Saturday, February 13, 2016

Mailbag. Toga parties. Double standards. The N-word and the A-word. Action alerts (not one but two!). Intelligent socks. Wardrobe malfunctions...

UAZ #5

The Unabashed Zionist—
            Because an unabashed Zionist is better than a bashed one. Obviously.

[Please feel free to let me know about anyone else who might like to be on this list. I have passed 300 subscribers—let’s grow this thing.]
I suppose you didn’t notice, but I began with a moment of silence. For as I write it is a very important anniversary. 120th anniversary, now that I think of it, which is actually a little ominous if you’re familiar with the expression "until 120 years." Anyhoo, February 14, 1896 saw the publication of Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State. Probably one of the most influential initial print runs of 500 or less ever, except maybe for the Hebrew Bible, which of course did its thing with an initial print run of 1.

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904)

So, now, licking his wounds a bit, the Unabashed Zionist must admit to having received a bit of bashing this week, with some negative responses to UAZ #4 shattering the tranquility of his inbox.

On the plus side, I suppose, that means he is being read.

On the minus side, despite already being a man of some seasoned years, he still curls up into a little ball when his mother scolds him.

(1) “Not happy with your attack on tikkun olam!”

Why did that sound kind of like “You’ll have no dessert until you eat your vegetables!” or “When will you clean up that pigsty of a room already?” or “Who do you think you are, coming home at this hour?”

OK, I thought. I could threaten to not let her talk to her grandchildren this week. Or I could engage, and we did, with a little back and forth. I wasn’t really attacking tikkun olam, I explained, I was attacking certain nefarious ways that some Jews use the concept to attack Herzl’s state. But I had barely gotten underway when an email from another reader crashed through, a certain Rabbi J, who also took issue with that section of UAZ #4, and by the time I was done taking my beating from his passionately argued email I was thinking I might be better off becoming an abashed Zionist instead.

Thank you, Mom, and Rabbi J. I will try to do better in UAZ #5. Now may I please have my dessert?

Who, me? I didn’t eat the cake.

But first, someone else was

(2) Not happy with your attack on the Lerner School, either!

My first plunge into a little activism taught me the wisdom, perhaps, of the expression, “Look before you leap.” Or maybe “Fools rush in ….”

I was gripped by the story of the Jewish day school in North Carolina that was suing a family that withdrew its children in ideological protest and refused to pay the contracted tuition. I was drawn to it for the bigger issues it raised, about the relationship between Jewish identity and one’s connection to Israel, and I urged readers to sign an online petition supporting the family. So focused on the bigger issues (which in fact the petition was about) I didn’t pay much attention to the way the petition was smearing the school, which does look today to have some pro-Israel bona fides. The school let me know that they weren’t pleased with the 1000+ signatures the petition received in the short time it was up. I hate to say, but perhaps I was—you know—oh what’s the word—begins with a ‘w’, or ‘wr’ maybe—can’t think of it—so let me say that I was perhaps not entirely right in promoting that petition before I thought through its implications.

Having now thought through the implications a little more thoroughly, however, I’m also not convinced that I was actually wrong in promoting it either. (Interesting how much easier “wrong” is to say when preceded by “not convinced that I was.”) In fact I got myself very involved in the case. What you’ve got down there is an entire Jewish community and its day school saying the family is attacking them. But it looks to me rather that the school and the community are attacking the family. The school may be a wonderful bastion of Zionism now, but they are not behaving very well, in my opinion.

The petition has since disappeared but I may have a detailed article out on the case soon. (You may email me privately if you’d like to see a draft now.)

OK, enough going through the mailbag! Let’s turn to

(3) Reclaiming some unabashedness!

New article out last week, offering a new strategy to combat the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement (BDS), aka the Bully, Deceive, and Smear movement. Lots of groups are doing good and necessary work defending Israel from this movement, but I think it’s also time to go on the offensive. I have two ideas in this realm, and this piece sketches the first.

The goal is to get this into the hands of as many pro-Israel students as possible, as well as all students period. My sense is that, while both sides have vocal activists (the other side has more, and louder), the majority of college students are largely neutral on or indifferent to the Israeli-Palestinian/Jewish-Arab-Muslim-conflict (IPJAMc). (May this absurd acronym serve as a continual reminder that the conflict is complicated.) While I am inclined, in my general hysteria, to think the IPJAMc is the most important issue of our times, a clash of civilizations, possibly heralding the end of times, most college students are more concerned with figuring out which fraternity will have the most beer at this weekend’s party. I would guess that when they take a break from their alcoholic stupors (if they do), they get pretty irritated and annoyed when all the activists start hollering on their campus and hijack the campus discourse and government. So the hope is—if we can spread this far and wide, we might mobilize a few of them, if they’re mobilizable at all, to take back their campuses.

This version of the proposal is directed to pro-Israel students. This other version, expressing the same idea, is directed toward the neutral masses.

Please read and get into the hands of as many college students as you can.

Louie Lou-Eye ...

(4) Two words

“Two words” is itself two words, but I had in mind two other words: “double standards.” Those, and “plastics,” are really all the words you need to know.

Archimedes, the ancient Greek master of all trades, famous for running through the streets naked screaming “Eureka!” before being tackled and hauled off to jail—true story, except for the jail part—is also famous for remarking, “Give me a lever and a place to stand, and I can move the Earth.” Strictly speaking he remarked this in Greek, but you get the gist. A lever is a pretty potent device, if you’ve got one, along with a place to stand.

For a while I’ve been working on a project to isolate the key levers that control people’s understandings of the absurdly acronymed IPJAMc. I am convinced there are really only a few of them, and that if we can isolate them, then manipulate them, we could move at least a few of the Israel-haters more into the non-Israel-haters column. (A guy can dream.) I’m pretty sure that “double standards” is one such lever, though perhaps not quite sure enough to run naked through the streets screaming “Eureka!”

I’ll be brief for now, but I believe that a reasonable person can only be an Israel-hater if they unreasonably apply double standards to the IPJAMc. It’s no accident that even the State Department—historically and contemporaneously no friend of Israel—admits in its own definition of “antisemitism” that anti-Zionism becomes antisemitism when one applies double standards to Israel.

(5) One word

But oh what a word. Some people shudder at the S-word. More recoil, repulsed, from the F-word. Last issue we spoke of the horror, for some, of the N-word (“normalization”). But none of these have anything on—my whole being shudders as I prepare to type it—the A-word.


It hurts even to say it. It is a terrible word, because it refers to a terrible thing. Most of us don’t know much about the details, but we know that it was in South Africa, it was dreadful, and that eventually it was overthrown. Not knowing the details is important, because it is in not knowing the details that otherwise well-meaning people can be turned, as if by a lever, into a hater. For if you don’t know the details, and then someone else tells you that the A-word applies to another situation, you’ll instantly recoil without being able to resist the claim.

And you know what I’m talking about.

The I-word.

Israel, the Apartheid state.

The Israel-haters repeat that phrase so often that people begin to associate the two. This dangerous maneuver is profoundly harmful to the pro-Israel cause. For not only is the A-word bad, bad, bad, but it also connects the anti-Israel movement with the movement burgeoning all over campuses, the progressivism that stands firmly against all forms of racism. So applying the A-word to Israel succeeds in branding Israel as the number one racist state in the world, and campuses get into a veritable feeding frenzy over it. Condemning Israel so brutally becomes not only possible, but mandatory. Just as you can’t get into the gym without showing your campus i.d., you can’t be a bona fide member of the campus community without proclaiming, each day, “Apartheid Israel! Free Palestine!”

Fact: Israel is not an “Apartheid” state, not even remotely. That is nothing more than a straightforward libel that tells you everything you need to know about the person doing the libeling. I won’t argue that here, but as soon as you do even the tiniest bit of research you will know that it is true. For now, just enjoy one from Elder of Ziyon’s classic poster series, which he especially broadcasts during each spring’s campus “Apartheid Week” hatefests:

Happily, finally, the propagandists on our side—and I say that with respect, because “propaganda” is necessary, and it is also good as long as it actually sticks to truths—are realizing they need to counter this very dangerous libel. So the good folks at StandWithUs—an excellent organization, please donate to SWU here—have trotted out a couple of people who know quite a lot about Apartheid, and are touring them around to spread the good word—the truth.

(6) Use your words

Okay, we’ve clearly found a theme for this issue. My wife and I, like many parents (I think?), regularly encourage our small children to go for the jugular only metaphorically not literally. If you’re upset, angry, frustrated, you don’t lash out with your fists. You “use your words” instead.

But words can hurt too.

An issue I’ll explore at some later date is how so many activists living cushy lives far from the Middle East find it so easy to make demands on Israel, to condemn Israel, almost doing it as a recreation or leisure activity—when they don’t have to live under the consequences of their demands, when it isn’t their lives which may be threatened were they to concede to the demands. “Tear down the wall!” Roger Waters and his minions demand of Israel [bonus points to me for that Pink Floyd cleverness!]—but they’re not the ones who will be targeted by murderers when that wall comes down.

But for now, let’s just see what words can do.

It isn’t pretty.

(7) Action alert #1!

As we turn to some better news, here’s some thing you can do! Look before you leap, if you must, but please help support some proposed anti-BDS legislation, and while you’re at it, spread the word to your own minions.

In addition, you can help promote this anti-BDS legislation through AIPAC as well.

But wait—there’s more:

(8) Action alert #2!

If ever there was a good cause, it is this. An admirable young man named Jeremy Crocker is running the March 1 Jerusalem marathon in honor of his friend Ezra Schwartz, recently murdered in a Palestinian terror attack, to raise money for SHALVA, an Israeli organization devoted to the welfare of special needs children.

Jeremy’s good deed here makes a natural segue to

(9) Thinking with one’s feet

You sometimes hear people talking about thinking with certain parts of their body. (I mean when they say “use your head,” for those of you with more than PG-13-rated minds!) Well leave it to those clever Israelis to come up with something, in retrospect, I cannot believe I have lived this long without.

Wonder if they can convert foot odor into energy, too?

I’m sure they’ll turn next to developing ways to boost your self-esteem, after your socks do better than you on your SATs.

But seriously folks—I’ll occasionally highlight some Israeli innovations here, but if you want your own weekly dose of inspiring Israeli technical innovation news, subscribe to the weekly No Camels newsletter.

And finally,

(10) Another kind of wardrobe malfunction

Next time ask for some wardrobe advice before the protest, ya think?

That’s about it for this week in the Land of the Unabashed. Stay tuned—there may be an interesting announcement, and some interesting changes, in the very near future.

Until then, Keep It Unabashed.