Victories aren’t usually depressing, but recent headlines about Israel include those such as: “Israel Left Off U.N. List of Parties That Kill, Injure Kids,” “Palestinians Abandon Bid to Ban Israel From FIFA,” and a couple of headlines about failed motions for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses. Surely all of these “victories” are better than the corresponding defeats. But still, we can and should do better.
The problem with these victories is that they reflect a much deeper problem in the strategy of pro-Israel advocates. We tend to play defense far more than offense. Some psychologists might enjoy explaining just why Jews, in general, might prefer this approach, but it’s something we must overcome. What’s wrong with this strategy was beautifully laid out in Ze’ev Maghen’s famous piece, “How to Fight Anti-Semitism.”
“A man calls you a pig,” he writes. “Do you walk around with a sign explaining that, in fact, you are not a pig? Do you hand out leaflets expostulating… upon the manifold differences between you and a pig?”
Of course not. For to do this is already to cede the crucial first move to your enemy. It’s to allow that your pig-hood is even a legitimate question in the first place.
Playing defense grants the possible legitimacy of the attacks on us.