When I first heard about Lorde cancelling her Tel Aviv show, I immediately tabled the issue as simply ‘not worth my time’. We are, after all, witnessing the greatest upheaval in the Middle East since 2009, of which Lorde has made herself totally irrelevant. Unfortunately, her boycott was raised in status as a perfect illustration of sensationalism after Rabbi Schmuley’s ad campaign against her in the Washington Post. I thought long and hard and decided I should dedicate one article to the matter, with no intention of addressing it any further. Israel has bigger monsters to slay, and Lorde is neither a monster, nor significant.
So my concern isn’t to address Lorde’s boycott specifically, but rather to address directly the media reaction that resulted. See, after being posted in WaPo and shared among US media, Rabbi Boteach’s ad was picked up by New Zealand’s newspapers, with the predictable reactions. I did find one article that caught me off guard, because while they do defend Lorde, they also bluntly point out a major flaw with hasbara that I have been arguing for a long time. I debated whether I should post it but, I decided that their logic is both valid enough and dangerous enough that it must be addressed now, and head-on.
BDS is antisemitic, sure, but this response is another matter entirely. I find this to be the logical step for the world if we keep letting ‘peace activists’ dictate, to us, the terms of our peace.
If the contention is settlements in Judea, then they are correct in the sense that our arguments in defense of Israel are weak. We cede the illegality of Israeli settlements to avoid further contention, never realizing the gross fallacy we’ve set up. Every time we make this whatabout-ism, we are conceding that the settlements are not only illegal, but morally indefensible. How can we win anything when we undercut our own position in such a way? It’s not reasonable to expect the world to treat us in the same way they treat Russia, when there has never been a time Jews were treated the same way as other nations. The newspaper is, presumably, a non-Jewish one, and are not held by any attachment to the land or to diaspora Jewry. The argument they present, though wrong, is a logical one culminated from a series of lies that Arabs have made, and we have let them get away with making such lies.
There is only one way to counter this rebuttal, and it’s done in the same we countered Arabs in the battlefield, to argue from a position of strength and not cede a single inch. The settlers are as much brothers as those in Tel Aviv, New York, or Ethiopia, and have every right to build homes for themselves in the land that gave us our name. No law or resolution from any international body can take away our connection as the only people indigenous to the land of Israel. Arguing from this perspective, we are right and they are wrong; and further, we can force them into a debate of attrition on every single nonsense lie they buy into.
We have to change hasbara. Positions, that were once found indefensible, we must now rally around to have any chance of countering Arab lies. If the rest of the world thinks Israel should be delegitimized because of settlement policy, then I call into question their view of Israel; and I hold the radical idea that Jews can, indeed, live peacefully in Judea.