What it’s like to talk to a Jewish anti-Zionist troll

Instead of asking me questions and allowing me to answer them, he began fighting with me.

Prof. Phyllis Chesler,

Prof. Phyllis Chesler
Prof. Phyllis Chesler
INN:PC

I was tricked into an interview about ant-Semitism by a pro-BDS troll. I was thoroughly blindsided.

He told me that he was “a teacher of Jewish Studies” and was writing a book on anti-Semitism. He “thanked” me for my book. In the course of our correspondence, he wished me “Shabbat Shalom,” and “Chag Sameach,” and said he wanted to meet with me after I lectured, or talk to me on the phone.

He did not describe himself as a blogger for a left-wing Jewish publication or as someone who admires President Obama, supported his deal with Iran, and believes that the only real anti-Semites are those who support Israel under Netanyahu. He purposely hid his politics in the hope of  catching me in a “Got’cha” moment. He set out to deceive me while I set out to help him.

He persistently pursued me. I was about to decline this offer entirely but then I thought: He must be a younger person (he is), someone starting out who deserves kindness from an Elder. Perhaps he really wants to quote me accurately.

He decided to “tempt” me by writing that he had just had a “great interview with the ADL’s Deputy Director” and “would be speaking with officials at Hillel and Federation in the coming weeks and would very much like to have an author’s voice added into the mix as well. Since I will be analyzing The New Anti-Semitism in my book, I’d love that voice to be yours.”

Authors love to hear stuff like this but Cognitive Warriors had best be on their guard.

He sent four questions. I answered two questions via email. But he implored me to talk to him on the phone, even if briefly. I agreed. I had no idea of the trouble I was courting.


Most Jews conform to what is popular in the hope that they will then be popular, obtain tenure, get published, work in the media, and so on.
With my permission, he taped our conversation. Within a few minutes I knew something was wrong. Instead of asking me questions and allowing me to answer them, he began fighting with me.

Apparently, he wanted to engage in a hostile debate, not an interview. He tried to badger me into telling him what he wanted to hear or to shame me for holding views other than his own. He had no understanding that a good interviewer listens, quotes accurately, and then writes whatever he wishes. The debate takes place afterwards, on the pages of the interviewer’s own book.

He had cherry-picked four statements from my book, The New Anti-Semitism, and proceeded to hammer me about whether I believed that Jews were “self-hating” if they criticized Israel; joined groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, etc.

I told him that I did not necessarily view this as “self- hating” behavior but rather as opportunistic, cowardly, and tragically misguided behavior. Many Jews, like many people, want to lead safe and happy lives without having to defend an increasingly pariah nation state. Most Jews conform to what is popular in the hope that they will then be popular, obtain tenure, get published, work in the media, and so on.

Perhaps Jews who parrot the pro-Palestinian and moral equivalence narratives believe that, like battered women, that they will be safer if they change their own behavior which they can control. Perhaps such Jews are answering only Rabbi Hillel’s second question, not his first, and are engaged in helping the stranger, the Other, not their own people. This is an ethical imperative but so is helping other Jews to survive.

He asked me, again and again, about whether I thought Jews who criticized Israel were “self-hating” Jews. I finally said: “Really, I’ve had it with Jews who obsessively criticize Israel only—never ISIS, never barbarism, never Palestinian terrorists, but who always do so by first saying ‘As a Jew, I…”. I always know what’s coming next. Why can’t Jews say: ‘As a Jew, I must support my people first?’

His badgering increased but by now I understood that I was talking to an amateur nudnik.  

More, I was talking to someone who needed to “win,” who needed his view to trump my view, who needed me to change my view, he needed me to agree with him. I was talking to someone who had no capacity to accept a different point of view, to understand that I had access to other facts and different ways of looking at those facts.

He certainly did not treat me as an expert. From a psychological point of view, he was trying to exert totalitarian thought control.

He sent four more questions:

I said that I had no time to answer any more questions. He wrote: "I understand if you don't have more time; however, if you would rather me not try to interpret your "nigger" and "ghettoized" passages, (words contained but in context in my book) I'd love to hear any clarifications and/or evolution."

I told him that now he had gone too far, that he was issuing threats and behaving as a bully. I told him that I would write about our exchange—and without naming him.

Only then, did I research my interviewer. I discovered his pro-BDS positions, his view that Israel is an “occupying power,” that the violence  against innocent Israelis is equivalent to the violence that is visited upon Palestinians daily. My interviewer has  been accused of being a “self-hating Jew” for espousing such views.

Going forward, I would advise everyone to research thoroughly beforehand anyone who wishes to interview them in the media or for a book. I will certainly do so from now on.

Finally, what about Torah values?  I am more than 30 years older than this interviewer. He knew it because I told him. In addition to having disparate views, he had absolutely no respect for my age. And he teaches Jewish subjects?

If he misquotes me I will sue him.


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