What happens when an anti-Israel activist takes a leap of faith and opens a positive dialogue with a Zionist? Well – here is one story.
Because of the subject matter, this blog has been difficult to put together. In advance I can say I gave serious thought about how to approach it. I also had to consider whether to shield someone’s name from the piece. In the end I understood it would be contentious whichever way I tried to lay out the content. I also realised that because both actors in this play are well-known in their own communities – and everything in the blog was available online – there was little point in trying to hide anyone behind an alias.
I was up late Sunday night, searching Facebook for posts about the Al Quds demonstration when I came across one written by a woman, Zina, who had attended the Al Quds march. The post was an image of herself, holding a Palestinian flag, standing with a ‘Zionist’ holding up an Israeli one. The activist had proudly added a caption that began ‘well here it is guys, Israel and Palestine can find peace‘:
Whatever your political leanings, this is a positive post. It is clear from the image that Zina had met Joseph Cohen from the Israel Advocacy Movement. According to Joseph’s own post on the meeting, Zina’s father was born in Jerusalem and they spoke about peace and the conflict for about forty minutes.
Outside of direct confrontation, I cannot know if Zena has or has not encountered a proud Jewish Zionist before. The anti-Israel bubble is a strong one. It uses a foundation of historical revision, a reversal of causality and a process of dehumanisation to suggest ‘Zionists’ are not to be approached or trusted. We also know it intimidates and bullies dissenters. Once captured inside the bubble, anything that contradicts the ‘message’ is discarded as ‘Zionist media’ or ‘Zionist propaganda’. It is very rare for someone deeply embedded to actively stretch outside to seek alternative opinion.
Zina is no half-hearted activist. She manages the ‘Palestine Issue Magazine’ on Facebook, which has over 19000 followers. The page regularly uses terms like ‘Apartheid’ and ‘Genocide’, as it pushes an ‘Electronic Intifada’ version of politics and history. Shortly before she had uploaded the positive message about Joseph, Zina had posted a ‘love this’ comment alongside a video of the Neturei Karta burning an Israeli flag. As for antisemitism, her own page is devoid of Mossad or Rothschild conspiracy. Having said that, in her world, Israel is a racist endeavour and the word ‘Zionist’ is clearly a ‘curse word’.
Joseph the Zionist
Anyone who really knows Joseph knows he is a man of peace. Joseph dislikes extremism of any description and everything Joseph does is about building bridges and understanding. Joseph is a communicator and because he often focuses on the Muslim community, he remains a unique and positive force in our community. Yes, the videos of his that go viral are ones that shock, but much of his lesser shared work is about 1:1 discussions, dialogue and debate. Joseph learns and teaches as he goes along.
Like myself Joseph wants a peaceful solution to the conflict. Last year I was alongside him when we visited ‘Shorashim’ (roots), ‘a grassroots movement of understanding, nonviolence, and transformation among Israelis and Palestinians’. We also went to Ramallah, Bethlehem and Rawabi. Both of us are firm believers that dialogue between the two sides is always welcome and a fundamental part of any peace-making process. Joseph knows there is no peace without compromise. He has the patience of a saint and will talk to anyone who is willing to talk to him.
The discussion with the Zionist
From the posts and image we can confidently state the discussion took place after the Al Quds rally and lasted for about forty minutes. This is in keeping with Joseph’s style. He seeks out this type of dialogue with people who attend these events. But we can say more. Zina paints a picture of respectful, but frank and open discussion. She disagreed with Joseph and Joseph disagreed with her. They had dialogue – that’s it. A ‘humanisation’ process in which you listen to the other side and see them outside of the ‘bubble’. The only thing that occurred here is that they spoke to each other as human beings.
Seeing a ‘Zionist’ as anything other than the ‘devil’ is anathema to the anti-Israel movement. Zena had made a mistake, she had painted a ‘Zionist’ as human and then publicly shared this with her friends. In their eyes she may as well have become an IDF soldier. The response to her Facebook post was swift and vicious. One of the first to comment was Kevin Stead:
Kevin appears to be Scottish. He is telling someone with a father born in Jerusalem not to talk to Zionists. This is the fascinating arrogance of a privileged supremacist. It isn’t surprising that Kevin doesn’t think Zena should engage, he seems to think Israel is the ‘headquarters for the globalist Jewish banking cabal intent on world domination’.
Kevin should be proud. That is exactly what Hitler thought Jews wanted Israel for. Kevin may as well be quoting from Mein Kampf. Not that Kevin believes the Holocaust happened of course:
I have no intention of going one by one through the comment section, but it was vile. Just a few examples: One of the people who attacked Zina the most was someone who uses an alias on Facebook, ‘Zoe Zeero’.
There isn’t much I need to say about Zoe beyond stating that I know her from my work into the sewer that is Palestine Live. Zoe Zeero is also well-known to the Labour against Antisemitism crowd. In the long exchange with Zoe, Zina put up a fight. Forget that she was still accusing Israel of everything she could throw, but she was adamant that not all Zionists are bad, some ‘want peace’ and so on. Notice how in a comment above Zina had even drawn a clear distinction between the way she had been treated on Joseph’s page and the way she was being handled by her own friends. Zoe was having none of it:
These are the usual ‘put-downs’ and ‘smear by association’ tactics these bullies use. Zeero even mentioned me, then she moved on to Jonathan Hoffman. Someone else, called Jody Smith went as far as telling Zina that Joseph was ‘dangerous’:
But much of the attack focused on Zina. She was told she was stupid, easily manipulated and what she was saying would ‘disgust’ and ‘shame’ real activists. ‘Brainwashed’ was a word floated around a lot and she was openly ridiculed. Dozens and dozens of posts calling her out. Eventually, battered and bruised, Zina opened another post trying to explain herself – and the attacks continued there. Several of those who were attacking her are known to me through my research into antisemitism. Some of the messages directly contained pure antisemitism – like this ‘star of satanism’ post:
What was visible on Facebook is of course only part of the story. It was clear that Zina was receiving private messages too. Only she knows how many. Her response on Facebook began as defiant, but little by little she was worn down by some of the hundreds of negative responses she received. She deleted the original post and the others where she had stood defiant. There was partial retraction, talk about ‘making mistakes’ and eventually she broke.
Despair and surrender
These are two of her last posts on the subject:
For those worried about the post above, Zina did go on to clarify it was not a suggestion she was about to commit suicide. And that is it. Zina Abdullatif, a hard-core anti-Israel activist, made a mistake and spoke to a Zionist as if he were human. The bubble of hate she lives inside did the rest.
She spoke to a Jewish Zionist
The truth is that I do not know a single Zionist, that would attack me for opening dialogue with the ‘other side’. Building bridges, having dialogue is a central part of our ideology. If you are telling the truth, if you are on the side of ‘right’, then speaking about it with those who disagree with you is always going to be a basic part of your strategy. The only ones who are afraid of talking are those who have an ideology built on shaky pillars.
Zina’s crime was that she spoke to a Zionist. She didn’t agree with him, she held her ground and did no more than see positive in the dialogue itself. For one brief moment she showed the courage to question and for anti-Israel activism this is an unspeakable crime. Any attempt by ‘our side’ to reach out to her, will be seen as a further attempt to brainwash. The only change can come from within and all dissent is instantly silenced.
How on earth is it possible to build bridges with such a twisted ideology of blind hate? The answer of course is that it isn’t possible. Zina and people like her are locked inside the bubble unable to get out. The mid-way point does not exist. They are caught in a pincer movement between Islamic antisemitism and western antisemitism. You either see Zionists as inhumane or you cannot stand with ‘the cause’. When courage speaks up – it is vilified. This is why even after seventy years there is no peace, nor any sign of it on the horizon.
This research needs your help
This blog is unique and I engage in deep undercover research into antisemitism and the lies people tell about Israel. I expose the hate and address the false narrative spread from anti-Israel activism. The work is fully independent and your help makes all this possible. Many key stories on antisemitism have first been exposed by this research on this site. I was recently named as one of the J100 (‘top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life’) by The Algemeiner. If you can, please consider making a donation towards the ongoing research.
You can make PayPal donations using the donate button above. I have also opened a Patreon page. If you can please consider donating just a few pounds or dollars a month. Every contribution is both needed and truly appreciated.