Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My actual response to Carol Sanders of Jewish Voice for Peace

After the BDS-sponsored theatre of the Berkeley Human Welfare Commission hearing several weeks ago, the Daily Cal newspaper at UC Berkeley printed an Op-Ed by Carol Sanders of Jewish Voice for Peace. As with anything produced by JVP, it was a mixture of cherrypicked facts, half-truths, and outright lies. 
Today, the Daily Cal published my response.  

Read Sanders' piece here. Note the inflammatory language directed against both Israel and the JCRC.
Read the published version of my response here.

Here is the final version that I submitted to them. I highlighted the sections that were deleted by the Daily Cal.
This was after I agreed to take out the word "extremist" when referring to JVP and Cheryl Davila. This was after I agreed that they could put the qualifier "by my count" in front of the factual information about the speakers. This was after I agreed to take out "this was a lie" when referring to JVP's claim that THEY represented the Jewish community.  (The editor at the Daily Cal did note that it was against their policy to print the final paragraph even after I took out a specific call for Sanders to debate me, so I have to respect that particular policy.)

Compare what Sanders was allowed to get into print and what was cut from my submission. Judge for yourself whether there is an editorial double standard in play here. 

Carol Sanders’ Op-Ed celebrates the fact that anti-Israel activists hijacked a Berkeley city commission into holding a hearing on an anti-Israel resolution that, according to Berkeley’s own rules, it had no business even considering.  Such “victories” are standard fare for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement which, despite hiding behind a façade of “human rights” and “open debate,” is actually anti-peace, anti-dialogue, and anti-coexistence.
Sanders claims that it was somehow remarkable that the issue of “Palestinian rights” was discussed.  American policy for many years has been to support a just peace on the basis of two states for two peoples—the Jewish state of Israel and a future Arab state of Palestine.  The real problem here is that BDS insists that “human rights” and “justice” for the Palestinian Arabs require eliminating the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.  The central demand of the BDS movement-- the “right of return” for millions of descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees who fled in 1947-49 during the war launched by the Arabs to destroy Israel at its birth-- would turn the Jewish people into a stateless minority in their own homeland. And as Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement states, "I am not for a two-state solution." 
BDS also opposes any attempts at dialogue. PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, defines words such as “pro-peace”, “compromise”, “coexistence” “understanding” and “dialogue” as “buzzwords of normalizing projects” which are to be opposed in favor of “co-resistance.” 

 Former Commission member Cheryl Davila is not a heroic victim in this entire matter. Over the course of a year, she knowingly diverted the work of the commission, trying to fit the square peg of anti-Israel activism into the round hole of addressing poverty in Berkeley. As one example, she attended the recent Atlanta Conference of the US Campaign to End the Occupation when an award was given to Rasmea Odeh-- a convicted terrorist responsible for the death of 2 young Israelis. 

The hearing at the Human Welfare Commission itself was far from an enlightening debate.  Some anti-Israel speakers presented the usual canards, lies and even frankly racist statements such as the charge that the fate of the Palestinian population under Israel’s control is similar to the genocide of European Jewry in the Holocaust--factually wrong as the Palestinian population has grown four times larger since 1967. Letters sent to the commission in favor of the resolution bemoaned that Berkeley was "deeply influenced by the monied Jewish lobby" and tried to defend the diversion of the Commission's work as an issue of "free speech." While Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) claimed at the Commission’s September meeting that they represented the Jewish community, Jewish community members and leaders turned out to oppose the resolution. A letter to the Commission opposing the resolution was signed by many Jewish lay leaders and rabbis. In the end, almost two thirds of the speakers, Jews and non-Jews, urged the Commission to reject this deeply flawed and biased measure.

Further,  just as BDS activism on campuses and communities often leaves a trail of anti-Semitic incidents, several Jewish Berkeley residents described how they were targeted with hate speech in the few weeks leading up to this hearing.  This should not surprise anyone. While not every BDS advocate is an anti-Semite, the fundamental core of their movement—denying the same rights to the Jewish people that they demand for the Palestinians—is prima facie discrimination against the Jewish people.

In the end, despite the efforts of the Commission chair Praveen Sood to bully other commissioners into voting for his alternative divestment resolution, a majority voted down the entire topic. Some recognized that their commission should not have even considered this measure, as the Berkeley City Attorney had confirmed. They openly questioned why their commission spent so many hours on this measure, which took time and resources away from their mission of helping the poor in Berkeley. And one commissioner addressed the key question that BDS tries desperately to avoid, asking if measures such as this will truly bring peace to the region. The answer to that question, of course, is no—because BDS actually undermines efforts for a true peace in the region.

Sanders claims she supports open discussion of this issue. So do I. The UC community might be well served by a genuine debate about BDS.  Students of the Graduate School of Journalism could moderate it, and UCTV could film it. Let’s have a truly open discussion, to which people of good will and open minds can listen and make their own decisions.  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Winning a Debate with an Israel-Hater

Cross-posted at http://legalinsurrection.com/2015/10/winning-a-debate-with-an-israel-hater/

“It often happens in the middle of an otherwise pleasant day — you’re shopping, or walking across a college campus, and you encounter THEM. They’re holding signs that claim Israel is an “apartheid state” and charge Israel with committing “genocide” against Palestinians. They’re calling for boycotts against Israeli products, and divestment from companies that do business with Israel.
You know supporting Israel is the right thing to do. And you’re not alone. For decades, polls have shown a large plurality, usually a majority, of Americans back Israel. But here’s the problem: you don’t know how to respond – or if you even should – to these Israel haters.
This is an all-too-familiar sight, and has become more frequent in the past decade as Israel-bashing extremists have taken their hostility into the public square.
Their words don’t represent a simple disagreement with specific actions or policies of the Israeli government. Instead, they’re an open call for the elimination of the one country that shares American values in a region full of despots and anti-American fanatics. Simply put, they’re not just promoting a Palestinian state, they’re demanding that it replace the Jewish one.”
This is the opening of my new book, “Winning A Debate with an Israel-Hater“, published earlier this month by Shorehouse Books.
Winning A Debate With An Israel Hater Cover
I wrote this book to give people the information they need to effectively confront these extremists in their own neighborhood—not to change the minds of those protesting Israel, but rather to let the general public hear the other side of the story.
It’s extraordinarily important that we don’t let the lies of the PIDS (People with Israel Derangement Syndrome) go unchallenged. According to Manfred Gerstenfeld’s book Demonizing Israel and the Jews, they have managed to get over 150 million Europeans to believe that Israel is “exterminating” the Palestinians; you don’t want to see them successfully selling that malignant myth on your neighborhood.
As a grassroots Israel activist, I have over a decade of experience countering anti-Israel groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, not only in person but also on TV and radio. I’ve also given many talks, both to pro-Israel and to more neutral audiences.

This handbook distills all of that experience into a useful guide for Israel supporters, and also does it with some satirical humor to both entertain, and make the points easier to remember.
Successful advocacy, however, is not just knowing the facts; it’s delivering them with effectiveness, and– just as importantly– avoiding mistakes that can undermine those facts. Here is a bit of advice that I call “The Five Commandments of Successful Advocacy” (Perhaps you were expecting a different, more biblically connected, commandment number? Sorry, I don’t want to suggest that these small kernels of advice were the result of any type of divine revelation.)


It’s important that our side be credible. You won’t be able to fact-check on the fly when confronting the PIDS, so it’s vital to stick to what you already know is the truth.
Of course, this is even more important in any online encounter where your words can remain visible for an eternity. You don’t want your rhetorical gaffe about Israel to end up like a drunken party photo posted on Facebook. Even editing a blog post or deleting a Tweet is no protection against the infamous “screen shot” that captures what you initially sent into cyberspace.
It should also go without saying that we don’t need to resort to “Pallywood” techniques of faked pictures and maliciously edited videos to make our points. And we don’t want to find ourselves in the moral sewer inhabited by PIDS who, during Operation Protective Edge, posted pictures of the murder scene of the Fogel family—butchered in their home by Palestinian terrorists—claiming them to be Gazan victims of IDF operations.
Also, beyond substance, consider style. Nothing undercuts the punch of an online comment like bad speling and gramur, ‘cause if you don’t rite good then your statement looks fulish.


Never say that the person you’re responding to is an idiot. Even when he is. (For those who remember the original Saturday Night Live “Point-Counterpoint” sketches, avoid the “Jane, you ignorant slut” response.)
These people may be wrong on the facts and their train of thought on this issue may not be running at full speed, but they are often otherwise quite functional and rational. Instead, take a deep breath and simply point out the errors of either facts or logic.
Although you can go “Law and Order” on them and “impeach the witness” if the person (or the organization they represent) has a track record of making statements that are demonstrably wrong. The person seeking the moral high ground should also occupy the rhetorical high ground.


Avoid overly broad statements such as “all Palestinians are supporters of terrorists.” Do too many of them support radical Islamist terror? Absolutely—even one is too many. But recognize that just as you want the PIDS to make unforced errors to which you can respond with authority, they want you to do the same. Don’t help them out. You can blame the Palestinian leadership for refusing to negotiate peace with Israel, but you can’t blame every Palestinian-in-the-street for that.


Avoid conflating all anti-Israel activism into the most extreme position (which is, for you newbies, supporting Hamas and its calls for genocide).
There are ample ways to counter anti-Israel arguments without accusing every Israel boycotter of secretly holding a “Friends of Hamas” membership card. (Though some of them might.)


The PIDS couch their anti-Israel screeds in the language of “human rights.” You should use similarly sympathetic terms, as they’ll appeal to the audience. Neil Lazarus suggests that whenever possible, include the words “hope,” “peace,” “children,” and “future” in any statement that you make. As in “Israelis want a future of peace for their children, and also for Palestinian children. We hope that the Palestinian leadership will end its 67 year war against Israel and come to the negotiating table.”
Winning a Debate with an Israel-Hater is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle.