“10 good arguments in defense for Israel”
That was the title of the last email I received from one of the many pro-Israel mailing lists I've ended up on over the years.
The email contained talking points to use when debating Israel with its critics, much like the droves of links shared and spread all over my Twitter and Facebook feeds every day.
I don’t care for them.
Not at all.
I don’t care for the insinuation of guilt these talking points carry with them, as invisible CC:s at the top of every page. Nor do I care for the idea of teaching truth to people who never cared for it to begin with.
In 2013, the finale of the Eurovision song contest was held in Sweden. In Malmö, to be precise, a city that can boast having put Sweden on the Wiesenthal Center’s do not travel-list. Violent protests were being held against Israel’s participation, and signs with the usual boycott/ apartheid/occupation-slogans were hailed for everyone to see.
This in a contest that among others included delegations from Belarus, Romania, Hungary, Russia and Azerbaijan; countries with actual serious human rights violations under their belt. Were these countries participation protested? Well, I think we all know the answer to that.
It was not about the facts in 2013 during the Eurovision song contest, nor was it about the facts in 2009 when a Davis Cup-match between Sweden and Israel had to be played before an empty stadium due to violent riots. If the issue was human rights there would be no riots. But the issue is with the Jews, so the cities keep burning.
Last week a big chunk of the world sat glued to their TVs following the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Not a single country, or any individual athletes, chose to boycott the event. Even though we all know, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the most atrocious human rights violations are taking place on a daily basis in that country.
That same week, the annual campaign “Israeli Apartheid Week” was launched. According to the campaigns own website, IAW is an international series of events that seeks to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. The campaign against Israel went viral, with 133 participating cities around the world.
So. While LGBT-activists were being abducted, raped and beaten in Russia, political activists around the world choose to focus their energy and resources on demonizing the one country in the Middle East where gay people can live freely, safely and openly?
If I thought for a second that this was based on facts or even ignorance, that would infuriate me. But I don’t, so it doesn't.
How many countries do you know whose entire existence is questioned on a regular basis as part of what is called a political debate?
I know one. And I know why. The campaign against Israel is not about facts, so it cannot be overthrown by presenting more or sharper versions of them. There is no convincing a bigot. The only way for a Jew to appease an anti-Semite is to stop being a Jew.
And I am having none of that.
When we study up on answers to give to the boycotters and the anti-Semites-turned-anti- Zionists, we are telling them that we somehow have an obligation to defend the truth to liars. I feel no such obligation, nor should any of us. I do not answer to them. I do not seek their respect, much less their permission to defend my country and ensure my peoples survival.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the reflex to defend yourself. I know what it’s like to want people to see what you see, to face facts and see reason. But that urge, that very human need, is based on a false assumption that reason, facts and truth have anything at all to do with the argument.
This past summer I was lucky enough to spend a day at the hospital in Ashkelon, speaking to doctors and nurses and staff. I saw the bomb shelters where they are forced to operate during attacks, where they within seconds have to bring their patients, keeping their cool under unimaginable circumstances. I heard stories of them saving lives of the very people trying to kill them. Over and over and over again. The world is not watching, it does not make the news. But they do it none the less. They do what they do because it is right and it is just. To me, that is Israel. Valor, honor and upholding democracy and human rights in a time and a place where it would be so much easier not to. Because it is the right thing to do. Because it is, simply, who we are.
In Sochi, the world was watching. It was watching as, not unlike during the Berlin games in -36, it allowed a triumphant dictator to whitewash horror with fireworks and synchronized dancing. As Russian tanks are rolling into Crimea, The Israel Apartheid week is moving from the US to Europe. If I had a tendency for naiveté, I would expect the BDS freedom fighters to divert their attention to the murmurs of war taking place at their very doorstep, but time has taught me that reality does not fit well with hypocrisy.
Meanwhile in Ashkelon the doctors and nurses keep saving lives, without a second thought of campaigns or news cycles. They do what they do because it is right and it is just, no matter who’s watching.
As for the rest of us, we don’t need another mailing list or 10 catchy quotes, instead we need to call BS on the BDS and simply stand our ground.