Updated May 27, 2021
Against the backdrop of a complex geopolitical conflict taking place in the Middle East, Americans in general and American Jews in particular, are navigating the sea of ideas, information, opinion and expression. Social media is a powerful tool for sharing information and opinions, but it is not always suited to discussing sensitive topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a respectful, nuanced manner. While social media can be awash in misinformation and outright antisemitism, our own face-to-face interactions can also feel fraught.
Who are you engaging with? Before you embark on an Israel conversation, think about who you are going to converse with and what you hope will result.
Each scenario may require a different approach and a different goal. But in each case, the best conversations are rooted in:
Tips for a productive conversation:
• Start with empathy
• Listen to listen, not to respond. Ask open questions and invite response, then encourage your friend to do the same.
• Use positive language - investing in peace, building a better future, coexistence
• Talk about your values and what is important to you. Listen for shared values that animate your views.
• It's fine to disagree with policies and leaders of the Israeli government, just as it is fine to disagree with policies of the American government. Remember: you are not responsible for the decisions and actions Israel takes.
• Believe that people care about the issues even if they know less about them than you do.
• You do not need to be an expert to engage in meaningful conversation and you don’t need to have all the answers. Tell your story and talk about your feelings. Use specific, personal stories and ideas that convey emotion. Use lots of “I” statements
• Address specific issues and reject absolutism
What if your friend is resistant to another point of view?
• Consider whether you can have a conversation with this person. Is your goal to understand this person’s perspective or to change their thinking? Are they open to hearing your views?
• Acknowledge that you have different perspectives and that it is fine to disagree.
• Talk about shared values and tell your story and perspective.
• Don’t put your friend on the defensive; defensiveness shuts down listening
• Remember that not everyone is willing to have a conversation. It is ok to walk away from unproductive meetings.
• Your physical and emotional safety are most important. Struggling with views that are different from yours is part of learning. However, if you feel unsafe, its fine to end the conversation.
Influencers and Information Sources
Recent articles written by thought leaders:
How to Talk About Israel, by Rabbi Alexander Davis
The Fighting Between Arabs and Jews Reminds Us We’re Still a Minority in the Region, by Dr. Einat Wilf
Jerusalem of Glue, by Matti Friedman
The Bad Optics of Fighting for Your Life, by Bari Weiss
How to halt the criminalization of Israel, by Yossi Klein Halevi
How an American Left Lens Can Get Israel Wrong, by Jeremy Burton
Arabs: Hamas Does Not Care About Palestinian Suffering, by Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas’s forever war against Israel has a glitch, and it isn’t Iron Dome by Haviv Rettig Gur
When Wokeness Comes for Israel, by Batya Ungar-Sargon
Israel’s problems are not like America’s, by Matti Friedman
Eight Tips for Reading About Israel by Matti Friedman
Navigating Complexity by Rachel Fish
When Progressives Meet Israel by Ethan Felson
Are Instagram infographics driving the narrative around the Israeli-Palestinian crisis? By Mira Fox, Forward
Some material for this page was provided by the Jewish Community Relations Councils of Greater Washington and Minnesota and the Dakotas.
For more information contact Info@JFFS.org