Are we doing it wrong?

No not THAT! But I did get your attention…….

I am speaking about the way we advocate not just for Israel but engage on any political topic. In the post Clinton-Trump election campaign era where anything goes and people feel free to say whatever they want; many a dormant racist and Anti-Semite have found a new lease on life. Social media platforms have become extremely unpleasant and nothing is off limits – body shaming, parenting shaming, political viewpoint shaming is all the rage and if anyone can find something about you to insult, you bet your bottom dollar that they will.

And if you are a Zionist –whoo boy, it is open season for attack!!!

Some of you may be familiar with the recent exchange with popular radio broadcaster and journalist, Redi Tlhabi. Tlhabi has a show on 702 talk radio in Johannesburg and used her platform to excoriate the leader of the opposition in SA, Mmusi Maimane about his recent trip to Israel.


Redi Tlhabi

Listen here:

Redi on the Maimane visit

Although the official government position of South Africa is support of a two state solution, President Jacob Zuma, recently called on South Africans to not go to Israel. This is an extremely myopic viewpoint for a country often lauded for its ability to broker reconciliation following the collapse of Apartheid in that country.

As someone who grew up in South Africa but is a proud Israeli citizen, I felt a duty to speak out against such flagrant media bias. Israel, like any country is not perfect. We make our fair share of mistakes but like any healthy democracy, criticism is welcome and so is the impetus to improve. When Israel is criticized in a vacuum at the expense of other conflict zones or factual untruths allowed to go unchallenged…well…that is where the line is crossed and we move into a dangerous area.

Make no mistake, criticism is healthy. It serves Israel no purpose to be above reproach. Criticizing the government is the favourite national pastime in Israel. Nobody does it better than us.

I was with this in mind that I wrote my open letter to Redi Thlabi. My intention was not to engage in the politics of blame but rather to try and open a dialogue. Often times, advocacy work becomes a dance of either going on the offensive or defensive and nobody wins. I thought maybe it was time for a different approach. I hoped that by sitting down, woman to woman and broadcaster to broadcaster, we could connect on a different level. Blatant aggression from supporters does not serve the case of either side. To those who have no dog in the race, we look like a bunch of over emotional nut-jobs. My intention was to approach this from a mature angle a “let’s talk tachlis” (okay, a small bit of promotion here!) – maybe if we start a responsible conversation, others would follow.


Rolene Marks

You can read our exchange here:

My letter to Redi Tlhabi:

Redi’s rebuttal:

It wasn’t quite the response that I was hoping for and I was dismayed that Tlhabi seemed closed to discourse.  Never the less, the attempt was made and I am not discouraged in the least. In fact I will continue to knock on the doors.

I am glad that Redi raised the issue of bullying. I have been called everything from “Occupier Barbie” to “closeted Muslim” and sms boards and the twitterverse go nuts if I say something that deviates a millimeter off sycophantic drivel while giving my analysis on my daily radio slot. This has to stop. It only serves to alienate those who have not been polarized by the conflict and are open to engagement.

I love my country. Passionately. I love her people, her beautiful flaws and like any great love, am prepared to sometimes get into a little argument with her. I am no different to my fellow citizens who feel and do the same. I believe that part of being Zionist means always striving for a strong and great Israel.

I believe we need to show up. Show up for the conversation, no matter how difficult it may be. I sincerely believe that very time we engage, like or share on social media, send an email, we stand on the shoulders of the generations that came before us who had no voice and we speak for them.  It is a moral imperative to talk, to engage with others, to take advantage of the uncomfortable questions not just as an opportunity to present Israel’s side of the argument but to truly listen to the concerns of others. Instead of shutting down, let’s learn how to answer effectively, factually and with maturity.

Opening doors is how peace is forged. We cannot be responsible for the actions of the other side and we are certainly don’t need to be punching bags but we do need to ensure that when speaking about Israel, we put our best foot forward – not in our mouths.

Talking Tachlis: A conversation with Natan Sharansky and Prof.Rivka Lazovsky

I am delighted to introduce the latest episode of Talking Tachlis which features a conversation between two great organisations. World WIZO Executive Member: Public Diplomacy & Hasbara, Rolene Marks and I sat down with Chairman of the Executive for the Jewish Agency for Israel and human rights icon, Natan Sharansky for a conversation about our organizations, defining anti-Semitism through “the 3-d lens”, special friendships with Nelson Mandela and a whole lot more.

This was a real highlight for me and very humbling to sit down with a modern Zionist hero.

Video clip is in English and available with English, French and Spanish subtitles:

English subtitles

Spanish subtitles

French Subtitles