Monthly Archives: April 2016

Has Israel replaced South Africa as an Apartheid state?

April 29, 2016

George Mason University‘s Emet for Israel group, Israel Student Association (ISA), recently hosted an event focussed on answering allegations surrounding whether or not Israel has replaced South Africa as an Apartheid state. The intention was to get to the root of this bothersome question and to tackle it head on through education.

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Benjamin Pogrund, who was jailed for acting out against Apartheid in his native South Africa, spoke of his experiences growing up there, and witnessing Apartheid first hand against Black citizens. He went on to discuss his relationship with Nelson Mandela and how they used to meet secretly and quite often to defeat the Apartheid norm that plagued South African society. This activist had tight ties with some of the most influential figures in the anti-Apartheid movement that took place in South Africa throughout the 1980s and 1990s. When Mandela had been arrested and was sentenced to life in prison for sabotage and attempting to overthrow the government, Pogrund and his wife were actually the first non-family members to visit him on Robben Island.

After sharing a number of horrifying stories, he directed the audience’s attention to the question of Israel and whether it treats Arabs as the Whites treated Blacks. He posed the questions, “how does Israeli life compare with the old South Africa?” He went on to point out that, “under Apartheid, every detail of life was subject to discrimination by law. Black South Africans did not have the right to vote. Skin color ultimately determined where you were born and lived, your job, school, which bus, train, taxi ambulance, which park bench, lavatory, and beach you were permitted to use, whom you could marry, and in which cemetery you were buried.” He firmly showed how no such things happen in Israel.

Benjamin Pogrund, with beard, next to Nelson Mandela (photo credit: courtesy Benjamin Pogrund)

Benjamin Pogrund, with beard, next to Nelson Mandela (photo credit: courtesy Benjamin Pogrund; Source: Times of Israel)

Once his goal to outlaw Apartheid in South Africa were achieved, Pogrund moved to Jerusalem and began to see how misinformation has been spreading about the Jewish state. He claims that by accusing Israel of Apartheid action, people take away from the great suffering of the Blacks of his home country. The injustices they went through are incomparable to what Arabs experience in Israel. There is no segregation, Israeli Arabs have rights to health care, voting, to move about freely and receive an education alongside Jewish Israelis. His new mission in life is to actively fight these comparisons and dangerous claims.

Recently, Mr. Pogrund published a book called “Drawing Fire: Investigating the Accusations of Apartheid in Israel,” throughout which he goes through the positions of the other side and refutes them through facts and historical knowledge. He writes that, “Yes, Israel’s Arab minority does suffer discrimination, but their lot is not remotely comparable with blacks under apartheid. To claim they are the same is to stretch, bend, twist and contort truth.” Clearly, the author is aware of the situations of both countries, thereby giving him the ability to undermine falsehoods within this debate.

Book cover of “Drawing Fire”

Book cover of “Drawing Fire”

The speaker went on to answer each question posed by the students in the audience, as they were intrigued by his life and admired his activism. ISA was pleased that in total, the event attracted forty students and two staff members. Everyone involved seemed to learn a new perspective on the Apartheid myth.

This event was co-sponsored by CAMERA on Campus, StandWithUs, The David Project, and Hillel.

Brave Miss World Screening at UMiami

April 28, 2016

The University of Miami’s Emet for Israel group had a Brave Miss World screening on March 28th, which was co-sponsored by AEPI, No Zebras, and Her Campus. The students who came watched Brave Miss World, a film that tells Former Israeli model Linor Abargil’s story and focusses primarily on women’s rights in Israel. The audience sees how one person has the ability to help thousands of people, despite her struggles.

8669_956616124433583_7040658570782136989_nThe protagonist’s positive point of view was refreshing, and because college students may find it difficult to always see the bigger picture, this film hit home for many of the attendees. Emet-Israel also wanted to show this movie in particular in order to display how a negative occurrence can change your life, for better or worse, but this all depends on the individual’s outlook. The protagonist was determined to overcome the challenges she inevitably faced and was looked upon as a hero by the end of the story.

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Because this is a true story, the film was all the more powerful. It goes through the life of Linor, who was a model in Israel, won Miss Israel in 1998, and she is then sent to Italy to advance her modeling career. However, Linor is kidnapped, stabbed, and then raped by the man who was supposed to serve as her travel agent. The rest of the movie goes on to show how she took these traumatic events and never allowed them to define her. She now works toward promoting awareness, advocates for women’s rights, and legally defends victims of sexual abuse. Her story and work provide women around the world with a sense of empowerment.

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Once the movie was finished, students who were previously unaffiliated with Emet were so inspired that they began asking members questions about their activity on campus. The floor was also opened to questions and a dialogue about women’s rights, Israel in the media, misconceptions, modern feminist struggles, and a number of other interesting topics were brought to the table. Documentaries proved to be a great way resource in bringing people together and sparking respectful conversations and seeking out answers.

Interfaith Dinner at Laurentian University

April 27, 2016

Laurentian University’s Emet for Israel group, Jewish Student Association (LUJSA), organized a great initiative, which was in partnership with LU’s Muslim Student Association and the university’s Christian Fellowship. The groups came together to hold an interfaith dinner and discussion at Tandoori Tastes restaurant in Sudbury, Ontario, which took place on the night of April 2nd.

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The event was a positive experience and highly successfully in that it sparked a respectful dialogue between these religious groups on campus, groups that may have had pre-conceived notions about the other’s belief system. Each student faith group presented the core tenets and history of their respective religions in a “What you need to know about my faith in 15 minutes” format. This interactive question and answer structure proved to be both engaging and informative.

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Following each presentation, students broke out into sessions throughout which students of opposite faiths were encouraged to ask each other anything they found troubling or unclear about their religious background. This was done in somewhat of a game show fashion. Each listener had the opportunity to answer questions about a different religious group, and could win gift cards if the correct response was given.

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In total, there were sixty participants, which was an unbelievable turn out. It showed that when given the chance, students of different religious upbringings do still possess a curiosity of the “other.” People of varying religions are open to dialogue and learning about their history and unique practices. Overall it was a truly eye opening experience for many of the attendees and a refreshing one for students who often feel threatened because of their faith. This was a step toward genuine understanding and coexistence on Laurentian University’s campus.

‘Free speech’ is Not a Cover for the Incitement of Violence

April 26, 2016

York University CAMERA Fellow Danielle Shachar

York University CAMERA Fellow Danielle Shachar

Paul Bronfman’s principled decision to pull funding from York University must serve as a wake-up call: the university has a real and pervasive problem with anti-Semitism that it is failing to acknowledge. York administrators are far more willing to moralize in hazy abstractions of “free speech” and “inclusivity” than to actually address the specific concerns articulated time and again by Jewish students – namely that “free speech” is not a cover for the incitement of violence and that inclusivity, by its very definition, cannot mean that one group is consistently excluded, demonized, and marginalized.

Even if the mural were removed tomorrow, anti-Semitism would still be rampant at York. Consider three recent examples that have gained scarce, if any, media attention:

1. This February, the student union elections were characterized by a campaign of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Supporters of the fervently anti-Israel “Student Action” slate warned voters that the opposing slate was composed of “f—–g Jews” and “Zionist pigs.”

YUDivest students rally at York NEVER AGAIN PHOTO
YUDivest students rally at York NEVER AGAIN CANADA PHOTO

2. In November, a Jewish student submitted a motion to implement online voting in future student government elections. His religion alone was used as justification to smear him as a “racist” and a “murderous extremist.”

3. Last year, when I made the administration aware that the York student group Students Against Israeli Apartheid regularly incites violence online, including the glorification of terrorist groups banned by the Canadian government, I was treated as if I was deliberately seeking offence and was instructed, by means of an official recourse, not to look at the offensive material. Furthermore, administrators made clear that what is classified as terrorism by the federal government constitutes an “alternative point of view” at York.

I believe that free speech must be given a wide berth. I believe that alternative points of view add to the richness of Canadian diversity. But there are certain things that are unequivocally wrong – the promotion of violence and the demonization of Jewish students being a prime example.

In the same way that the university wouldn’t hang a mural of a KKK member holding a noose in his hands alongside a Confederate flag, it should not hang a mural of a Palestinian man poised to throw rocks alongside a map that eliminates Israel. This is especially true at a campus like York, where murals that portray violent stone throwing are not mere art pieces devoid of tangible repercussions. York officials are being dishonest by not acknowledging that the mural is one piece of a much larger problem.

Originally published in Canadian Jewish News.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at York University, Danielle Shachar.

Learn more about the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship.

The Time is Now

April 25, 2016

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

Picture this: advocating on a college campus for a democracy that has legal protections of LGBT individuals, equal rights for men and women, protections of religious minorities, and has a vibrant economy that’s home to incredible technological, medical, and agricultural innovation. Then imagine being attacked, threatened, or shoved aside for doing this. Now you can better understand what it’s like to be a pro-Israel advocate at universities across the nation.

The pro-Israel movement at Syracuse University isn’t huge, but with upwards of 3,000 Jewish students, it has the potential to be. There are small-scale events which receive little attention, and are contributed to with little, if any, school funding. Currently, the sole pro-Israel group on campus operates under the umbrella of a larger prominent Jewish organization. For the most part, that group – which I am the president of – has been left in the dust.

In January, when I applied for my group to become an independent, recognized student organization on campus, the application was rejected. The grounds for this decision were that we had the capacity to function under the larger umbrella organization under which we were founded. The Office of Student Activities also shared concern with our group not being inclusive enough – that is, they felt the pro-Israel group would not be a space that was open to people of different racial, political, ethnic, and national backgrounds, and for students with varying opinions on Israel. It doesn’t take a genius to see through this message. The office had first forced us to remain under a Jewish organization – forcing the group to retain a Jewish aspect that could serve to turn away potential members – and then claimed that, as such, the group would not be open to the greater community.

Hall of Languages, Syracuse University, May 9, 2014

Hall of Languages, Syracuse University, May 9, 2014

Because of the decision by the Office of Student Activities – and the fact that it was encouraged by university staff – students on campus are missing out on engaging, enriching events as the voice of the pro-Israel group has been stifled.

There are no other pro-Israel student groups at Syracuse. Even with a recent effort to host a J Street event on campus and eventually form a group, this statement still holds true, as the mission of J Street, a group falsely claiming to be pro-Israel on campus, is to condemn Israel and Israeli policies while hiding behind the guise of being ‘progressive.’ As a progressive, Jewish, Israel advocate myself, J Street does not speak for me, nor do I imagine, does it speak for many members of this campus community. On their own website, J-Street states that they “hold Israeli policy – implemented by governments of all political backgrounds over decades –responsible for creating the current situation that threatens the security and the future of the national home of the Jewish people” There is no mention of any responsibility on the hands of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas for the wave of terrorism.

The pro-Israel group that I head up on campus is one that celebrates Israel through the country’s democratic policies of granting freedoms to LGBT individuals and ethnic and religious minorities. We pride ourselves on promoting the liberal ideals of the sole democracy in the Middle East and the fantastic technological and agricultural innovations it has produced in the last 68 years. J Street’s vision is not this. Allowing a J Street chapter on campus would only serve to divide the already-small pro-Israel community. The campus community at Syracuse is largely apathetic, and given the choice between a group that calls itself pro-Israel and a group that actually is pro-Israel will only lead them to shy away from discussion and discourse. What we need is unity, not internal divisions.

A proposed J Street event to be held at a prominent Jewish organization on campus was eventually postponed, but that doesn’t mean that J Street is gone. I fear that a small group of determined students will try to bring a chapter to campus in the near future; there’s also no doubt that they will seek to operate under the same Jewish organization my group is currently forced to be under. As a Jewish organization, J Street may turn non-Jews away because of its religious affiliation, and may turn Jews away because of its pseudo-‘support’ of Israel through constant scathing criticism of the Israeli government. However, Syracuse Students for Israel is open to students of all religious, cultural, political, ethnic and national backgrounds. It was a mistake for the Office of Student Activities to refuse recognition to the sole pro-Israel student group on campus. What are our prospects when another group that claims the same purpose comes along?

Editor’s note: This article was updated on 11/05/16.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Syracuse University Shoshana Kranish.

Apply to be a 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellow by May 1st!

Next Year in Jerusalem

April 22, 2016

 

CAMERA Fellow Maria Lilly.

CAMERA Fellow Maria Lilly.

They wandered in a desert for forty years. They were exiled from their land. They were enslaved. They were persecuted. They were outcasts. They were blamed for natural disasters; blamed for economic woes. They were forced from their homes. They were slaughtered by the millions, several times over.

And every year they said, “Next year in Jerusalem,” remembering the homeland of their fathers.

They arose, decimated, from amidst their own ashes and found the courage to return to their only home. They valorously chose to hope they may one day be free from the grip of tyranny and senseless death. They had the foresight to ensure their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would one day live in freedom and security. They made a way in the wilderness for their posterity to be able to protect themselves and the generations to come from those who would wish to wipe them from the face of the Earth.

Jews at the Western Wall praying on Passover.

Jews at the Western Wall praying on Passover.

And they said, “Next year in Jerusalem,” fearing their children may grow up to see their homeland taken.

They had the bravery to be a nation amidst those who would kill them and establish a state, which would be a haven for all people. But more than anything, they found their way home to Jerusalem. They claimed what had been taken from them.

And standing in the city of their forefather’s they said, “Next year in Jerusalem,” remembering their fathers and mothers killed in camps still saying those very same words.

They faced down enemies who wished to destroy them before they could have a chance to be whole again.

They survived and now they have thrived.

They returned home.

They still say, “Next year in Jerusalem,” but with the hope Jerusalem will be there for them.

And when faced with senseless hate, they ask, “Why?”

We are a people; we are a state born of strife.

We are a diamond pressed by hate.

We hear the call of our homeland.

We weep for the ones stripped away from us.

We live in their memory.

We are Israel.

In 1948 we said for the first time in thousands of years on the streets our forefathers walked, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

So call me Israel. Call me Jew.

This is my homeland. This is where I am free and where I will stand.

For posterity I will say, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

For posterity, together, we will say, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Alaska University Maria Lilly.

Learn more about the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship here.

The West’s Pro-Palestinian Obligation

April 21, 2016

CAMERA Fellow Maria Lilly.

Any person who claims, publicly or privately, to value human life, freedom, truth, equality, self-determination or any other human rights claim must stand in support of the Palestinian people.

As shown by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice’s research the Palestinians’ basic human rights are violated daily, their children are indoctrinated and senselessly murdered. Palestinian women are left in danger of death at family members’ hands because of assault or perceived misconduct. The Palestinian lives in poverty under the thumb of an elitist and extravagantly wealthy governing body. As a people the Palestinians represent the West’s tolerance of human rights abuses.

Gaza is under the control of Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization under the leadership of Khaled Mashaal: billionaire amidst a sea of poverty. Hamas during the 2014 50-Day Gaza War carried out missile attacks on its own people, used children to dig terror tunnels into Israel, many of those children died. This, the same organization involved in the trafficking of African refugees, has killed Palestinians suspected of working with Israel, without the benefit of free and fair trial. Palestinian children grow up indoctrinated and watching violence endorsing, anti-Semitic televisions shows: Barney with bloodlust. Rather than touting kindness these children’s shows teach songs written upon the premise wiping Jews from the face of the earth would be a global positive.

For the full article, visit The Times of Israel.

Contributed by University of Alaska CAMERA Fellow Maria Lilly.

Learn more about our 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship program here!

An Eye-Opening 10 Months

April 20, 2016

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

As someone who was once blind to anti-Israel bias both on and off campus, CAMERA has truly opened my eyes to its prevalence in academia and in the media.

During the fall semester, I took a class taught by a very anti-Israel professor – one who spoke of ‘occupation’ and who happens to be a signatory of BDS. If I hadn’t become a CAMERA Fellow, I would have been a bystander in that classroom, allowing my professor to indoctrinate students without providing an accurate depiction of history.

There is one experience I will never forget in that classroom. My professor had students speak freely about whatever their preconceived notions were of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, fostering a dialogue that could have gone much better than it did.

All of the material she had given for reading was so blatantly one-sided. Students who had no prior knowledge of the conflict only added fuel to her hateful, inaccurate bias. One student claimed that Palestinians are victims of asymmetric violence – and my professor said nothing.

I was shocked and hurt, and so disappointed that even someone who is so fiercely anti-Israel would let this blatant lie live in her classroom.

Sitting there, I thought back to the times I had spent in bomb shelters in Tel Aviv (thankfully never because of an imminent rocket attack) for drills, meetings, and – believe it or not – rehearsals for Israel’s remembrance day ceremony. These flashbacks prompted me to speak up.

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I asked my professor if she had ever heard of the Iron Dome, which holds the sole purpose of protecting Israelis – Jews and Arabs alike – from Hamas rocket attacks. The only other pro-Israel student in the class supported my position. My professor’s inaccurate and biased information was not only hurtful; it ignored the experiences of every Israeli.

Having attended the CAMERA advocacy training conference a few months prior, I knew it was time for me to speak up – and I did so with conviction.

It is increasingly common on college campuses today for students, rather than professors, to be the ones presenting an accurate image of Israel in classrooms. It shouldn’t have to be this way. Students deserve the opportunity to learn without being taught lies from biased professors.

Activist Liz Wahl and Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

Activist Liz Wahl and Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

Without CAMERA’s training, I might not have known how to respond to my professor’s inability to teach the facts. CAMERA taught me that it is up to me to stand up for the truth. I wrote an article about my experiences in that class, and CAMERA had it published in a widely-read online newspaper. I realized that I wasn’t alone in my experiences, and there were so many people – people I never had and never will meet – who voiced their support for me.

As a CAMERA fellow, I have connected with a vast network of like-minded, determined, and inspirational students at colleges across the country. We’re all experiencing different forms of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic biases, and as a community we look to each other for guidance on how to combat these issues.

For college students, there are a million and one meetings, papers and exams, and having to deal with anti-Israel bias only adds to the struggle. Knowing I’m not alone on that front is comforting. CAMERA fellows and staff are always on the other end of the phone with a strategy to combat whatever issue pops up on campus. The staff doesn’t just manage us, they’re our friends, and they go to great lengths to make sure we know that. When my pro-Israel group was rejected from being an independent organization, CAMERA was there every step of the way with me. There’s no way I could go through being the president of my university’s only pro-Israel group without the support of CAMERA staff and Fellows – they are an integral part of my experience as a pro-Israel leader on campus.

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Hosting Liz Wahl on campus in early April is perhaps one of the most effective ways I’ve brought accuracy and context to Israel on my campus. A journalist with no prior connections to Israel, Wahl conducted an investigation into media bias against Israel, finding that indeed, the media so often skews stories in favor of the aggressors, and leaves Israeli victims as an after thought, if at all. Her message reached journalism students at my school who had never been taught about media bias, despite attending one of the top journalism schools in the country.

I am sure that the relationships I have made with CAMERA staff and Fellows will be long lasting. It is because of the CAMERA on Campus staff that I have become the unwavering Israel advocate that I am today. The Fellowship has provided me with so many opportunities to harness my engagement skills, perfect my writing technique, and become the most effective defender of Israel that I can be. I will take all of this with me in my future endeavors, with pride and gratitude.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

Apply for the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship here!

From the Journal of an Israeli Girl in Jerusalem

April 19, 2016

Eilat Aviv

Eilat Aviv

From the journal of an Israeli girl in Jerusalem:

It starts out of nowhere. You just hear sirens, a lot of sirens. And you know – something bad happened. Something major.

Something that makes your spine shiver. And you start to worry, worry about your family. Your loved ones. Your friends. You know, you will hear it soon in the news. And within this gap – where you know something happened, but you don’t know yet what – you’re numb.

You turn off the music you heard on YouTube, because it just doesn’t feel right. You sit, and wait. And stare at the air, numb. That’s how it feels.

And then, news flashes, messages, people are looking for you, and trying to figure out if you’re okay.

You worry, you start thinking, “What if?” What if I was there, my family, or my friends. And then you get a bit angry with yourself because it’s someone else’s loved one.

And then the sirens are slowly fading… and life goes on. Like this, like nothing happened. Dogs are barking, birds are chirping, my cats are asleep, cars are running… and I am still numb.


Even when it’s not a terror attack, that’s what goes through your head. And you can’t help it, because you keep thinking what’s next? When will the next terrible thing will show up?

This is the Israeli reality.

Firefighters and rescue personnel at the scene of a bus bombing in Jerusalem, on April 18, 2016, leaving at least 21 people injured. (Nati Shohat/FLash90)

Firefighters and rescue personnel at the scene of a bus bombing in Jerusalem, on April 18, 2016, leaving at least 21 people injured. (Nati Shohat/FLash90)

Contributed by Eilat Aviv, member of CAMERA – supported group CAMERA at Hebrew U.

Apply for the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship here!

A Response to “Peace, Not Apartheid Week”

This week, Boston College Students for Justice in Palestine will host its annual “Israel Apartheid Week,” a four-day event that will highlight what it views as injustices committed by the State of Israel against the Palestinian people, injustices they consider akin to the systematic oppression of non-white South Africans from 1948 to 1994. Panels will be formed, lectures will be held. The most visible aspect of “Israel Apartheid Week,” however, will be the makeshift wall constructed in front of Stokes Hall with murals proclaiming slogans such as ‘Free Palestine.’ While I’m sure SJP is well-intentioned in its aims, there’s a simple problem:

Israel is not an Apartheid state.

boston college wall

To compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa is only valid if one assumes three things: 1) That Israel systematically discriminates against its Arab and other non-Jewish citizens, 2) That Israel unlawfully denies residents of the Palestinian Territories rights to mobility, and, inherently most important to this comparison, 3) That Israel is a colonial state denying control from the land’s native inhabitants.

On the first two points, I can dwell on and on. I can tell you how, for starters, Israelis of Palestinian-Arab descent (as well as all other non-Jews) are guaranteed equality before the law with their Jewish counterparts. I can tell you that, in fact, 13 out of 120 seats in the Israeli legislative body, the Knesset, are held by an Arab coalition, and that there is even a Palestinian-Arab on Israel’s Supreme Court: Salim Joubran. I would point out that the checkpoints and barriers separating the West Bank/Gaza from Israel, the ones that SJP would compare to the infamous Pass Laws of the Apartheid Regime in South Africa, are not meant for racist purposes but are simply security provisions. And effective ones at that: From 2000-2005 Palestinian terrorist killed around 700 Israeli citizens using both gunmen and suicide bombers that snuck into Israel from the West Bank. What SJP and its allies do not admit is that since the Wall’s construction, terrorist attacks in Israel have decreased to very few each year from several dozen in the 2000s. In short: The barrier works really, really well.

But I don’t want to focus on those aspects. I want to focus on the third point, the one that makes this claim of Apartheid personal for me: That Israel is a settler state imposed on the Middle East by the West. You see, I am a Jew whose parents fled the U.S.S.R. in the 1970s, but I do not consider either Russia or Ukraine my native homeland. For me, my roots are in Israel.

My maternal great-grandmother’s earliest memories were hiding under her bed as a 5-year-old in her small Ukrainian-Jewish village because of the rumors of an impending Pogrom. Some 20 years later, her whole family was killed in the Holocaust. On the other side of my family, I was never able to meet my paternal grandfather, who died at the age of 40 from an epilepsy that he received as a child from severe beatings on the head by his schoolmates because he was Jewish. They were not welcome in Slavic society because, in the intensely nationalist Russia and Ukraine, they were considered Semitic foreigners.

One needs to remember that being Jewish is not just a religious preference: It’s an ethnicity. And mine and most every other ethnic Jew’s ethnic roots lie in Israel. DNA evidence proves this time and time again. To say that Jews are foreign to the land is counterfactual and, quite frankly, anti-Semitic. We are not colonists, we are natives to the land. Anything said on the contrary truly dehumanizes us. Yes, Palestinians deserve their own state as well, and they will, I hope, one day get it. But it cannot be the Jewish State. History has proven that Jews need a state of their own as both a unifier of identity and as a safe-haven against anti-Semitism. We are not Afrikaners. Our roots in the land of Israel go back thousands of years. What Zionism has done has been nothing short of a miracle: Reigniting a Jewish identity with its own unifying language and a land of its own. Just as the Italian diaspora looks to Rome and Florence as its cultural centers, we look to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Thus, go ahead, call Israel an Apartheid State. Say that Zionism equates to racism, that the Jewish State should be erased off the face of this Earth as an ugly stain of late white-European colonialism. But you cannot take away the feelings I had when I stood at the Western Wall last June in Jerusalem at Friday sundown. There, I was standing at the holiest site in Judaism, one that goes back thousands of years, before the terms Palestine or Zionism or Apartheid were even created. I touched the Wall and felt the presence of my ancestors who longed for millennia to have the opportunity to stand where I was, but could not.

I could not have felt more at home anywhere else.

Originally published in The Heights.

Contributed by  and Emet for Israel supported group at Boston College, Eagles for Israel.

Learn more and apply for the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship!