"They hate Israel because they hate the West"

Ben Shapiro credit: Nadav Cohen Yonatan Go Live
Ben Shapiro credit: Nadav Cohen Yonatan Go Live

US political commentator Ben Shapiro says Israel is at the conflict point with Western hatred. He feels that the Western media fuels terrorism and tells "Globes" where Israel's public diplomacy drive is going wrong.

"I think that the most difficult room I was in was when I was giving a speech at Oxford. That was a very difficult room. That was a room that was filled with people who had security not been there, would have wanted to do violence. You could feel it in the air," says Jewish-American political commentator Ben Shapiro in an exclusive interview with "Globes." He recalls that the set-up was also unusual. He stood with his back to some of the audience, and very close to those who challenged the questions and openly called for the extermination of the state of Israel. "My main thing going in was keep [my] temper, because it is hard to keep your temper when you're hearing people literally spew full scale Hitlerian anti-Semitism at you… For every lie that I knocked down, two can take its place almost immediately. And so, you feel like you're fighting a hydra on a constant basis."

Shapiro (39), a prominent pro-Israel figure worldwide, has become even more so since then the murderous surprise attack by Hamas. He presents the Israeli side of the war to his millions of followers on social media, and is not afraid to express his opinions with both sharp wit, and broad knowledge.

Shapiro recognizes that, "A lot of the masks and veils were stripped away. There were a lot of people who really hate Jews and really hate Israel, who came out of the woodwork and made very clear how much they hate Jews and hate Israel… A lot of liberal Jews suddenly realized, wait a second, all the people who I thought were my fellow travelers actually hate me, hate Israel, and are perfectly willing to throw me under the bus at the first available opportunity. So, a lot of people woke up from that particular reverie."

He explains that this is what also happened at the major academic institutions in the US. "You saw, just this week, a bunch of college presidents who were testifying in front of Congress, and basically made clear that the most anti-Semitic nonsense could be spewed on their campuses without any serious fear of retribution, reprisal, or punishment when similar language used about any other minority group would be grounds for immediate suspension, expulsion, sanctions." The tragedy, as he sees it, is that the world reacted with horror to the events of October 7th, but "within literally a day, the move against Israel began. And I think that a lot of people who thought… that there was this international community of nations… who are all on the same side against human rights violations - they realized, well, some of that holds true, and then none of it holds true when it comes to the Jews. That MeToo applies to everyone except Jewish women being raped at the Nova Festival, and that anti-kidnapping applies to everybody except for young children who are being dragged from Kibbutz Be'eri into Gaza."

What was surprising to you?

"I'm pretty cynical about politics [but] even I was shocked at the number of people who are willing to wink and nod at Hamas atrocities in order to re-establish a narrative of moral equivalence that people prefer to put this conflict into… That's really ugly, particularly when, again, one side of this conflict are overt terrorists who are performing some of the worst human rights violations in modern history."

"Israel will have to make the video public"

Los Angeles-born Shapiro completed law and political science degrees with honors from Harvard University and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), respectively. He is married and the father of four children. He did not watch the atrocities video released by the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson, because he felt that he was not the target audience, and feels the many on-site videos he received from Israeli officials were enough. It is clear to him that this is only a matter of time. "I think at a certain point Israel's going to have to publish it publicly. I think at a certain point, Israel's going to have to make all of that public… I think people need to know exactly what it is that Hamas is doing. I mean, it's the worst kind of atrocities you can imagine."

Shapiro understands that he will not be able to convince the extremists, and that, "The target audience are people in the middle who don't know anything, and who are being fed a pack of lies by people who are on the other side. And so, you know, again, the goal of the anti-Israel side in this battle is never to officially defend Hamas. It's to rip down Israel because you can't defend Hamas. Hamas is indefensible."

Shapiro’s battle against anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish elements is intensifying. He is constantly dealing with "This idea that's promulgated by the media and many in politics, that Israel is not acting with restraint, that the US has to sort of hold Israel's arms back and prevent Israel from going in full scale and just slaughtering civilians, and if it weren't for the West sitting on Israel every minute of every day and telling them that they need to be controlled in how they deal with this, then Israel would be doing full scale revenge… I think that it's ignorant of the fact Israel is the most meticulous army on earth when it comes to protecting civilian life… More and more Israeli soldiers are dying because of the measures that Israel is taking to protect Gazan civilians."

A claim he hears often is "The idea that the Hamas population is completely separate from the Gazan population. That is also a lie. That doesn't mean that Israel doesn't have an obligation to try to separate off Hamas terrorists from the Gazan civilians, but to pretend that the Gazan civilians are some group of high minded Western moderates is insane and ridiculous and backed by zero evidence whatsoever… If there were an election to be held in the West Bank right now, there's a really good chance Hamas would win that election over the Palestinian Authority." He has encountered confounding narratives, such as that Hamas is actually a rational group of people. To this he replies: "Hamas does not think like you… You wouldn't burn a baby alive in its crib. You wouldn't rape the mother in front of the father. Like these are things that you would not do. "

According to him, there is "an intersectional coalition" of minority groups based on issues of gender, class, and sexual orientation, who have combined forces against larger systems to create a complex system of oppression, and that all this existed before. "The difference was that back in 2001, 2002, there wasn't a lot of sort of sympathy and commonality between, say, the gay rights group and the pro-Hamas group… There was at least some separation. Now, because of the intersectional coalition that's been built, this idea that we're all on the same side against the great white oppressor - and Israel now fits in that category of white oppressor by some convoluted logic - this group has now exploded outward in size because there are so many fellow travelers."

How do you think Israeli public diplomacy efforts are doing?

"I think that Israel has done much better in the hasbara (public diplomacy) part than they have done historically. So, I think so I've had conversations with the last three prime ministers while they were in office about hasbara. And one of the things that I've said to them, each one of them is that Israel's hasbara is terrible and they are performing the wrong function." Shapiro says, "Israel thinks the way to do outreach or PR is to show beautiful women on Tel Aviv beaches… And somehow this will make people more pro-Israel. No, it turns out that if you're in LA, you're nine miles from a beautiful beach in Santa Monica with beautiful women. You don't actually need to see a picture of a beautiful woman on a Tel Aviv beach."

He adds, "The reason that the anti-Israel side has gained so much credibility is because they never, ever make an affirmative claim for why a Palestinian state would be good. They never, ever make an affirmative claim for why the Palestinian people, why Palestinian Arabs are a moderate population that will make the world better if given more power. Like they never make that claim. Every single claim is ‘Israel is an oppressor. Israel is an apartheid state. Israel is evil.’ Oppositional politics, in other words, works. You know, the fact that Israel has never discovered this is one of the great tragedies of Israel's hasbara effort."

Moreover, "It was really hampered by Oslo when Israel basically decided that it was going to legitimize a terrorist group and pretend that terrorist group was its friend, which then made Israel the PR agency for a terrorist group… what [Israel] actually needs to do is point out that the people it is fighting hate the West, the people that it is fighting are pro-terrorism."

According to Shapiro, the countries supporting Israel understand this. "What people are increasingly realizing is that the reason that people hate Israel is because Israel is the West. And so, Israel just happens to be at the conflict point, and Germany isn't at the conflict point. Netherlands isn't the conflict point. They're far away from the front line of the battle. But Israel is in the region where you're likely to see that battle break out most often. And if Israel went away, it's not as if that conflict would go away. The borders of the conflict would just move."

"They hate Israel because they hate the West"

In 2015, Shapiro founded the news and media website "The Daily Wire," which aims to promote conservative values and policies in the US. Shapiro was the editor-in-chief, today he is editor emeritus, and hosts a regular conservative program called The Ben Shapiro Show. He is a harsh critic of the international media. "The media are garbage. They're hot garbage. They need to be torn to the ground and the earth ought to be salted. They're truly awful and they were awful before this conflict on many topics, including this topic, but let's be clear about this: without the help of the Western media, the October 7th attacks probably don't happen in the first place."

He explains: "The entire basis for terrorism in the modern era is to convince members of the media that it would be better if the West disengaged from these areas, and left its allies to rot, so as to avoid terrorism. And the way to do that is to get the media to make the claim that it's the West's fault that this stuff is happening in the first place, and the Western media are totally compliant in this task. When the Western media make the claims that we talked about before, that Israel is a human rights violator, that Israel is an apartheid state, that really this is an open-air prison, and whatever happens there is justified because Israel is an oppressor and the Palestinians are oppressed when the media do this. This is why terrorists do what they do. Osama Bin Laden said this in the 90s… some of them are conscious about it, some of them are unconscious about it, but without the help of the Western media, these terrorist groups would be significantly less dangerous than they are."

The situation in the US is worrisome. We saw the TikTok trend of young Americans quoting a letter by Osama Bin Laden, and saying that it opened their eyes.

"It's not just that they're against the State of Israel, though. You have to understand that they really don't like America very much… Again, they hate Israel because Israel is the West and they hate the West. They really, really, really hate the West. Young Americans have been trained to believe that the West is a colonialist exploiter. They've been trained to believe that all of the hierarchies of power in the US are not based on merit. They're based on white supremacy, and exploitation, and racism, and sexism, and bigotry, and those have to be torn down… The great sin is that Israel has actually become a successful state.

Are you worried about the future of the US? After all, a day will come when this generation will grow up, and take on active roles.

"I'm deeply worried about that. That's why I think that in the end, the only solution for this is actually an end to tolerance for this perspective. I don't mean that there should be violence against people who hold this perspective. I do mean that this sort of niceness, where we pretend that this is a legit perspective that ought to earn any sort of respect or credibility in American life."

"There's this matrix that's now been applied internationally. The idea is the Palestinians are poor because the Palestinians are oppressed. And Israel says, well, hold up a second. We pulled out of the Gaza Strip, we gave you access to water. We gave you access to electricity for free. We allowed in billions of dollars in foreign aid, and you didn't build anything. And the rest of the world is saying, what - are you blaming them for their own problems? And the answer that Israel is giving is, well, yes. Because it turns out that if you have control over, you know, the economics of the Gaza Strip and you use all that money to build terror tunnels, well, yeah, I mean, we are going to blame you for that… if you're a loser, there's a high chance you're a loser because you are making stupid decisions and you need to fix your life."

Shapiro's social media teams are extremely active and his various platforms get millions of views. "You can't engage in the game, because if you engage in the game, then you're legitimizing the other side of the game very often. On the other hand, if you don't engage in the game, then the lies promulgate. So that sort of Catch 22 is incredibly difficult, obviously."

He adds, "If given the choice between a very restrictive social media environment in which the bosses of social media at, say, YouTube tell you what you can and cannot say, and a less restrictive social environment. If I have to choose, I will always choose the less restrictive social environment, even if that comes along with additional disinformation that I have to spend extra time debunking."

But every social network has a responsibility, and the Chinese one is not immune from Shapiro’s criticism: "TikTok is actively mobilizing the algorithm in favor of Hamas. I mean, this is pretty obvious from the material that's being boosted on TikTok, which is an incredibly sophisticated algorithm, and is obviously being gamed by the Chinese in order to promote its allies. And it thinks that its allies are radical Muslims in places like Iran or among Hamas… The Chinese Communist Party is pulling the strings. The Chinese Communist Party has decided that Israel has to be degraded because Israel is allied with the US. The US is an enemy."

Shapiro is more successful in conveying his messages on X (formerly Twitter) which, since being purchased by Elon Musk, has been accused of rampant antisemitism. "X has been a place where I've been able to actually disseminate a lot of this information. So, for example, when I put out my podcast [two days] after the massacre… on a lot of other social media sites. They tried to block it out or they demonetized it, or they did what they could to sort of restrict the viewership of that sort of material. I could put it out on Twitter without having to worry that it was going to be restricted."

Shapiro notes that while X/Twitter responds well when approached to remove content, "I'm not sure how fast you can crack down on stuff before it goes viral… I'm not sure [there’s] a foolproof method to crack down on the bad information while retaining the good information." He prefers that both Israel and Hamas be allowed to present the horrific things that are happening, "Because I think that anybody with half a brain can understand that Israel is not attempting to kill Gazan children, but Hamas was fully attempting to burn babies alive in their cribs."

"The scars of October 7th will fade for the rest of the world"

Throughout the two decades in which he has expressed himself on every stage, Shapiro has also signed on to provocative and controversial statements. He has opposed abortion, same-sex marriage, denied global warming, and more. Due to those statements, Shapiro's support for Israel was subject to ridicule and criticism from around the world. There were even TikTok videos tagged, "If Ben Shapiro is on your side, maybe you're on the wrong side." Videos of this kind also had opposing reactions, for example, about Iran, China, and Russia's support for Hamas.

"I'm not somebody who believes that you have to believe everything that I believe, to believe what I'm saying on this one thing," he says. From his point of view, "I think we live in a very weird, weird world where if you buy into one thing, you then have to buy into all the things, the sort of uni-thing. And I don't believe that. I think that there are people on the pro-Israel side who disagree with me about abortion, which is an issue that is completely separate, or they disagree with me about same sex marriage. That's your prerogative. But this this weird notion that you're not allowed to agree with me about Israel if you disagree with me about same sex marriage is super strange... I don't really understand that argument at all, other than it's an attempt to really discredit me as a voice."

It's not only the opinion, it's mainly the way you expressed yourself.

"You're seeing tweets now - quote, unquote: ‘resurfaced’ - 12, 13 years later as a way of - quote, unquote: ‘discrediting’. Now, I'm the only commentator I've ever heard of who has posted an entire list of things that I regret having said. I mean, it's actually at "The Daily Wire" website… And, you know, I'm sure I've written a lot of things that I disagree with now or I don't like how I express it, or I look at it and I'm like, yeah, that happens over the course of a career, especially a career where I'm speaking literally every day on these topics."

Shapiro's advocacy activities created a situation where he has had to put his family under heavy security. "Because of the conflict being at top of mind for so many people and because, you know, I'm speaking about it pretty prominently. For example, we went from having, you know, pretty strenuous security to having really, really strenuous security. My family is covered 24/7 by security. It will probably remain that way for the rest of our lives, I would imagine, because once you're on the radar of some of the world's worst people, you don't really get off the radar of the world's worst people."

Shapiro is concerned about what will happen in the long-term. "Right now, is the easiest time to be pro-Israel, believe it or not. Because again, Israel just got hit with the worst terror attacks since 9/11 for the West. So, now is like the easy time to be pro-Israel. What happens in three months when Israel is still doing operations in Gaza, or when Israel swivels up north and has to hit Hezbollah? How many of those allies are going to be there then?... And so, I think that the true lobbying effort is, is still to come in terms of world opinion, when again, as the scars of October 7th, they're not going to fade for Israel ever, but they’ll fade for the rest of the world… Memories are short in world politics."

Shapiro says public diplomacy isn’t the only thing on the agenda. "I think that Israel really needs to be focused internally on economic growth, military buildup, building up its own power. I think that one of the things that this has shown is that no state can be a state that is reliant on other states for its own safety and security in the end…Israel’s economy has been shut down for two months at this point. And, you know, Israel needs to be more powerful economically, and if Israel wishes to retain its place in in the world, and that's true particularly in the Middle East, where raw power counts more than anything, Israel is going to have to boost its raw power. And that means, you know, on a more practical level, not to get into ancillary issues. Israel's going to need to deregulate a lot of its economy, make it a lot easier to invest in places like Israel. It's really hard to invest in Israel because it's super complicated."

This is what guides Ben Shapiro in his fight against Israel’s haters. "My daughter, who's nine, she's in school, and they asked her to write about, like, what her parents are doing right now. And she said she wrote on her piece of paper. She said, my mommy is going and doing charity. And she said, my daddy is fighting for what is good. And b’Ezrat HaShem [with God’s help], I hope that what's happening right now."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 18, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

Ben Shapiro credit: Nadav Cohen Yonatan Go Live
Ben Shapiro credit: Nadav Cohen Yonatan Go Live
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