Author: Rabbi 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. Zionists always “play defense.”
Defense certainly is an important part of a winning strategy. The best hockey and soccer teams still need to field a goalie. Football teams need a defensive squad, 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 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 accuse Israel of human rights violations, and we respond that Israel is humane. They say that land belongs to “Palestinians,” and we present compromise: “Let us have a two-state solution.” 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.
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 and had a wonderful passing game that day, his parents responded: “Sidney, you know those men would not try to keep hurting you all day if you would just give them the ball.”
It is time for Zionists to stop giving them the ball.
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.
It is time to start a nationwide campus movement to boycott, divest, and sanction Arab racist regimes like Saudi Arabia. It is true that they manufacture virtually nothing useful, so we have to find that one thing besides oil, and start a BDS campaign on campuses throughout America. We need petitions on campuses, calling attention to racism – particularly against Black people – in the Arab world, gender discrimination, religious intolerance. We need to promote boycotts of travel to any Arab country that mistreats Christians and that burns churches. We need to promote sanctions against the destruction of churches throughout the Arab world. We need to go on the offensive and let people know how bad that world’s racism, misogyny, religious hatred, and bigotry extends.
We need to start bringing Ethiopian Jews from Israel to American campuses and to African-American communities to tell them their stories. Israel is the only country on the face of the earth – in all of recorded human history – that ever expended national resources including risked lives and material resources for the exclusive purpose of bringing Black people from Africa into their country to join the landed classes in freedom. Others have taken Blacks out of Africa for slavery. No one but Israel ever brought Black Africans into their country to join them in freedom.
We need to expend extra breaths and use eight syllables to say “Judea and Samaria” even though we prefer the two-syllabic “West Bank.” We have to stop saying “West Bank.” We have been taught to say “African American” instead of “Negro,” “Native American” instead of “Indian,” “Mizz” instead of “Missus,” “Gay” instead of “Homosexual,” and “Latino” instead of “Hispanic.” It is time to teach others to say “Judea and Samaria.” 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 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.
On the “refugee question,” similarly, we have to go beyond playing defense. If there are refugees, then there were 800,000 Jewish refugees who lost everything when the Arab world drove them out but held their property in the 1940s. Today they number in the many millions. So, if the 400,000 or 500,000 Arabs who left Israel during that period, mostly voluntarily, now number in the millions of “refugees,” it is time to demand justice for our more-millions of refugees. Demand hearings in Washington on restoration of property and reparations for Jewish refugees. Then, with the issue explained and the public educated, demand freezes on Arab governmental assets in America for transfer to American families among the Edot HaMizrach to compensate and restore refugee property – just as we have been doing for Holocaust victims who today are recovering damages for stolen N azi-era property, for unpaid wages during their enslavement, and for insurance benefits they were owed after having paid their premiums in Europe during the years of the Holocaust.
And 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 by acceding 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 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,” the idea is that they no longer are “refugees.” At that point, the UNRWA needed to close down in Gaza, in Jenin, and elsewhere – and America needs to stop funding it. 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.
We need to go on the offensive and start pointing at the logos of the Arab groups: the Hamas, the P.L.O., Fatah. Each and every of their logo designs bears depictions of their aspired-to homeland. None of those logos depicts Gaza or Judea and Samaria. Rather, they all depict pre-1967 Israel. 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 area were they liberating? Not Gaza, then in Egyptian hands. Not Judea and Samaria, then under Jordanian occupation. We need to point to the logo – a picture is worth a thousand words – and to 1964, and we need to start advertising those pictures and explaining what 1964 means.
A movie will be coming out on April 15, 2011 that will introduce many people to a simple libertarian question: “Who is John Galt?” Wait and see. It is time to ask – on T-shirts, at soirees, even at the beginning of every speech at every Young Israel dinner: “What did they want to liberate in 1964?”
In the last half century, perhaps the only issue on which an Israeli Government has stood firm in the Great Debate was last year when the Netanyahu Government finally refused to blink any longer on one issue: refusing abjectly to continue any further construction freeze in Jerusalem for a second round. For once – literally, once – Israel finally said: “We will not freeze construction in Jerusalem not even after Hell, Michigan freezes over.” And, remarkably, the American Administration backed down.
That is what happens when your cause is just, and you do not give them the ball. For those who hate us and find Zionism offensive, maybe it is time that we Zionists finally went on the offensive.
Rabbi Dov Fischer, a member of the Rabbinical Council of California and former national vice president of the Zionist Organization of America, is adjunct professor of Law at Loyola Law School. He is author of “General Sharon’s War Against Time Magazine.” A former chief articles editor of UCLA Law Review, he now is the rabbi at Young Israel of Orange County.