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People always choose the underdog, regardless of the facts.


Eight years ago, “Israel Apartheid Week” began on campuses in America and around the world to show “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle” and to demonize Israel as an “Apartheid” regime.

Ten years ago, I began studying this “pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli” phenomenon.

It began, like so many movements, on a university campus. The year was 2002, and then-former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was scheduled to speak to a group of Jewish students.

But he was not allowed to speak. Why? Because a mob of young, multicultural North American university students – who waved Palestinian flags, spat on Jews, smashed glass, and hurled anti-Semitic slurs – stopped him from speaking.

Why would Western university students clash with police and riot in the streets to stop a free man from engaging in free speech – on what should have been a bastion of free speech: a university campus? And why would those students – and students across America and around the world – demonize Israel and declare their solidarity with Palestinians in their annual “Israel Apartheid Week?”

My journey to answer that question brought me all the way to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem home, where I had the honor of working shoulder-to-shoulder with him as a writer on his victorious 2009 campaign to become Israel’s current Prime Minister.

Why would non-Palestinian university students declare their solidarity with Palestinians, when almost everything that defines campus life in America – free love, free speech, women’s rights – would get them killed by the very Palestinians they champion?

For that matter, what is it about the Palestinian cause that has the power to unite vastly different non-Palestinians around the world, including President Jimmy Carter, the Green Party, the late Saddam Hussein, scores of American columnists and news editors, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the worldwide labor movement, gay and lesbian activists, women’s groups, Noam Chomsky, Amnesty International, the late Osama bin Laden, solidarity groups from America, England, Germany, Canada, Spain, India, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, France, Sweden, Australia and Italy, campus groups from the vast majority of colleges and universities in America, plus the United Nations—to make “Palestinians the largest per capita recipients of international development assistance in the world,” and to make Israel the most protested nation in the world after America?

What is it about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that causes millions of people around the world to choose sides the way they do?

Researchers at the University of South Florida set out to answer that question. They gave two groups of test subjects an identical, one-page essay that described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—equally and fairly—from both sides’ perspectives. Then one group was given a map that showed Israel as geographically small, and the other group got a map that showed Israel as large.

Same Israel. Same facts. The lone variable was the map: one group got a small Israel map, and the other group got a big Israel map.

The group with the small Israel map felt Israel was the underdog and took their side.

The results were astounding. The group with the small Israel map felt Israel was the underdog and took their side, and those with a big Israel map felt Palestinians were the underdogs and took their side.

What does this tell us?

It tells us these test subjects based their decisions on something other than facts. The facts were identical (each group got the same one-page essay). The results, however, were far from identical. The lone variable was the map. When Israel was perceived as small, test subjects saw an “underdog” and supported Israel. When Israel was perceived as big, test subjects saw an “overdog” and chose the side of Palestinians.

(To see a video of this phenomenon, watch the video below)

What is going on here?

Identical facts. And yet people choose sides, in dramatically different ways, based on which side is the perceived underdog and which is the perceived overdog.

This “Axis of Power”—between the power-haves and the power have-nots, underdogs and overdogs—is the tipping point for many of the issues that shape our world today—from Occupy Wall Street to President Obama’s re-election campaign of “fairness vs. fatcats” to the way millions of people around the world choose sides the way they do in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I gave this belief system a name—Underdogma—which is the widespread and reflexive belief that, in any given issue, whichever side has less power (the underdog) is automatically considered righteous—simply because they have less power, and whichever side has more power (the overdog) is automatically considered wrong—simply because they have more power.

Jews have traditionally been the underdogs of history—enslaved, rounded up, and killed by some of the world’s most powerful tyrants. But things have changed. Today, Jews have a powerful homeland in Israel, advanced weapons, and a fearsome, well-equipped army. In the eyes of those who practice Underdogma, Jews committed an unforgivable sin. History’s persecuted underdogs became powerful overdogs. In the words of Israel’s late foreign Minister Abba Eban: “when I was first here, we had the advantages of the underdog. Now we have the disadvantages of the overdog.”

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told America “the story of a powerless and stateless people who became a strong and proud nation able to defend itself.” Because Israel is now strong and proud and able to defend itself, it must now also learn how to defend itself against those – on campuses or on the campaign trail – who demonize the strong for being strong.

It’s called “Underdogma,” and if you want to know how to defeat it, visit

This article originally appeared in

March 11, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 12

(10) Anonymous, March 13, 2012 7:29 PM


So-called "palestinians" are refugee arabs living in The Jewish Land of Israel.

(9) Rachel, March 13, 2012 7:15 AM


People support Palestinians for either one of two reasons. Either because they are extremely gullible,and have not been presented all the facts. If they have been presented all the facts, and still support the Palestinian side they are either Jewhaters, or evil and sympathize with evil,or both.

(8) Anonymous, March 12, 2012 5:27 PM

Untrue on Several Levels

I don't know why Aish would allow this misinformed, ill-reasoned argument to be on its forum. It's simply not true that people always identify with the underdog. People often want to identify themselves with a winner, even switching allegiances mid-fight to be on the winning side. Furthermore, I lived in Kuwait for several years, and all the Kuwaitis I knew respected Israel more than the Palestinians because of Israel's ability to defend itself and because they saw Palestinians as colluding with the Iraqis during the invasion.

(7) Wassim, March 12, 2012 5:47 AM

There is indeed - something missing. (part 2 of 2)

Once we recognise that Jews are the guardians of humanity and above, we shouldn't have any trouble accepting that Israel should forever be controlled by Jews, and by "controlled" I mean internal security, foreign affairs, religious matters, defense, finance, and the heads of government (did I miss anything!). I like the idea of non-Jews being able to live and prosper alongside Jews inside Israel, but never again should the Jewish people allow themselves to lose control of the holy land. Birth rates among non-Jews must be regulated (max 4) as a price for the privilege of living in the world's holiest country, but this will need to be balanced with a commitment to affirmative action to protect the non-Jew minorities. Jews should be free to have large families, but eventually economic scarcity will begin to bite everyone, and if you want to retain you claim to righteousness then you'll need to practice meritocracy in matters of education, health, employment, and small business. I believe large businesses owned by non Jews should at some stage (perhaps upon reaching 1billion USD equity) become public offerings in order to prevent any non-Jewish-aligned single corporate entity from eventually buying out the whole country (unaware of current owners btw - but it looks like they're Jew-friendly - hopefully it will stay that way forever - otherwise there are other contingencies for that as well). Never fear, Kahane (RIP) was and still is - right on the money. Mt. Sinai revelation is a truth. So, how to "address" underdogma? show compassion while retaining the upper hand. Open a small door for a trickle of "good palestinians" to come into Israel and live in heaven. First you'll have to find these "good palestinians", so look for them. Don't tell me they're all terrorists, that's utter nonsense that'll get you nowhere in this world. Remember, retain the upper hand, make that clear to them and be extremely selective before you make any offers. The rest is good PR on the news.

(6) Wassim, March 12, 2012 5:05 AM

There is indeed - something missing. (part 1 of 2)

First of all, the animation says "learn how to feed underdogma" whereas the article asks "how to defeat underdogma". I say, why would you want to feed it given that it clearly disregards the facts. On the other hand, what are your motives for wanting to "defeat" it (to live in a world of facts alone - and no more compassion)?. I think it's best to strike a balance, not feed it, or defeat it, but rather simply - try to understand it (if your motive is to decrease tension - that's obviously Israel's prerogative and it has the right of self-determination of-course, but even self-determination is ultimately limited by realism - that's a fact too). Now, this "underdogma" phenomenon is actually evidence of an existing (and I bet it's growing) "global consciousness". It's a real pity that this global consciousness didn't exist back in the days of the 2nd temple, but you know what they say "3rd time's the charm" - so don't worry, everything is gonna be just fine, just don't panic. Continued guaranteed Jewish existence is absolutely necessary for the survival of our species. Until every human being can behave, think, speak, and work like a Rabbi, we're gonna need them (and given that kids are born with a clean slate, that means Rabbis will be needed forever. You'd better bet on it if you care about your children's future). If you concur (more or less) with the previous paragraph, then you know from the history of antisemitism that Israel must forever remain controlled (security) by Jews only (not merely Israeli citizens - in my opinion). I think the current distribution of values in the Knesset along party lines is fine (more or less). You need to maintain the fair mix of voices that represent the full ideological spectrum - and beware you don't fall into the trap of judging fairness by the number of party members, representatives, size of your wallets, or votes for that matter. Fairness is achieved by controlling for any bias (even some people's bias towards "facts").

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