December 12, 2018

UCLA Jews: Stop fighting and start winning

When someone punches you in the face, there are three ways you can fight back: One, you can punch him back. Two, you can complain to authorities. Three, you can drive him crazy.

Unfortunately, pro-Israel groups on U.S. campuses are very good at complaining, but very bad at punching back or driving our enemies crazy.

And let's not mince words– the BDS movement is an enemy movement. Groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have zero interest in promoting peace between Israel and Palestinians. What they want to do is punch Israel in the face. Forget anti-Semitism- it's bad enough that these groups are single-mindedly focused on crushing Israel any way they can.

So, how are pro-Israel groups fighting back against this onslaught? Well, mostly by complaining and engaging. Our expectations have gotten so low that now we're getting all excited about obvious resolutions that “condemn anti-Semitism.” Uh, no kidding.

When one Jew– David Horowitz of the Freedom Center– tried punching back recently at UCLA, he got attacked by…other Jews. “We don't fight like that!” was their message. “We don't stoop to their level!”

Horowitz launched a nasty poster campaign that ridiculed the word “Justice” in the name Students for Justice in Palestine. By showing the horror of what a Palestinian group like Hamas can do to other Palestinians, he was basically saying: Now THIS is an injustice against Palestinians worth fighting. He was exposing SJP's hypocrisy.

Whether you agreed with the posters or not, they were a punch in the face.

Now, I acknowledge that the great majority of pro-Israel groups are not comfortable with this approach. They're more comfortable with things like “education” and “debates” and submitting complaints to authorities and editorial columns and peaceful demonstrations.

I have sympathy for that view. I also love a great debate or a great editorial or a great letter. The problem, of course, is that we're dealing with an enemy that has no interest in those things. The BDS movement attacks Israel with bare knuckles, while Jews often fight back with complaint letters.

So far, nothing we do seems to work. Our enemy just keeps punching away. Frankly, if their goal is to crush us, I don't blame them.

But if we insist on not punching back, then we should at least fight back with option 3: Drive them crazy.

How do we do that? By turning the image of Israel upside down: Not only is Israel not deserving of a boycott, it's actually the #1 solution to the problems the Middle East.

This is not just a clever strategy, it's also true: If every country in the Middle East offered the same human rights and civil rights as Israel does, the whole region would be a lot better off. No one can argue with that.

Pro-Israel groups should stop dignifying anti-Israel groups by dancing to their tune. Defending ourselves is a sign of weakness. If we want to make some real headway in this war of messages, we must create a new, fresh, positive attack line: Israel is the solution to the Middle East.

This is the shock and awe approach, designed to disarm and confuse the enemy.

Sure, they will continue to bash Israel any way they can. Nothing will stop that. But that's even more reason to strengthen the image of Israel with a powerful message of transformation.

Right now, anti-Israel groups are exploiting the Achilles heel of Israel's image– the conflict with the Palestinians. Let's face it, that problem isn’t going away any time soon. But Israel is a lot more than that conflict. It is the only society in the region that allows the freedom to make things better. That simple freedom alone can transform the region.

The key to communication is to start with accepted truths. These are the two big truths in the Middle East that work to Israel's advantage: One, the region is a chaotic, violent mess that tramples on human rights, and two, no country in the region offers more rights and freedoms and economic opportunities than Israel.

I don't have to draw a blueprint. Pro-Israel groups are smart enough to do that. What they need, though, is to change their messaging.

Position Israel as a key resource to help transform the Middle East and you will drive the BDS people crazy and bring the masses on your side.

That's not fighting – that's winning.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at