Unapologetic Confidence – Sympathizing not Apologizing

  • 5 minute read
  • • by Sharon Koifman
  • • August 3, 2022


When you try to find common ground with our critics at the expense of Israel, you are not bringing them closer, you are giving them more of a reason to fight.  By creating an apologetic status quo, you are making it harder for our next generation, who believe our apology to be the reality. You are also hurting our credibility with neutral listeners. Sympathizing yet not apologizing is a state of mind in which you don’t take responsibility for Palestinians’ suffering, but you can Empathize with their suffering and truly want to help. This common ground should be how we move forward.

Long Explanation

When experts in conflict resolution teach their methods, the first thing they explain is that we need to find a common denominator, something on which both parties agree. As Jews, conflict resolution has become second nature and has been our survival tool since the Romans pushed us out of Judah 2.000 years ago. Until recently, apologizing and falsely admitting that we were wrong was a common and usually effective approach to many struggles.

The good news is that some things have changed in the past 100 years. First, we created an amazing country with a dominating military force. Second, in most civilized countries, intimidating or hurting minorities has become a criminal offense. These have brought us into a new reality, where apologizing is no longer a required conflict resolution tactic unless we actually do something wrong. Unfortunately, the majority of us did not seem to get the memo. We often still think that the way to solve a problem is by continuously apologizing, and this is most evident when we deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Many of us desperately try to find a common language with our critics by just agreeing on what Israel has done wrong. With this logic, if we criticize Israel a bit, it won’t cause much damage to Israel’s defense and reputation, but it will be a way to start a conversation with Palestinians and Anti Zionists.

That tactic might have worked when we needed to sustain a continuous survival mode, but it does not work when we try to show the world our side or actually try to come to a resolution. All these micro-confessions remind our haters that they have some justification for hating us, and that means that they have a reason to keep fighting rather than come to the negotiation table. Our continuous apologizing is not only removing us from a solution, but it also keeps reminding the ever-patient Palestinians that their war is very slowly being won and that all they need to do is to keep sending the same message until we fold. If this is not obvious to the reader, it is the way to make sure the conflict will last for way longer and is not the path to peace.

And for all the progressives among you. The Anti-Israel marketing machine has sold us that using an unapologetic tone is a right-wing thing to do, which is crazy considering that left-leaning people have never been apologetic when it comes to the environment, human rights, and LGBTQ+. The claim that Zionism goes against progressive ideology is a scam.

Continuously hearing this apologetic tone and accepting this as the norm is also hurting the next generation of Jews and Israel advocates. When we do it, we are hoping that the kids see that we are simply trying to connect with the other side and being on the right side of the conversation. Unfortunately, behavior psychology teaches the reverse is happening. They see us admitting that we are partially wrong. Being partially wrong while the other side confidently blames everything on us as the status quo will eventually adjust to what they see as the norm. Unfortunately, their own future attempts to find a common denominator become even more apologetic, if not self-critical, and that is how we sink into a PR nightmare. Our next generation is not the only one that is psychologically affected. The mere strangers who listen to our debate against these delusional, confident, and unapologetic opponents also get turned off by the lack of confidence in our arguments.

I admire people who want to find a solution by connecting with the other side. But if you’re going to find a common denominator, it shouldn’t be about what Israel is supposedly doing something wrong. Rather than punishing ourselves, we can focus on another topic to agree on: the understanding that our Palestinian brothers and sisters are suffering. The Palestinians have been brainwashed, oppressed, and used as pawns to make a few very evil dictators rich. The Palestinians are the only population who is suffering and are being used as a marketing tool. This is enough common denominator to start a real discussion without ever blaming things on Israel.

In order to win the PR battle from a progressive point, we should practice sympathizing without apologizing. The concept of approaching critics, haters, and even people who are there to learn with an unapologetic explanation of the conflict while also providing a sympathetic, caring ear to the Palestinian suffering might not feel natural at first – it may actually feel quite awkward.

Keeping yourself in this behavioral state is quite the juggle. Bringing yourself to a confidence level where you know that the other side wants to hurt and kill you for something that is not your fault, yet still consistently caring about that other side, feels a bit handi-ish. Most people would eventually fall to a place where they stay unapologetic but get angrier and less sympathetic, or keep on caring but slowly lose support for Israel. Yet staying consistent is the most effective way to influence others. If you want to be a superstar advocate, do whatever you need to do. Start meditating, find your balance, and be mindful about how you talk. Always ask yourself: “Am I trying to downplay Israel for the purpose of connecting with someone?” and “Have I stopped caring for the Arabs/Muslims around me because I’ve grown too emotional about the cause?”

One last side note to consider. Too often, when I hear a conversation by some of our top Israel advocates, there is a repeated disclaimer: “They don’t claim that Israel doesn’t ever do anything wrong.” I know what they are trying to do, to put themselves in a position that does not make them look like extremists, and to build more trust with their audience. But there is a far more severe psychological side effect that counterbalances the goodwill that comes with continuously saying that Israel also is doing bad things. It’s not that I’m trying to make a case that Israel is absolutely perfect (Even if I do believe that Israel tops one of the most progressive countries in the world.) Every country, even the ones known to be the most democratic, ethical countries, hides some skeleton in their closest. The fact that we need to spell it out every time is not only a double standard but again affects our listeners’ view of Israel. It might create a little more trust with the audience, but it makes a case for the opponents and removes the confidence in our arguments.

The balance between sympathy and no apology would make you a true communicator in the eyes of your listener.


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