Cancel the Israel-haters

by Benjamin Kerstein

When we refuse to acknowledge our opponents’ moral right to make an argument, they almost always self-destruct.

(JNS) “We’re all diplomats now,” an Israeli-American friend of mine told me last week. She’s right, of course. Whether we like it or not, all of us with the remotest connection to Israel are being called upon to defend it against an onslaught of racism and hate.

It isn’t easy. First and foremost because our opponents are, for the most part, utterly depraved. Theirs is a discourse of pure sadism. They don’t want to win an argument. They want to hurt us as deeply and painfully as possible. To do so, they will happily descend into defamation, incitement, abuse, emotional blackmail and outright threats of violence.

Unfortunately, this often works. Over the last eight months, I’ve watched numerous pro-Israel influencers and activists totter on the edge of exhaustion, burnout and emotional breakdown. It is debilitating to deal with discursive violence on a regular basis. They feel like they are trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. They wonder if any of it is doing any good.

One of the reasons for this sense of helplessness is strategic.

Defenders of Israel adopt many tactics, but most leave us at a distinct disadvantage. For example, trying to counter defamatory claims point by point is not just exhausting but pointless. The majority of those spreading disinformation will simply refuse to believe any refutation, however accurate. In fact, they usually know their claim is false in the first place. They use “information” as a weapon, not to make an argument.

Pointing out that rhetoric like “from the river to the sea” is inherently racist, antisemitic and genocidal is just as futile. The people who use such rhetoric are perfectly well aware of its depravity. That is why they use it in the first place. The cruelty is the point.

Assertions that Israel has the right to exist and to defend itself don’t help much either. After all, if the assertion needs to be made, then the argument is already senseless. Someone only needs to be reminded of such things when they already reject them. Given that Israel is now fighting a genocidal enemy, anyone who opposes Israel in the current war by definition believes that Israel has no right to exist or to defend itself. They could not possibly think anything else and still sleep at night.

For defenders of Israel, a much better strategy is available: cancellation.

The progressive left’s “cancel culture” holds that anyone who says anything that can be seen as racist, misogynist, anti-LGBTQ or simply distasteful has no place in the public discourse. Violators must be deplatformed and silenced. No one need listen to a word they say. In effect, they become non-people.

Many don’t much care for “cancel culture,” for good reason. But fair is fair. The progressive left that now hates Israel with genocidal fervor created cancel culture. The progressive left cannot complain if it and its allies face the blade of the double-edged sword.

There is no doubt that, according to their own criteria, the progressive left and all opponents of Israel ought to be cancelled. So, when faced with their hatred, the response is simple:

I have chosen to adopt your criteria for what constitutes acceptable discourse. Given that you are part of a racist, antisemitic and genocidal movement that supports terrorism, rape and mass murder, I do not consider your discourse acceptable according to those criteria. As such, I do not recognize your moral right to make an argument against Israel or indeed any argument whatsoever. If you make such an argument, I will not respond to it. I will not respond because—again, according to your criteria—it would be immoral to respond. To do so would be to lose my humanity. Goodbye.

At first glance, this might look like surrender, but it is not. In fact, it wounds the haters more deeply than one can possibly imagine. If there is one thing to which the progressive left and its allies cling above all, it is their titanic moral self-regard. They believe that by adopting certain political positions, they become a caste of saints—the finest and most moral people in the history of the universe. They further believe that this status gives them the right to say and do anything to anyone. No one has the right to stop them.

In my experience, when the haters are told that they are not saints and do not have such a right, they don’t react with indifference. They melt down into paroxysms of rage or simply go silent. When the genuflection they feel they deserve by right is not forthcoming, they literally self-destruct.

Amid the current upheaval, this bodes well for us. If there is any silver lining to moral narcissism, it is that those who harbor it almost always destroy themselves in the end. Our task now is to do everything within our power to hasten the inevitable.

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