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Whatever happened to nuance in politics?
By DOV LIPMAN
08/23/2019
A person can believe that Israel made the wrong decision by not letting two US representatives into Israel while also criticizing these anti-Israel women in the strongest of terms.
It was a tale of two Facebook posts.

Last Thursday, after reading US President Donald Trump’s tweet pressuring Israel to ban pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) US congressional representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering Israel, I posted the following letter on Facebook, tagging the president’s account:

“Dear President Donald J. Trump,
We in Israel thank you for your strong support for our country. Please stop pressuring Israel to prohibit the two insignificant congresswomen from entering Israel. This step will hurt Israel and will cause major challenges for Jewish students worldwide. We are a proud and strong country and have nothing to hide. Preventing them from entering Israel is a sign of weakness and not of strength. Please let Israel make the decision that is best for Israel and the Jewish people.
Sincerely and respectfully,
A very concerned Israeli and Jew”

I work in Israel advocacy, and strongly believed that while banning their entry was certainly justified by law, it would hurt Israel more to do so. It would reinforce the belief for most people around the world who don’t know a lot about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that Israel “has something to hide.” It would also make things difficult for Israel and its supporters in parliaments and college campuses worldwide. Seeing Sen. Marco Rubio and conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro – among the strongest of Israel’s supporters – call the decision a mistake reinforced my position.

Comments, more than 400 in total, came flying in. While some supported my post, most were critical, coming from the Right side of the political map.

The messages started off in a respectful tone indicating that there was a basis for discussion and debate, such as: “How is this ‘hurting’ Israel?” “When will it finally be OK for us to stand up for ourselves?” “Israel has laws for a reason, and we should treat them just as any other regarding the anti-BDS law passed in 2017. Why should they get special treatment?” and “Glad they were barred, made no sense in allowing these two antisemites in. What good would have it done?”

I answered them all and engaged in conversation, explaining why I believe it hurt Israel to ban their entry.

But then the messages became harsher, such as: “These 2 ilks wants to strangle our economy, in order to get you down on your knees. How much will you humble yourself? We shall not let them in!” and “Dov, you have a lot to learn from Trump about strength and a country’s security. Trump loves Israel more than many Jews do.”

I was accused of being “weak,” “a lefty” and “a traitor.”

The criticism didn’t surprised me, and I made sure to explain my stance – to anyone who was willing to engage – by emphasizing that allowing them in would have been a sign of strength.

A MERE 24 hours later, when Tlaib declined Israel’s approval allowing her to visit her grandmother on humanitarian grounds, I posted her official congressional picture and wrote:

“Make no mistake about it. This is a face of hatred. While I disagreed with Israel’s decision to ban Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib from entering Israel, she has now refused Israel’s approval for her to enter Israel to visit her ailing grandmother for humanitarian reasons, saying she won’t come under Israel’s ‘oppressive’ conditions. Her hatred for Israel and desire to hurt Israel supersedes her desire to visit her grandmother. Her desire to not allow anyone to see Israel as doing something ‘humanitarian’ is more important than her love for her grandmother. Rep. Tlaib – you and your hatred for Israel will disappear into the trash heap of history while Israel will thrive forever.”

Once again, the comments came flying in. There were messages of support – mainly from those who were virulently against me the day before – and strong criticism coming from the Left, including from those who had supported my post the previous day.

People on the Right wrote messages such as, “Good to see you came around” and “Now you are learning,” while people on the Left wrote: “How could you write disgusting words like this?” and calling my post “shameful.”

I am used to criticism and welcome it, as it is important for us to debate the critical issues facing our country. What startled me was how quickly those who supported my post the day before were so strongly against my post 24 hours later, and how those who were so against me the day before were now so supportive and assumed that I switched to their side of the argument.

My opinion did not change at all, but those commenting had trouble seeing it. Criticizing the decision had to mean that I was too left wing and not against these two members of Congress. Criticizing them had to mean that I was too right wing and not open-minded.

But neither stance is correct. A person can believe that Israel made the wrong decision by not letting two US representatives into Israel while also criticizing these anti-Israel women in the strongest of terms. This is called nuance. Neither means that a person is right or left wing. It’s not all black and white. We are dealing with complicated issues in Israel, and leadership requires not being boxed into one camp or another. Rather, it demands pragmatism and weighing each issue, with the courage to do what one believes is best for the country in each situation.

This lack of nuance is damaging a society that is being pulled more and more to the extremes, and the labels being hurled from one political camp to the other in this election season further cement those two poles.

Let us be open to discussing our opinions with others. Let us debate the issues. Let us avoid name-calling – like labeling the opposing political camp as an enemy of the state – and automatically placing people inside ideological boxes. Let us allow nuance to enter the political sphere, and let us open our minds to disagreeing agreeably.

It starts with us.

The writer served as a member of the 19th Knesset.
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