Ben Shapiro, the conservative co-founder of The Daily Wire, and an Orthodox Jew, wears a kippah and is seen as one of the biggest defenders of Israel in American media, spoke with Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, addressing a crowd at Boca Raton Synagogue on Sunday.
Shapiro left Israel the morning before the Hamas attack and has pivoted his popular podcast to extensive discussion of the Israel-Hamas war. At the event called “Combatting The Media War Against Israel: A Conversation With Ben Shapiro,” he explained that the bulk of the media is against Israel, and that it is incumbent upon anyone who has a phone or is online to promote the truth about Israel.
“You’ve got to take part in this battle,” Shapiro said. “You don’t have a choice.”
In their talk Goldberg said the New York Times shouldn’t be mentioned in front of an aron kodesh and that he found its coverage of Israel repulsive, but asked if Jews should post stories from the New York Times online when they get it right. Shapiro said that would be okay to do while providing the fact that the Times usually gets it wrong about Israel and Jews.
He said some outlets don’t properly vet freelancers called stringers who often have virulently antisemitic posts online and who live in the Middle East.
Shapiro said, “This is why for example, the New York Times has stringers who like Hitler.”
The backlash against Israel, he said, is due to a worldview that ignores facts, with Israel being depicted as “white people oppressing brown people,” the huge population of Mizrachi Jews.
“The world needs to be divided into the oppressor and the oppressed,” he said of the media narrative. “It’s that simple.”
He explained that “because of that oppressor/oppressed narrative, a moral equivalence must be drawn. Because if it turns out that maybe the reason that one side is successful and one side is unsuccessful is that the successful side is good and the unsuccessful side is evil, that alternative explanation blows up their worldview. Once you bring to bear a moral frame as to why people succeed and why people fail, that is something that the oppressed/oppressor matrix cannot bear. It collapses immediately because instead of seeing someone as unsuccessful because someone has exploited them or oppressed them, instead it might be that the person’s unsuccessful because they’ve made a series of horrifying decisions.”
Some of those decisions, he said, include rejecting peace offers, electing Hamas, and destroying greenhouses and infrastructure left when Israeli troops left Gaza in 2005. Shapiro said that to keep the narrative up, the media attempt to show that Israel is as bad as Hamas, participating in genocide, and targeting civilians. “With complete air superiority, if Israel wanted Palestinian civilians dead, the toll would be in the hundreds of thousands,” he said.
“In pursuit of the narrative, the truth doesn’t matter,” Shapiro said.
Asked how he was doing emotionally, he said while the real difficulty is for those captive in Gaza, and those fighting or wounded, there is an apprehensive feeling about what the news will bring and what the response will be.
“Everybody has this pit in their stomach,” he said. “You wake up in the morning, you check the news…it just feels as though we are living in an extraordinary post-truth era.”
Shocked by the Willingness of Members of the Media to Lie
Shapiro said his recent speech and Q&A with students at Oxford University was likely in the most hostile room he was ever in. He said it’s not an intellectual challenge, but the challenge is to not lose his cool.
“When you’re looking at someone genocidal standing two feet from you and telling you about how every Jew in the region and maybe the world should be killed, that is definitely a hard one.”
Goldberg asked Shapiro about several conservatives who have made controversial comments about Israel. Shapiro said he would not speak about Candace Owens. She is a popular host of a show on his platform who appeared online to be questioning if she should work for Shapiro any longer, and he tweeted that she could quit if she felt like it. Shapiro said he was disappointed in the statements of former Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson, who said he didn’t understand why people were so emotional about the murders in Israel, while he was concerned about the deaths in America from fentanyl.
“That is not the same thing as taking a baby and burning it alive in its crib,” Shapiro said, adding that there were Americans murdered and being held hostage.
Shapiro criticized MSNBC for not being harder on Hamas, while claiming that former President Donald Trump and billionaire Elon Musk were antisemitic.
“The idea that Elon falls into the antisemitic category I think is silly,” Shapiro said, adding that both Musk and Trump make unthoughtful tweets but are not antisemitic.
He also criticized the Israeli news outlet Haaretz, calling it “trash, wrapped in trash, and then burned on a trash heap.”
When Goldberg asked if Jews were “too quick on the draw” to label someone antisemitic, Shapiro said each person should be looked at on an individual basis with their pattern of communication examined as a whole.
He said he is disturbed by people’s willingness to lie and that the record must always be set straight. He related that when he posted a picture of an Israeli who was burned and murdered by Hamas, a person lied and posted that the picture he posted was not real and was Artificial Intelligence, and some believed the person who posted the lie. In fact, a college student who asked him a question wrongly parroted to him that the picture was not real.
Asked about anti-Israel sentiment or antisemitism on college campuses, he said it is a reflection of the fact that students hate not only Israel but America.
In some cases, he argued, action should be taken by college administrators. “If you support a terrorist group, you should be expelled,” he said.
Goldberg described Shapiro as a general on the front lines in the information war. Shapiro has been a target of antisemitism since his rise to media stardom. Since October 7, many anti-Israel figures online have made videos attempting to attack his positions.
Goldberg noted that Yitzchak at the age of 40 was accused of not being the son of Avraham, and cited a concept of Rabbi Shmuel Berenbaum of the Mir Yeshiva in Brooklyn, who passed away in 2008. Berenbaum told Shapiro that others in the media were worried that he was showing their audiences the truth.
“He says an amazing insight,” Goldberg said of Berenbaum. “He says because when Yitzchak was born, he hadn’t accomplished anything. The haters don’t come out before someone accomplishes something. You know when the haters raise their voice, you know when they come out and attack? When someone is super successful, when they’re making compelling and persuasive points and arguments, when they are influencing and impacting, when they are molding and shaping the world, that’s when the leitsani hador, the cynics and the scoffers, that’s when the haters come out…they’re raising their prominent voices to attack you is only evidence of the impact that you are having.”