Quora: The New Battlefront for Israel
By Varda Epstein
Love of country can be expressed a whole lot of ways. You can raise a flag, vote, sing a national anthem, or run for office. But when your country is tried in the court of world opinion and found guilty of imaginary crimes, you've got to fight back.
The fight for Israel is fought by the IDF with arms and it's also fought over the Internet with words. There are the hate pages and trolls you've got to report to Facebook. There's the mainstream media with nary a good word for Israel that are fought by alternative news sources: pro-Israel blogs like Judean Rose, Elder of Ziyon, and Israellycool. There's Twitter where you can volley words with the most repellant auto-antisemites like Richard Silverstein or persuade celebrities like Roseanne Barr that Israel is a force for good.
And then there's Quora.
Quora is a place where you can ask and answer questions. I was on Quora early on but didn't take it seriously until a couple of years ago. That's when I began seeing questions that took the form of anti-Israel propaganda. Questions like this one: "What is the international community doing about the oppression of the Palestinian people by Israel and the building of 'The Wall?,'" that speak of Israel oppressing Arabs as if that were a fact; that speak of "Palestinians" as if there were such a national identity; as if building the security wall was some sort of bigoted Apartheid measure designed to prevent Israelis from having to hobnob with undesirables.
I realized that these questions had to be answered fearlessly, and often with facts and sources provided.
Now I'm just a housewife with no higher education. I'm a solitary person, a blogger, someone who rarely leaves the home. But I'm really good at Google. (I want that on my tombstone: "She was good at Google.") That means there's no obstacle for me in finding the facts to support the ideas I want to put forward.
I look at a question like that and the wheels start turning in my mind. My fingers itch to type. I want to answer that in such a way that my Israel-loving bias will obliterate the anti-Israel bias expressed in that question. Because this is war, Habibi.
And true love will always win out.
That question was actually one of the easier ones. I didn't have to look up any sources or facts. I just had to undo the narrative by replacing it with the truth, which was this:
That’s a very good question. The only thing the international community could do, considering that Israel is a sovereign nation, and the wall is its defense against terrorism, would be to link funding to a cessation of Arab terror. If the Arab terror against Israelis would stop, I know that Israel would be happy to tear down this very expensive wall that looks ugly and separates peoples. Israel would be happy to live in peace with its Arab minority. All this minority needs to do is lay down its arms and things will be great for all.
See what I did there? I complimented the questioner and then ripped his postulate apart by inserting the truth: Israelis aren't bigots, they just don't particularly like being stabbed, stoned, and firebombed.
That was a question that required some mental gymnastics, cleverness, rather than dates, figures, and quotes. And still, I have to believe that answering that question made a difference. That response got 253 views. People saw it. People shared it. (Take THAT! you Israel-hating fools.)
A question like this one, on the other hand, " Shouldn't we feel bad about Israel because it took a part of Palestine illegally?" must be answered with some sources and facts. It's not that I didn't know the answer to this question off the top of my head. I did. I knew that Israel took no territory belonging to others and did nothing illegal. But if you just put it out there it's your word against the person who posed the question. So you answer it with what you know and then you go dig up a source that supports what you know to be true.
Here is where I must give credit to my favorite sources for answering Quora questions. These would include the Virtual Jewish Library, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MEMRI, and PMW. This time, it was the Virtual Jewish Library that came to Israel's rescue on Quora:
Your premise is false. Israel took nothing, and holds no land belonging to anyone else. Israel’s claim to its land is both indigenous and legal according to international law.
In fact, between 1948–1967, Jordan was in contravention of international law, for occupying Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem. Only two UN member states believed Jordan’s occupation to be a legal one (Great Britain and Pakistan).
Here are some pages on the subject to give you a broader perspective on the matter:
Myths & Facts: Israel's Roots (Chapter 1)
Israeli Settlements and International Law
See how easy that was?
I tell you all this because I think more of us could be doing this work. It is really needed. There are billions of Israel-haters out there commanding the 'net. We need to get out into the trenches and fight back with facts. I've given you my best sources, you can look things up as well as I can.
But a few caveats: sometimes people report you for being rude or bigoted. Mostly they do this because they've got NOTHING. So they accuse you of racism or some such and Quora slaps you on the hand. The appeals process is kind of tortuous. They send you to a bunch of places and make you write a bunch of emails. Just see it through. If they ask you to modify a response to comply with their policies, do it. Otherwise you'll get banned and then you are no help to Israel whatsoever. At least on Quora.
Also, sometimes people comment on your replies and you can end up embroiled in debate with a troll. Unless you're really, really good at that sort of thing, best to stick the maxim: "Please don't feed the trolls."
Ignore them and they'll shut up soon enough to crawl back into the ugly holes they came from.
Lastly, why are you still reading this? Get over to Quora and dig in. It's lonely over there. Besides, even if you aren't so great with words, it's ONLY words. As opposed to sticks and stones (and knives and firebombs and car-rammings). It's worth a try.
And it's a great way to show your love for Israel, armed only with your deepest affection for the Jewish State.
Varda Epstein is a writer in love with Israel, a mother of 12, and a grandmother, too. When not battling the trolls, Varda is a parent education expert and writer at Kars4Kids, a Guidestar gold medal charity.