Hen Mazzig

Why I agreed to debate Owen Jones

Jews must be prepared to confront divisive politics wherever it appears


Owen Jones and Hen Mazzig debate on Sky News

April 05, 2024 21:44

In a heated debate on Sky News with Owen Jones last night, I found myself once again at the forefront of defending Israel and the Jewish people amidst the ongoing conflict with Hamas.

Yesterday, I was invited to debate with the Guardian journalist and Youtuber, and despite being fully aware of Jones's lack of personal connection to the conflict and his penchant for spreading sensationalist anti-Israel content, even I was caught by surprise.

During the show, Jones's arguments were predictable, the sort he spouts on Twitter every day. I couldn’t even keep up with the amount of one-sided, divisive rhetoric he voiced.

Near the end of the interview, he made the most bizarre assertion; that Germany's support for Israel was merely a reflection of its ‘obscene’ guilt over the Holocaust—an offensive attempt to undermine Israel's legitimacy and use the Holocaust for cheap political points. His further claim that the war on Hamas is a genocide, dismissing the complexity and humanity of the situation, was no more palatable than anything else he said.

I approached the debate with the intention of steering the conversation toward peace and mutual understanding, to a place where the nuances of this situation could be freely discussed. But Jones' motivations couldn’t have been clearer. He had no interest in common ground. He seemed to want his message of discord to go viral at any price. Given what he says about Israel, one could be forgiven for thinking Jones has no interest in the peaceful coexistence of two peoples.

As a very intelligent and educated man who is filled to the brim with all manner of facts that support his position, at the same time one can't help but notice the glaring omission of all of the facts that don't. When discussing the West Bank, Jones was armed with the statistics of the number of Palestinians who were harmed by the Israeli military, but he didn't mention the hundreds of terror attacks that were foiled by these operations. What does adding that fact do? It dispenses the blood libel that Israel is killing Palestinians for their enjoyment and reveals the truth that they stop terrorists that would otherwise kill hundreds of Israelis.

Evidence of this approach was further proven when Jones claimed that "Joe Biden's hot air has been a defining feature of this conflict. So-called 'conflict.' Genocidal slaughter of the people of Gaza."

Throwing around the term “genocide” is yet a way to erase the horrific acts of October 7th and the continuous rockets and terror attacks committed against Israelis in the days since.

Owen is only interested in pursuing his one-sided narrative that completely ignores the history, nuance, and the other side of this debate. If he was truly a humanist he would have invested just as much time discussing the violent attacks on Jews and Israel, but he didn't.

This experience underscored a critical dilemma: the challenge of maintaining Jewish visibility in public discourse without succumbing to the humiliation and scrutiny associated with chronic misrepresentation of facts.

The question isn't just about accepting invitations to debate but about how we can ensure our voice isn't exploited by those looking to propagate hateful narratives.

The rise of antisemitism in the UK, reaching levels never seen in four decades, makes retreating an untenable option. My journey as a Jewish advocate has taught me the depth of antisemitism's roots, but also the importance of self-pride, confidence and resilience in the face of waves of hate.

We need to not only stand our ground but to also forge our own platforms for elevating our voices. The path isn't about seeking perfection in dialogue but about embodying an unwavering commitment to our identity and values, allowing us the freedom to exist as Jews.

Seeing Jones’ glib reactions and the smugness with which he debated such a serious topic reminded me that for him, this war isn’t personal. It’s something to fight about on Twitter, rather than a daily reality. My friends and family in Israel have no choice but to care.

Owen’s profile across social media has risen since October 7, and at times he appears to use this conflict not to educate for understanding and collaboration, (the sort of which that would lead to real peace) but to further his divisive brand of politics. In a world with two states and harmony, there would be no need for his anger.

My encounter with Jones wasn't just a debate on a news show; it was a testament to the enduring spirit of Jewish advocacy. It reinforced the idea that despite the obstacles, our presence and voices are indispensable.

In the fight against antisemitism and for a just peace, showing up is not just an option for Jews—it's a duty. Voices that spread division and encourage hate based on bad-faith readings of the events of war should not go unchallenged.

Our legacy and future depend on it.

April 05, 2024 21:44

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive