We had the latest edition of “Hate Week” at UCI this past month. The Muslim Student Union put on its week of hostility to Israel. Jewish organizations protested, there were online petitions, marches, and much angst in the community. The UCI administration was besieged with e-mails, lamenting the situation. Jewish student groups talked about Israel’s democracy, its great accomplishments in everything from creating “text messaging” to freedom of religion for all. We Jews all felt that we responded, chances are we changed few minds, and our success was marginal at best.
I have debated Arabs. You never succeed by saying “Israel has democratic rights,” “the UN endorsed its establishment,” or “it’s really a nice country.” It does not work. The only method to overcome the Muslim students’ arguments is to remove the veil over their true positions, and let everyone judge what they really think.
A few years ago I participated in a dialogue between Arabs and Jews. The Arab panelists told me that they wanted to “get along with the Jews, if only…..” So I asked them if so, why do their children study in school that they want to have a country from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and why do they glorify suicide bombers? Suddenly they were silent, their true intentions for all to see.
The notorious group CAIR attacked me for sponsoring Dennis Prager, saying he was “ an Islamaphobe — hostile to Islam.” I went on the offensive, saying that CAIR was besmirching a man dedicated to human rights. I challenged the group to condemn suicide bombers from Hamas. The group members hemmed and hawed, trying to dodge the question. In the end they refused to say terror was immoral. Suddenly the story shifted — to CAIR and its refusal to condemn violence against civilians. On the front page of the LA Times these people were embarrassed that their real opinions came to light. Now they became the subject of the debate, not Prager. They retreated in shame.
Our community’s response has been defensive. You don’t win an argument with people who want to destroy you by saying “we are really nice guys” or “that is hate speech.” Nor do you convince the masses of students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, that their agenda is truly nefarious. What is needed is a much more blunt and direct approach.
The positions of the Muslim Student Union at UCI are radical. They call for Israel’s destruction, that 9/11 was a Jewish plot, that Ahmadinejad is a noble person, that Israel is an apartheid state. It’s time to turn the tables. We need to stop kvetching and make them the issue. Instead of meetings with the UCI administration, reports about anti Semitism, dialogues, and discussions, we need a new approach. It’s time to reveal their true opinion. We must do it in a direct fashion, using strong and aggressive advertisements in the university and general media like one the displayed on this page. Most students will see the truth and will reject their extremism. The debate is not about Israel; it’s about Arab radicalism that advocates genocide and the eradication of Israel. Let’s turn the tables.
Rabbi David Eliezrie is at Congregation Beth Meir HaCohen-Chabad. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.