Ilana Diamond, a student at University of Texas writes in the Jerusalem Post about the challenges facing students who support Israel.
This is something we have covered many times on Jewlicious. Campuses across the US are dominated by the pro-Palestinian advocacy groups, sometimes as a part of some Muslim student association or other larger enterprise. We’ve discussed the challenge of being a Jewish student on some of these campuses and especially of being supportive of Israel. Nobody wants to be disliked or to be on the side of evil. These organizations have made Israel out to be the new Nazi Germany and they continue to push their agenda aggressively and continuously. As Ilana points out and as we’ve reported in the past, these groups are also smart and effective.
The average person, even one who has a smattering of knowledge on the topic, is simply unequipped to debate with Mearsheimer or Finkelstein, or even with a well educated pro-Palestinian activist. The result is that those who would debate are left silent and those who want to be supportive of Israel find themselves confused and those who were neutral are far less likely to see Israel favorably.
Make no mistake, while Israel is the topic and these pro-Palestinian groups use the word “Zionists” carefully, as we’ve shown with clips from UC Irvine, the attack is on the Jewish mainstream and upon many Jews. To avoid attack, you have to be on the anti-Israel side.
The result of all this should scare everybody. First, it means that a generation of students is growing up not just with sympathy for the Palestinians but more important, with derision if not outright hatred of Israel. These are the future politicians, businesspeople, artists, voters, etc. of the US. Second, a generation of Jewish students is growing up cowed by the idea of showing or even feeling any kinship to Israel. Third, that often translates to rejection of Jewish groups on campus because the campus groups do often act supportively of Israel. Fourth, these are students, they want to have fun and to be liked. Imagine if you’re constantly confronted with the supposed evils of people affiliated with you. If you weren’t too affiliated to begin with, you’re going to reject your connection and even if you are affiliated, there’s a very good chance you will turn in a direction the rejects a part of your Jewish identity. Of course, the so-called “progressives” get around this by siding with the Pro-Palestinians and claiming that it’s their Jewish values that provide the logic for their actions.
On the University of Texas at Austin campus, where I am a student, it’s a daily problem. There are some five pro-Palestinian student groups currently active on campus. Guess how many pro-Israel student-run groups there are. One.
Well, maybe two. There is also the Union of Progressive Zionism, but I am not yet convinced that their main battle won’t be fighting the “occupation.”
Meanwhile, one could say there are about seven institutionalized forces working against Israel on the UT campus.
This year alone, these groups have brought in speakers such as John Mearsheimer, author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, a book denouncing AIPAC; Alison Weir, journalist and the founder of If Americans Knew, a group that argues the US is sending too much money to Israel and that the Palestinian plight is underrepresented in American media; Neturei Karta Rabbi Dovid Weiss, who attended Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial conference and is a member of Jews United Against Zionism; and Anna Baltzer, a pro-Palestinian American Jew.
Needless to say, the Palestinian sympathizers at UT know how to make their events look credible, and the events are usually well attended. This is the part where putting too much faith in college students starts to go wrong.
STUDENTS ATTEND these lectures and hear how AIPAC is supposedly wasting taxpayer’s money, how Israel is supposedly brutalizing and killing innocent Palestinian children, and so on. The organizers of these events know these issues are compelling, and that any Joe-shmoe is going to sympathize with their cause.
The average college student attending is likely to be hearing about the Arab-Israel conflict for the first time, and can end up believing that what they’ve just learned is the whole story, thus creating a large problem for pro-Israel activists.
It is especially undermining when some of these anti-Israel speakers are of Jewish heritage. Students interpret that to mean that if a Jew doesn’t like Israel, then Israel must be really bad – so it’s ok if I don’t like Israel either.
Is there a solution? Not one that comes up easily. The brutal truth is that we’re outnumbered. Not only is the Jewish community divided into numerous sub-groups and levels of affiliation, but the other side can count on the Muslim and far-Left students almost automatically. It’s also much easier to be active for a cause where there’s an underdog than for the supposed victor, which is how Israel is perceived. The faculty on many campuses reflects a trend to the Left and especially with respect to Israel, as we’ve previously discussed with respect to MESA.
I do have words of encouragement for Ilana, though. Don’t be afraid of the truth, because it happens to be on our side. Even with all of Israel’s faults, as well as mistakes – some unintentional and some intentional – that it has made over these many decades, after all this time it remains the side that has justice on its side. The attempt to harm the Jewish community of Mandatory Palestine, followed by the attempt to destroy Israel and “send the Jews into the ocean,” and subsequently by hostile nations that maintained a posture of war or hostility for decades has dictated the terms of this conflict to a far greater degree than anything Israel has done. Even the presence of Israel in the Territories is far from a black and white story and this was true before and is shown againt to be true now that Israel has left Gaza. It sounds trite, but Israelis grow up singing songs about peace and the pain of war. That is not what the other side is teaching their kids.