Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Winning a Debate with an Israel Hater": A Book Review

Michael L.

{Cross-posted at The Algemeiner.}

harrisDespite his substantial previous work as a pro-Israel advocate, including lectures, panel discussions, media appearances, and work with Stand With Us - his new book, "Winning a Debate with an Israel Hater" is probably Michael Harris' most significant contribution to Israel advocacy.  The book is concise, often funny, and I would not send a Jewish student off to university without a copy in his or her backpack.

The primary virtue of the book is that Harris manages with humor and concision to cover the key arguments made by what he calls, People with Israel Derangement Syndrome (PIDS).  Whether it is the bogus "Israel apartheid" slander or hypocritical BDS moral posturing or the cynical "right of return" tactic, Harris efficiently outlines the case against the PIDS' attempts to defame the lone, sole Jewish state.  He also makes sliced deli ham out of the anti-Israel "experts" such as Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe, and John Meirsheimer, among others.

Harris provides a number of positive suggestions for both action and analysis.  His proposals for action are standard.  Write a letter to the editor, join local pro-Israel organizations like Stand With Us, join the buycott and purchase goods manufactured in Israel, and so forth.

From the analytical end, he recommends, for example, using Natan Sharansky's 3-D Test to determine if an argument against Israel is anti-Semitic; that is, is Israel held to a double-standard or subject to demonization or delegitimization?  If the answer is "yes" then the argument is anti-Semitic.  However, and rightly in my view, Harris warns against flinging around charges of anti-Semitism as if they are confetti because doing so will likely backfire among the very people that pro-Israel / pro-Jewish people should be trying to reach.

Harris is not trying to reach anti-Zionists who he recognizes are often beyond rational discussion, but to the regular on-lookers who do not necessarily have a dog in the fight.  The fundamental idea is that the good guys will carry the day among regular folk if they argue for a peaceful conclusion of hostilities within the framework of a negotiated two-state solution.  This is true because, ultimately, anti-Semitic anti-Zionists wish to see the elimination of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people and that must be pointed out.

When framed in such a manner, most regular Americans - if not your average European - will recognize that the pro-Israel side is the side of justice, while the anti-Zionist side is the side of at best ignorance and, at worst, genocidal malice.

This, however, brings me to my problem with the book.

Harris insists that if we wish to win the debate with Israel-Haters and anti-Zionists in the eyes of regular, moderate friends and neighbors then we must make the moderate argument, which, Harris argues, is the case for the two-state solution.

I agree... to an extent.  But the problem, as Harris recognizes, is that the Arabs have never shown the slightest inclination toward implementing two states for two peoples within normalized relations and economic cooperation.  This is precisely what the Jews have wanted since the beginning of the modern conflict, early in the twentieth-century, and what the Arabs, both citizenry and governments, have always rejected and continue to reject.

Concerning the two-state solution, Harris writes:
...this is the solution toward which we will be heading, however slowly and fitfully, if and only if the Palestinian leadership ever decides that having a Palestinian state is more important than working for the elimination of Israel.
Precisely... if and only if. 

However, since the Palestinian-Arabs have never shown the slightest interest in any such thing, it renders the argument in favor of two-states moot.  There can be no two-state solution without the cooperation of the Arabs and since the Arabs do not want two states for two peoples there cannot be two states for two peoples.  One can sing the praises of two-states from the hillsides like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, but unless that is what the other side wants then it can never come to be.

Nonetheless, as a pro-Israel primer on the major issues surrounding the conflict, "Winning a Debate with an Israel Hater" can sit comfortably on the bookshelf right next to Alan Dershowitz' "The Case for Israel."  Send one to your college kid.

He or she may very well need it.


  1. I say it must be constantly pointed out that the Arabs do not accept Israel, and point out why they are wrong, who has rights, what those rights are, and how Pal Arabs and their supporters have undermined the intent of the law, falsified history, and have worked to undermine the two states for two peoples mantra. Showing yourself to be the moderate party is all well and good, but putting the ant-Zionist movement in the dock must be a substantial part of the argument, not an aside. They are at best ignorant, and fighting on the behalf of a repellent injustice, and against the well-being of all.

    1. But are the Palestinian-Arabs winning the argument in the eyes of the world or losing it?

    2. Well, today the European Union passed a trade rule meaning all goods produced in Israeli " settlements" will be branded. Thus encouraging - and endorsing - Europeans to boycott Israeli products.

    3. Every single Israeli company and government agency should label their products and services as 'from the settlements'. Every medical device, every laser, every piece of software, every computer, every piece of agricultural technology, every patent.

      Then, if they want to boycott it, fine. Do without, Allah and Marx will provide. If not, then bang that point home loudly.


    5. "But are the Palestinian-Arabs winning the argument in the eyes of the world or losing it?"
      It's easy to win when you run unopposed.

  2. There is only response - "They are murderers". That is 100% of the totality of any response. It needs to be repeated 10 billion times. They are murderers. But the wall? They are murderers. But occupation? They are murderers. Bbbut.....they are murderers. Say it over and over and over and over. Every banner every rally every megaphone every college campus safe zone political reeducation camp. They are murderers.

    Because there is no argument to be won. There is screaming them into submission. There is constant harassment of them nonstop all day every day. Bring sound trucks. Beat them down. Drive them out of the public space 100%. Bring air horns and blast them into deafness. Disrupt every so called meeting. Drown them out, push them out and follow them as they run away. A billion times. Let them bring the cops. Let them bring the Nazis. Let them bring Arab thugs. The double the volume to body damaging levels. 24 hrs a day outside their homes and classes and businesses. They are murderers. Only one simple response.

    1. I suppose the answer is that the Jewish people in the Middle East are the defenders in an ongoing war against them and that there will always be innocent casualties in war. Despite its never-ending denigration by the Europeans, the IDF does, in fact, do more to avoid civilian casualties than any military in human history.

      If the enemy government in Gaza does not want to see their civilian population injured or killed, perhaps they should cease hostilities against their Jewish neighbors.

      That would be my answer, anyways.

    2. Collective punishment? You mean like stabbing and running over innocent Jews over a conspiracy theory?

  3. Harris insists that if we wish to win the debate with Israel-Haters and anti-Zionists in the eyes of regular, moderate friends and neighbors then we must make the moderate argument ...

    That part is unavoidable. Harris' argument that the specifics of the "moderate argument" are the "two-state solution" may be avoidable, but doing so would require developing an alternative and defending the notion that that alternative should be deemed moderate. Such an alternate definition of a moderate position should start with a concept of the individual and communal rights that should accrue to the Arab residents of the disputed territories.

    In defining limits to those rights, we could ask why Jordan's conquest of 1949 should confer a right that is not counterbalanced by any other considerations. The original drafters of 242 recognized this and withdrawal from Area A would fulfill 242's requirement to "withdraw from territory." Unfortunately, the mark of Seriousness today is to be oblivious to this fact.

  4. Israel haters are antisémites no more no less even the Pope said so. Lefters violate international law and replace it with their rants calling these law so as to be able to say what they want Under cover of their fake law!