Noa Tishby, ISRAEL

Noa Tishby, ISRAEL

Actress, activist, and author Noa Tishby recently joined Zibby for an in-person event to discuss her new book, Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth. Tishby talks about her activism, the source of most anti-Semitic attacks on the Internet and across America, and why it’s so important for everyone to educate themselves on the history of the hotly contested region.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Noa. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to talk about Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Understoodto the Most Misunderstood — not most understood — the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth.

Noa Tishby: Thank you so much for having. If it was understood, I wouldn’t have had to write the book.

Zibby: Exactly, we could just all throw it out. Why bother? Instead, let’s have a lunch about it.

Noa: Let’s.

Zibby: You described really well in your book, why you were the person to write this and why we should all care. Can you just tell everybody a little bit about your background and why you’re the perfect person to write this book?

Noa: It’s not so much that I’m — there are a lot of perfect people to write this book, but I just wanted to make sure that when people read the book, they’re confident that they’re not reading a history of Israel, which is obviously slightly complicated, by somebody who doesn’t have the background. I had to make sure that I explained to people that, yes, I — first of all, I’m Israeli American. I was born and raised in Israel. I live in the United States. I started my career in the entertainment industry as an actor and producer and a writer and a model and whatever. However, I’ve been involved in Israeli advocacy, politics, behind the scenes, NGOs, organizations for over a decade. I was the first person to start the first online advocacy and rapid-response organization trying to explain to people that what’s happening online is not true. That happened in 2011. Luckily, it’s just gotten better since. Now it’s gotten way worse. I wanted to make sure that people, they know that they can trust me with the story. It’s not a novelty project of, oh, this producer just decided to write a book about Israel. No, no, no, I’ve been doing this for a very long time. That’s the answer to that. Why would people care? is extremely important, in my view, because Israel is not — I know this may sound controversial for people, but Israel is not a Jewish topic or an issue. Israel is not a Jewish American — Israel is not about even just an Israeli issue.

Israel is important for the national security of the United States. Israel is a stabilizing force in the Middle East. Everybody in the Middle East knows this except Iran and the social justice warriors in the United States. Legitimately, those two people, or for some reason, joined forces and are acting towards dismantling the single consistent democracy in the Middle East, delegitimizing its right to exist. They are allowed to do this. First of all, it’s intentional. It’s not by accident. It’s by design. We’ve been — I say we because a few of us in the advocacy world and in NGOs and in research, we’ve been trying to warn people about this for a long time. We’re like, there is something bad that’s happening. It’s intentional. It’s well-funded. It’s political. It’s going to bite us. It came out in the recent conflict with Israel and Hamas in the most obvious of ways, but it’s been going on for a very long time. By not supporting Israel, especially progressives and liberals, they’re destabilizing the security of the United States. That was very important to me to write and to make clear, which is why people should care.

The reason this was allowed to happen is because of lack of education. The reason that that was allowed to happen is because there are a lot of people on the other side, which is a nefarious, well-funded, anti-democratic, anti-Israel, anti-United States and Western values, that is well-funded. On the pro-Israel side, especially within the Democrats, within the left, unfortunately, there has been a sense of confidence. We’ve been very lucky to not need to know. Within our community — I say our community. In the Jewish community, the non-Jewish community, the pro-Israel community that is not Jewish, just to be the normal people, none of us thought that Israel would be a questionable issue. Because we allowed ourselves to not know the history, we allowed these nefarious forces that have an intent to penetrate. I wrote the book in order to first and foremost educate the people that want to know, Jewish community, non-Jewish community, people that are like, I’m watching social media and I don’t know a lot, but I don’t think Israel is a genocidal state. I don’t think Israeli is causing ethnic cleansing, but I really don’t know how to answer that question. I really don’t think that’s true, but I don’t know what to say about it. This is what the book is for. Get your facts right. Get educated. Then you’ll be able to actually know, first of all, what it is that you should say and second, why this is all happening.

Zibby: We were talking earlier about underdog culture, to your point, and that people, maybe on social media, are leaning against this viewpoint because they want to support — they view Israel, somehow, as not the underdog at all.

Noa: They perceive it as the strong. It’s not that it’s weak. Israel’s not weak. First of all, the narrative that you have to be either pro-Israel is pro-Palestine is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. This is one-sided. Again, it’s intentional. Not a single person within Israel or within the pro-Israel community would say, I’m against Palestinians. It’s ridiculous. Nobody would say that. First and foremost, that’s the case. They’re trying to present it as if you’re either/or. Literally, you post on social media, “Shabbat shalom,” and you get Palestinian flags in return. You’re like, what happened? It’s rhetorical. I actually know what happened. You read the book, you’ll see what happened, seriously. The fact that the book came out on April 6th and the war happened a month later — every single tweet Bella Hadid put out there is addressed in the book. It was shocking to us. We knew this was coming. I knew this was coming. It was the reason that I wrote the book. The quickness in which this happened and the not just anti-Israel, but the anti-Semitic attacks, like actual — not online, what Eve Barlow actually dubbed a social media pogrom, which couldn’t be more true. It’s a pogrom. They’re trying to get Jewish and pro-Israeli and pro-Jewish voices out of social media. You can’t even say no to anti-Semitism right now because you get hate for it. What happened? Why is this? The fact that it happened so quickly was shocking. The fact that it went from this woke conversation of, I’m supporting the perceived underdog, to attacks on Jews all over the United States needs to make us all pause and rethink where we’re going with this.

Zibby: Who are the they that you keep talking about?

Noa: Let me get to that in a second. It’s very important. It’s actually very important, but to answer the question again on the perceived underdog, there is no, technically, Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I know. It’s not an Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s an Israeli-Arab world conflict. It has been going on for nearly a century. The Arab world, which knows this and is starting to backtrack away from this, hence the Abraham Accords and all these deals that are happening, the Arab world as a whole, twenty-one countries, give or take, trying to kill Israel, depending on the year — sometimes it’s this country. Sometimes it’s that country. Sometimes it’s Egypt. Then it’s Hamas. Then it’s this. It’s that. Essentially, Israel has been under attack for a century. It’s all twenty-one Arab countries around that have been kind of — I’m not implicating all of them at the same time. The Arab League as a whole has been very anti-Israeli and, unfortunately, have been using the Palestinians as a pawn in this game. If one of these rich Arab countries in the region would’ve liked to solve this conflict fifty years ago, they could have, but they chose not to. They took the poor Palestinian people and put them in refugee camps in Lebanon and in Jordan and this and did that in that. They were like, wait just a second, we’re not solved. The war is not over. 1948 never happened. This war of independence that Israel did not want, did not start, and won, they were, in a concerted effort, going, we don’t care. We have all the oil money. We’re good. You guys just stay in your refugee camps. We’re not going to repopulate you and reintegrate you into society. Let’s just wait with this and see what happens. We’re playing the long game.

This is not an Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s an Israeli-Arab world conflict. It needs to be viewed that way. When you view it that way and you have a country of nine million people within the Middle East, the single consistent democracy within the Middle East with twenty-one percent Arab Israeli Palestinian population in it that have more rights than in pretty much everything other country in the region, have more freedoms, specifically women, not to mention LGBTQ+ community, when you view it that way, who is the David and who is the Goliath? You’ve got nine million people, and then nearly three hundred million people around twenty-one countries. You’ve got eight thousand square miles and the entire region around that’s conspiring to take out the one Jewish state, the one democracy in the region. If Israeli’s not there, Iran is taking over. There’s no doubt about — look, Congressman Richie Torres is waving his head. Yeah, Iran is taking over. All these forces that are pretending to be pro-Palestinian and Palestinian rights, they’re supporting illiberal voices within the Middle East. Again, everything is shifting in the Middle East. All these countries right now, the UAE and Bahrain and Morocco and Sudan, all these countries are aligning with Israel because everybody in the Middle East, they’re basically willing to say publicly what everybody in the Middle East already knows. Israel is really not the biggest problem in the Middle East. Iran is. Iran is, period, end of story. The David and Goliath that is a mistaken narrative that is sold to uneducated America on social media and some freaking supermodels that think they’re Robert Mitchum all of a sudden is so twisted and so dangerous. They’re being mouthpieces for illiberal, radical voices in the Middle East that are laughing their asses off because this has all succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Audience: No, no.

Noa: Thank you. Is it okay, in the podcast, we have an audience?

Zibby: I’m going to explain that ahead of time.

Noa: Great, we have an audience.

Zibby: I’ll remind people now. There’s an audience here. No big deal. Obviously, part of the strategy is education and trying to dispel all the misperceptions that are out there. What else is there on the table that everybody can do to make sure that all of the anti-Semitism and all of the anti-Israel and this new, cool, let’s not —

Noa: — I call it in the book, this new, hip social justice cause. It’s called anti-Zionism. It’s adorable. It goes something like this, I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m just an anti-Zionist. That stems from not understanding what Zionism is, not understanding — this is a whole — we have to get back to the, who is behind it? It’s very important. First of all, just for everybody’s background understanding, I always say this, we as the pro-Israel and Jewish or non-Jewish community need to be able to answer, what is Zionism? Why are you a Zionist? Zionism is a movement for Jewish liberation and self-determination in a Jewish, not an exclusively Jewish, state. Zionism is a movement for Jewish liberation and self-determination in a Jewish, not an exclusively Jewish, state. It never ever, ever talks about an exclusively Jewish state. We’ll get to that in a second. Zionism is about the Jews, like any other people, allowed to self-govern in their tiny piece of ancestral land. That’s it. The Jews are allowed to have a state. How can you be against that? is the question. A lot of people would say, Zionism is offensive to me. It’s ridiculous to be offended by a meaning that you gave to a word. I’m super offended by this microphone. This microphone is so offensive to me. Please don’t say the word microphone because I’m — it’s crazy. It’s like feminism. Men are like, this is so aggressive. No, it’s about equal rights for women. If you choose to get offended by it, that’s your story in your head.

Those people, which we’ll get to in a second, have been working for years to brand Zionism something that it is not. Now, saying you’re a Zionist — the word Zionism, it turned into a slur, which is, again, crazy. Zionism is a progressive movement. It was designed to progress Jews away from persecutions and thousands of years of oppressions and progress them into self-governance. It worked out beyond belief. It’s almost like we’re victims to our own success in that sense. That’s number one. The people behind this, there a couple different, awful forces that are working together. This whole thing originated in Soviet propaganda. This whole thing originated in the Durban Conference in 2001 in which the Soviet Union basically — it leans on the Soviet’s passing a UN resolution that Zionism is racism. Again, Zionism is not racism because in Zionism and every founding document of Zionism, they always talk about equality to every ethnicity, race, sex, this. Literally, in Herzl’s book, Altneuland, which is the founding document of Zionism which was written in 1902, he talks about the Arabs in the region and the Arabs — it never is about exclusively Jewish state. By the way, in 1902, Herzl also talks about equality for Blacks. In 1902, he writes that the Blacks, like the Jews, deserve to — why are they being treated like this because of the color of their skin? That book couldn’t be more — it’s so liberal. It’s almost delusional in how liberal it is. These are the founding documents of Zionism.

The Soviet Union was the one who pushed on the United Nations, this resolution that Zionism is racism. They used Nazi propaganda, so literally would take posters of Nazi propaganda saying the Jews control X, Y, and Z, and changes the word to “the Zionists.” The Zionists did… The Zionists did… Taking something that it isn’t, turning it into propaganda that is anti-Semitic in essence, completely anti-Semitic, then this resolution passed. Then it got dismantled in the early nineties, I think in ’91. In 2001, there was a conference in Durban, South Africa, which was called the Conference for Racism. It was a United Nations conference against racism. That conference was taken over by anti-democratic countries. Also, remember, in the United Nations, bless their heart, fifty-three percent of the countries that are members in the United Nations are non-democratic. A lot of them don’t want Israel to exist, so they pass all these resolutions that give the anti-Israel movement an air of legitimacy as if, oh, the United Nations passed it, it should be okay. No, not at all. The Durban Conference became so anti-Israel that the United States and Israel walked out. It literally was confiscated and taken over. This was the origination of this attempt to brand Israel an apartheid state. They took all that language from Soviet Union propaganda and they’re like, hmm, we tried to kill Israel with military force. Didn’t work. We tried to kill Israel with terrorism. Didn’t work. Let’s try to literally delegitimize the state’s existence and try to actually dismantle it.

They took that language from Soviet propaganda, this entire campaign to brand it an apartheid state using the same kind of tools of South Africa. To brand Israel an apartheid state when you look at the rights that Arabs are getting there when literally the third largest party in Israel is Arab and an Arab parliament member right now was the reason for the existence of the part of the government — Mansour Abas who’s an Arab party member within Israel, he literally was the lynchpin. He was sitting there deciding on whether or not the Israeli government would get created. To call that apartheid, it’s an insult to anti-apartheid movements. That’s what’s happened. That language created the basics for the language of a movement called BDS. BDS stands for boycott, divestment, and sanctions. It was a movement that was recreated, whatever, long story, it’s all in the book, in 2005. The attempt was to put the same pressure on Israel as they did South Africa, boycott Israel in academia, in finance investments, in every way, in companies, boycotting companies coming and whatever. They made a conclusion that American youth is impressionable and not educated enough. They decided to put their entire effort, or majority of it, on campuses. They started infiltrating campuses in plain sight just sitting there with table and things. Instead of saying what they were actually about — the founders of BDS don’t even hide that they’re after dismantling Israel. They don’t hide it. There are videos all over. That is what they are after.

Instead of doing that, they flip the language and started using this woke language of justice and freedom, so literally selling this on campus saying, Palestinian lives matter too, bringing in all these people and activists and social justice organizations like BLM, like the Women’s March, like rape victim organizations for crying out loud. Rape victim organizations are now under the BDS tent supporting BDS which is funded by people who support Sharia law, we’ll get to that in a second, which is literally the embodiment of rape culture. There is no women’s rights in a Sharia society. Come on. I’m saying this as a liberal because liberals have a tendency to be like, we’re not going to criticize any religion. No, no, no. By not criticizing the bad shit that’s happening around Sharia, around the literal manifestation of Islam, you’re leaving the liberal voices within that community out to dry. You’re leaving them out to dry. All these groups and all these movements are now under — BDS just basically infiltrated into — BLM is one of the worst. It’s unbelievable that it actually happens. BLM supporters, they don’t know what it is that they’re supporting. They don’t realize. It’s not just that. It’s even, the Jews don’t realize. Sarah Silverman, she posts a TikTok a couple months ago. She talks about whatever. She’s like, “Am I for BDS? Yeah, of course, I’m for BDS.” I’m like, no, you’re not. You’re really not. She doesn’t know. I say this in the book a lot. I always say in my book, if you read one chapter in my book, just read BDS because that’ll give you what you need to know. She’s like, “As long as we understand that BDS is about policy and the government.” I’m like, no, but that’s the thing. They’re literally cloaking their dagger. It’s a movement where people with bad faith prey on those with bad knowledge.

What happened, beyond their wildest dreams, is because they used intersectionality to infiltrate these social justice movements, they came to BLM and they’re like, Palestinian lives matter too. It’s white-on-brown oppression. First of all, false premise because Israel’s not white. Israel’s just not white. Thirty-one percent of Israelis actually define themselves as Eastern European. They were using what we see in America. A lot of American Jews are from Eastern European descent. They were like, it’s white-on-brown oppression. Richie was amazing and actually said that verbatim in a quote. If any, it’s brown-on-brown oppression if you really want to go down that road, which is not even true to begin with. They use false narrative to infiltrate these social justice movements. Unfortunately, what happens is that Black culture is pop culture. BLM is Black culture. This just infiltrated social media and infiltrated our pop culture and our social media in the most extreme way that I think shook anyone who’s Jewish, not Jewish. Anybody who likes democracy should’ve been really, really bothered by this. We should really be bothered by this. Again, bearer of bad news.

Zibby: Thanks.

Noa: Sorry. Here we are. Thank you for coming to a fun lunch. I’m like, we’re fucked.

Zibby: There has to be some antidote. There has to be something to counteract these forces. Otherwise, then what? Where do you see this going? Where is the logical extension of what’s happening?

Noa: I think the good thing that happened now is that a lot of people woke up, first and foremost. A lot of people realize that, again, whether they knew what was happening or whether they were surprised, whether they have the information or whether they don’t — a lot of people that don’t have the information were like, I don’t think this is right. I don’t know enough to counter this, but what I’m seeing on social media right now is not right. Number one is really, educate yourself. It really is. It really, really is because you have to know what to answer. You have to know for yourself. Number two, I think personally, I’m going to go after BDS. I think they need to be ousted from every normal society, from every campus. In my book, I go down — there are congressional hearings by terrorism finance experts who are calling on congress to research their sources of funding and literally showing from — there’s an organization called AMP, American Muslims for Palestine; AGP; and SJP, Students for Justice in Palestine. You track them down. These people have spent years tracking where the money comes from.

It leads you to this organization called the Holy Land Foundation which was designated a terrorist organization for passing 12.5 million dollars to Hamas and dismantled. Seven of its founders were sentenced to jail. Two of them fled the country. Five of them actually sat in prison. One of them got released. Now he’s Turkey organizing stuff for Hamas. His daughter writes pieces in The New York Times. A long story. All those people are the people that are, through this sophisticated umbrella, are sponsoring your on-campus BDS campaign in plain sight. Well-intended young, liberal Americans are going, yay, totally, let’s support you guys, not realizing you’re about to dismantle the single consistent democracy in the entire region, the only country in the region in which you can go on the beach with your same-sex couple and make out and nobody’s going to do anything. Bella Hadid cannot have a career anywhere else other than in Israel. How is everything she’s saying not getting consequences? How is she not putting together what she’s saying to anti-Semitic attacks that are happening?

Zibby: I feel like you should call her.

Noa: I tried. They wouldn’t care. I don’t personally know her. Again, this is not about Jewishness. It’s about American values. You don’t have to be Jewish to support Israel. You have to understand the region and understand what the forces that be are and see who supports your values, not who has a better meme.

Zibby: The danger, of course, is that if you are outspoken about this, then you get canceled yourself.

Noa: Oh, yeah. I’m canceled. You know why, by the way? Because I just don’t care. People are like, are you getting hate? I’m like, yes. Then again, I’ve been doing this since at least 2011. Radio Hamas started following me in 2011 on Twitter. I was like, I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m used to this. To me, history will judge where your alliances stood. I know that if I can sit and talk to anybody or if people would actually read the book or do the work Richie did, get yourself educated, you’d be like, whoa, whoa, whoa, hang on a minute, I don’t think this is right. I personally am not afraid because I’m telling the truth with a of facts. I’m not going to shut up. There’s no canceling somebody who isn’t willing to shut up.

Zibby: Where are you going to take this? Why are you not trying to be in the government? What else can you do? Where are you going with this?

Noa: It’s a great question. There are plans. Right now, I think the most important thing for me is to get as many people as possible educated on the facts as they possibly can. It was important to me to write a book about Israel that makes it easy to understand. People are like, oh, my god, it’s so complicated. I’m like, no, it actually isn’t. It actually isn’t. It’s just that nobody was able to communicate in a way that people go, oh, all right, fine. I’ve done this for many years, so I was able to find a way. I knew how to do this. So get as many people as possible educated, as many people as I can educated through the book, through talks, through this podcast. If I can help it, BDS’s days are numbered. That is something that we all need to be very focused on. If you look at what’s happening, all the social media stuff, if you track it back, back, back, you get to BDS. If you track back, back, back from BDS sponsors and proponents, you’d find people that are, at best, Hama sympathizers, if not worse, but I’m just going to say, at best, sympathize with the cause of Hamas. We have a lot of work to do. This is a big ship that needs to be turned around in America.

I do believe that out of ten people that are on the, let’s say, normal liberal, normal conservatives, not on the crazy sides, just willing to listen, whether conservatives or liberals, doesn’t matter, I believe that eight out of ten are completely open to changing their minds and listening. Two out of the ten have been radicalized on, Israel is a genocide state. Doesn’t matter what you tell them, including the numbers of Palestinians that were there when Israel was formed, which was 150,000. Now there are 2.9 million, so again, the worst genocide ever, right? Two out of those ten, they’ve been radicalized. It’s fine. I do believe that eight out of those ten are willing to listen and willing to get themselves educated and don’t think that Israel’s a big, bad wolf and willing to listen to the whole story. Coming from me, I am a liberal, so the book is very balanced in that sense. I talk about the bad shit about Israel too because no country’s perfect. It’d be ridiculous to say Israel’s never done wrong. Did America never do wrong? Come on, and we love this country. I feel like this book addresses a lot of people’s concerns. It gives a very concise and hopefully fun and definitely easy-to-read history of the country.

Zibby: Just one last question, what about the parents who are concerned about what their kids are posting? A lot of moms have said to me, my kids are posting things. I’ve had somebody send me a PowerPoint presentation of all the slides of their son’s posts. Is something going to happen to my son for saying this?

Noa: Saying what?

Zibby: He was pro-Israel, but very outspoken in a way that made her very nervous because it was very provocative. Then on the other side, people who have children who are very woke and want to support what all their friends are doing and posting on social media and not totally understanding, what do you do as a parent? What do you think we all as parents have the obligation to do?

Noa: First of all, get them to read the book. It uses the F word a few times just to make sure people are awake, so they won’t feel like they’re dragged into some history book.

Zibby: So F word is a selling point of this book?

Noa: For a certain generation, yes.

Zibby: All right, just making it clear. Great.

Noa: Absolutely, yes. I actually had a very, very, very famous and important reporter, historian, whatever, and he’s like, “You used it so well. It’s very strategic.” You kind of wake up if you think you’re asleep.

Zibby: New marketing technique. Why not?

Noa: Just a little bit. It’s hidden in there. The first name of the book was actually WTF is Israel? I was advised to not do that. Tone it down a little. For parents, first of all, make sure your kids are educated. There’s a whole thing about Jewish schools as well that I think is problematic. I think that in the Jewish world, we didn’t give our kids enough information to actually deal with the outside world. A lot of people looked at the BDS on campus thing as, it’s fine, they’ll grow out of it. It’s just on campus. What they didn’t understand is this is an impressionable age. They’re literally embedding in them what they think for life. We didn’t do a good enough job explaining to them to begin with. I definitely think that that is important. Also, I think maybe in a lighter way, not to worry that much about what the kids post. In our perception, it’s like, oh, my god, this is crazy. In their perception, it’s like, who cares? It’s out there. I can delete it or whatever. We know that it’s always out there. They don’t have a problem with privacy as we did growing up. To them, it’s not even a concept that needs to be watched or cared for or whatever. Definitely, get them educated. The woke kids, just know that Hamas sympathizers already got to them, if not through the actual campaign, then through the social media duplication and this hip, new social justice cause called anti-Zionism.

Zibby: Okay. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Noa: Thank you.

Noa Tishby, ISRAEL

ISRAEL by Noa Tishby

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