria,” then we must expend yet extra breaths each time we use the term, just as we do when we give an address to a telephone marketer when we order a product and need to repeat the spelling of our street.
4. We Need Our Friends in Washington to Initiate Congressional Hearings on Reparations for Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands. On the “refugee question,” similarly, we have to go beyond playing defense. If there are refugees, then there were 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands who lost everything when the Arab world uprooted them in the 1940s and drove them out from lands where they had lived half a millennium, even as those Arab countries confiscated their landed property.
Today they and their descendants number in the many millions. So, if the 400,000 or 500,000 Arabs who departed from Israel during that parallel period, mostly voluntarily, now number in the millions of UNRWA “refugees,” it is time to demand justice for the even-more-millions of Jewish refugees who truly were forced into diaspora on pain of death. Demand legislative hearings in Washington, lots of hearings by lots of different pertinent Senate and House committees, in America’s capital on restoration of property and reparations for Jewish refugees.
That is how issues become issues in America. One law student, Sandra Fluke, testified before a “mock legislative committee,” and the entire nation began debating whether the government should be required to pay for every American woman’s contraceptives. So we need hearings on the restoration of losses sustained by the Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands. Then, with the issue explained and the American public educated, we need to demand freezes on Arab governmental assets in America for court-ordered seizures and for transfer to American families among the Edot HaMizrach (North African Jewish) victims to compensate and restore refugee property – just as we have been doing for Holocaust victims who today are recovering damages for stolen Nazi-era property, for unpaid wages during their enslavement, and for insurance benefits they were owed but never paid after having paid their life-insurance and commercial-property premiums in Europe during the years of the Holocaust.
Now for the second period or the fourth inning, or for the next set of downs — pick your metaphor — because the game is just getting started:
5. We Americans Must Stop Funding UNRWA. Demand a complete end to all American funding for the UNRWA, the United Nations agency that promotes anti-Jewish hatred throughout Gaza and in Judea and Samaria, as they accede to the myth of “Palestinian refugees in Palestine.” We are so accustomed to playing defense that we never even ask: “How in the world can people who were not even alive in the 1940s be called ‘refugees’ from somewhere they never fled? And even if they were ‘refugees,’ how can they still be deemed as ‘refugees’ now that they are living in their supposed homeland?” When people “return home,” they no longer are “refugees.” Period. End of story. Under any conceivable definition or scenario, how can there be “Palestinian refugee camps” in Jenin or Gaza? Are there “Katrina refugee camps” in Baton Rouge? “Hurricane Sandy refugee camps” in the Bronx?
The UNRWA needs to close down in Gaza, in Jenin, and elsewhere – and America needs to stop funding it. Most American citizens have no idea that the United States funds more than one-fourth of the UNRWA’s annual $550 million core budget, while most Arab countries contribute a pittance. Last year, the United States gave $130 million to the UNRWA core program, and the European Union gave $120 million, while Saudi Arabia gave $2 million, Kuwait gave $2 million, Qatar gave only one million, and Egypt gave fifteen thousand dollars, while Iraq and Libya gave nothing. In today’s economic environment, there will be many in Washington who will be delighted to see this aspect of an offensive approach to Zionism once they are educated to this incredible anomaly. The money saved might even be redirected to bolster the economy of Ukrainian freedom advocates. The European Union can redirect the money to its financially tottering constituents know as PIGS: Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain.
6. Point to Every Logo and Trademark of Every “Palestinian” Group. We need to go on the offensive and start pointing at each and every logo — yes, a picture still is worth a thousand words — of each and every group that enthralls the anti-Israel Left: the Hamas logo, the P.L.O., Fatah. Each and every of their logo designs bears depictions of their aspired-to homeland. Not one of those logos depicts Gaza or Judea and Samaria as the land they covet. Rather, they all depict pre-1967 Israel as their “Palestine” — Haifa and Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem— and not including any of Gaza or of Judea and Samaria.
Similarly, we need to start pointedly asking: What do the Arabs even mean by “Palestine”? When they founded the Palestine Libration Organization in 1964, to “liberate Palestine,” what “Palestine” were they “liberating”? Fifty years’ history demonstrates that Gaza, then in Egyptian hands in 1964, never was the target during Olympic Games attacks. Judea and Samaria, then under Jordanian occupation, never was the target of bus bombings. We need to point to the three logo depictions – those pictures worth three thousand words – and to 1964, and we need to start advertising those pictures and explaining what 1964 means. “Palestine” — for every “Palestinian” group, organization, and association, whether overtly terrorist or seemingly passive — means Tel Aviv and Haifa, not Jenin and Khan Younis. It is time for us to ask – on T-shirts, at soirees, even at the beginning of every speech: “What ‘Palestine’ was the Palestine Liberation Organization planning to liberate when the P.L.O. was founded in 1964?”
It Is Time for Zionism to be Offensive. It is time to stop “giving them the ball” and playing sixty minutes in desperate pursuit of their fumble or interception. For those who hate us and find Zionism offensive, maybe it is time that we Zionists finally became offensive and went on the offensive.
Rabbi Dov Fischer, former Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review and an adjunct professor of Advanced Torts law and Legal Remedies law, is a congregational rabbi, a long-time member of the National Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, and a widely published online magazine columnist. He formerly was National Vice President of the Zionist Organization of America and was National Director of Likud Zionists of America. Prof. Fischer is author of General Sharon’s War Against Time Magazine (Steimatzky). His writings appear at www.rabbidov.com