This is a very touchy subject that I need help with. This is your fair warning.
The other day a former co-worker and classmate invited me out to coffee in an attempt to gather referrals of people to sell financial services too. While I tend to find these types of meetings distasteful, I do like the person in question and wanted to help out a friend.
After I ran through a list of people who might be interested, and we finished our coffee chatting about politics (we originally met in class because we're both PoliSci majors). For the most part, this person and I see eye to eye, and we've had several good philosophy debates in the past. At the time, I certainly did not feel like I was treading into dangerous waters. The conversation drifted naturally to the war in Syria, then to Israel. That's when we hit trouble (of course).
This person adheres to Islam and is an immigrant from a large Muslim (non-Arab) power. Without trying to start a flamewar, this person does not recognize Israel's right to exist, and said this to my face. I must have been visually taken aback (especially because this came from someone I thought was very open-minded and fair) because the next sentence out of this person's mouth was "Oh, you're not Jewish are you?". My father is Jewish and I told this person as much. I expected a polite apology and a change of subject. What I got was an unapologetic, borderline racist, lecture.
Being in a public place, I kept my mouth shut to avoid making a scene. I finally managed to pull the subject back to safe ground, and we spent another 5 minutes or so chatting before heading our separate ways. Now that I've had some time to digest what happened and to calm down, I have decided I don't wish to have much further contact with this person beyond polite professionalism. However, this person still has the list of sales contacts.
It's not like this person is bombing synagogues; and voicing a different, if not radical, opinion is the right of every American. I suppose my question is: which is the more "manly" thing to do? Stand up for myself and my beliefs and the risk of permanently souring a useful business contact with whom I share MANY mutual contacts? Or take my lumps on this one, let the person use my list of contacts, wish them the best, then make myself unavailable for further "favors"?
Thanks in advance. And yes, lesson learned about mixing business and politics.
You got a racist lecture on what?
Why Israel shouldn't exist.
One could point out the British were rather magnanimous in chopping up the region so's the people could experiment with self rule. Something they hadn't had the opportunity to do since, oh, the dawn of civilization. Empires will do as empires will do. The alternative to Israel existing is, the British keep control of the Ottoman Empire and no other nation in the region existing either.
I don't know how much you need this one contact. But if you can afford to let him go... I am not sure I would want someone I don't trust using my list of contacts.
That's if it were in my line of work, in which a referral means something like "I endorse this one as a good guy." I'm not sure about yours.
Note that I didn't say straighten him out. It is likely not possible.
I agree with Will.
If the person's beliefs are truly distasteful, you should fadeout the old friendship and any mutual business associations. Otherwise, keep politics and religion out of it.
That said, you're chatting with a person from an Islamic background, and you're surprized he's "anti-Israel"? Seems a bit naive, at least.
It appears is you've run into the old "they don't think like us" syndrome. I have and have had business associates whose political and political/religious views are quite different from mine. Sometimes it doesn't matter. Sometimes it does. If you truly feel he's crossed the line, by categorizing you as "an enemy", your friendly personal relationship is over.
My shock didn't come from the person's beliefs so much as the audacity of telling a Jew that the Jews should be removed from Palestine/Israel during a business meeting. I'm not so clueless that I don't know Israel's policies are unpopular, especially among the Muslim crowd. What I do know is that even if I fully believed in Israel's settlement policy, I'm not about to tell a Muslim that his compatriots should pack up and find a new place to live. I'm not in shock about this person's beliefs, it's the lack of respect for mine.
This particular contact is not exactly a great loss, but we do share MANY very useful contacts, including one who has connected me with several great opportunities. My personal relationship with this person is over, no questions asked. But the professional relationship will have to endure, at least to keep up appearances for our mutual contacts. My question is how cold am I allowed to be? Can I cite this person's views as a reason to refuse to do this person further professional contact? Or should I dodge the issue and just make up something like "I'm too busy"?
Don't make a bad situation worse by attempting to ask for the references back. Gracefully take you lumps and keep it in mind going forward.
The manly thing to do is to move on and to next time to not mix business with friendship. You gave away your contacts for nothing. That was your own fault. Learn from it and don't do it next time. I wouldn't try and take them back. You already freely gave them. To take them back now would be childish.
As for the Israel comments to a Jew. My guess is your friend thought he, a non-Middle Easterner American (who happens to be an immigrant from a non-Middle Eastern country), was talking about Middle East politics with a fellow non-Middle Easterner (a fellow American I'm assuming). The fact your dad is Jewish probably had nothing to do with it (nor does the religion of your friend since as you said, he's a non-Arab). Like I said, you're not an Israeli and if you were that sensitive about Israel, he probably would assume that you wouldn't bring it up in conversation.
One doesn't have to be Muslim to have issues with Israel. I know of a Jewish Canadian (born, like many generations before her, in Iraq but unable now to ever go back there) who dislikes Israel's foreign policies because of how she feels it has made her own family's existence in the non-Israel Middle East impossible. Likewise, you will meet many Irish Catholics who feel solidarity with the Palestinians due to the similarities they see between the English's treatment of their ancestors (the English uprooted many of them and replaced them with English settlements) and Israel's settlement policies in Palestinian lands. As for arabs, I knew a Palestinian (born and raised in Egypt due to the wars with Israel) in university who's uncle was bulldozed in his own house to make way for an Israeli settlement. I'm guessing if you shared your opinion with him on Middle Eastern politics he'd probably find it harder to "not make a scene" than you did.
Point is. For many, some political issues stir strong emotions. This is why we keep them off the main page here on AOM. It's also why you shouldn't mix them with business.
My advice. Next time the conversation drifts to the Middle East, if you are not comfortable with someone having negative views about any country there then change the topic. Also, next time, keep your business and your friends separate.