Tag Archives: zionism

I am a Zionist.

CAMERA Fellow Leora Eisenberg.

I’m afraid to say it out loud sometimes because it’s become a bad word of late. I believe in Israel’s right to exist and its necessity. I put great faith in the Jewish right to self-determination and have a deep love for the State of Israel. This makes me a Zionist.

On Thursday, Feb. 16, the well-known political scientist and Israel critic Norman Finkelstein repeatedly equated Zionism with ethnic cleansing. He called Zionism a denial of historical truth and compared Zionist endeavors to Stalin’s.

But the Palestinian population in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories has increased eightfold since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. If the Palestinian population of the region has swelled since Israel’s conception, Zionism cannot possibly espouse ethnic cleansing.

Zionism, instead, is the Jewish movement for self-determination. The founders of the State of Israel were Zionists, but they did not enshrine rights for only one group of people. On the contrary, the Israeli Declaration of Independence states that Israel will “foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants [and] it will be based on freedom, justice and peace.” Israel has sometimes erred on its path, but the Zionism described in the nation’s founding document has nothing to do with the ethnic cleansing that Finkelstein mentioned.

In fact, many famous figures are proud to be Zionists, like Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel. He decried genocide — a form of ethnic cleansing itself — but was also unfaltering in his Zionism, finding no conflict between the two. Like Wiesel, I see no contradiction between Zionism and my values of human rights. I believe in Israel’s founding ideology, and like many others, see it as a movement of “freedom, justice and peace.”

In that vein, I realize that many, on campus and elsewhere, may disagree with my views. But instead of charging all Zionists with ethnic cleansing, I invite you to engage a Zionist in conversation. You will find that many of us are liberals, peacemakers, and warriors for human rights. Ask a proponent of the ideology why they continue to adhere to it. It may be that they find Israel’s existence necessary; it also may be, however, that they find Zionism good and just, even though Finkelstein might disagree.

Contributed by Princeton University CAMERA Fellow Leora Eisenberg.

Originally published at Princeton University campus paper The Daily Princetonian.

My Time at the CAMERA Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference

CAMERA Fellow Lindsey Cohen.

CAMERA Fellow Lindsey Cohen.

This summer, students from all over the world convened in Boston for CAMERA’s Sixth Annual Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference. They came from all over – from New York, Toronto, and California, to the United Kingdom, and Israel.  They came to learn how to defend Israel on campus and how to correct bias in the media, and to meet other CAMERA  Fellows and members of CAMERA-supported Israel groups.

I expected to leave with an understanding of the situation on campus and how students are fighting bias and lies about Israel. I got all of this and more: I left with the power of a network committed to truth and to  defending Israel.  Yes, the information was valuable, but more valuable still were the new connections I made with other students, all with their own perspectives and stories on Israel.

To read the full article, visit The Times of Israel.

Contributed by 2015-2016 CAMERA Fellow at Boston University, Lindsey Cohen.

CAMERA on Campus is now on Snapchat!

Playing a significant role in our daily lives, social media is of significant importance to Israel advocacy. CAMERA serves as an important source of informative and thorough articles and analyses of inaccurate reporting on the Middle East.

As a college-focused organization, CAMERA on Campus also promotes Israel through social media. Our Facebook page provides critical information and groundbreaking articles about Israel or Israel advocacy. CAMERA on Campus is on Twitter and Instagram as well.

Recently, CAMERA on Campus joined the Snapchat. At CAMERA’s annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference, CAMERA on Campus snapped some great – and hilarious – moments of students as they built up their Israel activism skills. While snaps disappear after 24 hours, the effects of the lessons and skills on the students will be long lasting.

snapchat

Addressing rising anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism on campuses is no simple feat. Israel activists need to strengthen their core understanding of Israel’s history and the Jewish people’s right to their land, and also need to stay updated with current events in Israel. We encourage students to advocate for Israel on social media. Lectures and events on Israel have profound effects on students, but a post on social media can be read by someone who had no prior interest in Israel and can be the beginning of their own Israel activism.

CAMERA on Campus continues to work tirelessly to defend Israel and advocate for her. Luckily for any aspiring Israel advocate, following CAMERA on Campus’s lead and joining in on Israel advocacy is now just a snap away.

Black Lives Matter in Israel

About a year ago, the world was captivated by the news of police brutality in Israel. A young Ethiopian-Israeli soldier, Damas Pakada was beaten by a policeman, and the world heard. Articles claimed that Israel is a racist state. Videos screamed that Israel cares little for black lives. Social media erupted with hatred of Israel and its racist society without bothering to examine the facts.

The fact is that there is racism in Israeli society. There is no easy way to get around that, and I would hate to sugarcoat the truth. That said, every single society in the world has racism — from the United States to France to Morocco — and to single Israel out for its problems is unfair, anti-Semitic and discriminatory.

The Ethiopian Jewish population in Israel consists of about 135,000, some 14,000 of whom were airlifted to Israel during Operation Solomon 25 years ago, when Israel carried out an operation to rescue Ethiopian Jews.  Since then, great progress has been made.

Also note that Operation Solomon was the first time in history where a Western country “imported” Africans to liberate them instead of enslaving them. 

Many hateful articles and videos seeking to delegitimize Israel focus exclusively on the negative — how more Ethiopian families live under the poverty line, work as unskilled laborers and do not receive university diplomas compared to the Israeli average. These publications neglect to mention, however, how much progress has been made.

Remember, also, how disproportionately these sites focus on Israeli problems, doing a huge disservice to other minority groups suffering around the world.

In twelve years, the percentage of Ethiopian students receiving a general matriculation diploma has gone up from 31% to 48%. For men, employment rates have risen from 62% to 73%; for women, from 37% to 69%. There have been several Ethiopian-Israeli members of the Knesset, an Ethiopian-Israeli Miss Israel, and Ethiopian-Israeli television presenters. Bringing a population from rural Africa, with no higher education and little modern technology, to a Western nation is no small feat — and to see such incredible results in just 25 years is remarkable.

Much of the media, however, chooses to only see the failures of the Israeli community to combat racism. When private Haredi educational institutions refused to take Ethiopian students, the Israeli government stopped funding them. When Damas Pakada was beaten, Police Chief Yochanan Danino established a special delegation to examine the Ethiopian community’s complaints and to find solutions to the problems. Yes — there is racism. But there is also a tremendous amount of action and hope.

What never ceases to astound me is the abundance of black student unions that are against Israel. While there is a natural tendency to oppose Israel in light of the police brutality case that came forward last year, participating students should also remember that Israel is constantly seeking to improve the status of its Ethiopian (and other African) citizens. In fact, the first non-Jewish Sudanese asylum seeker was just granted refugee status, and Ugandan converts to Judaism were also recently granted the right to come to Israel under the Right of Return.

Here is just one example of what Black Student Unions write against Israel: “10,000s of African Jews migrate to Israel to escape the Christian and Islamic persecution of their fellow Africans. But when they arrive in Israel, the Zionists and Israeli residents harass the immigrants physically and mentally, the same as the continent they left.” (Black Student Union at South Oregon University)

As previously stated, huge progress has been made. Ethiopian-Israelis have certainly experienced challenges in Israel, but over the course of 25 years, have made huge strides. Contrast that with the embarrassingly long time that it took for the United States to grant African-Americans equal rights. African-Americans were only granted the right to vote in 1965, 189 years after the country’s founding.

We must stand with Israel in its quest to become a state that enshrines equal rights for all. It has a long way still to go in its fight for Ethiopian-Israeli rights, but its progress is undeniable. Black student unions, as well as all those concerned with minority rights, should support Israel in its long-standing battle against racism and its undeniable strides in the direction of equality for its Ethiopian citizens.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Princeton University Leora Eisenberg.

Zionist: One who believes in the right to flourish in Israel

“It’s the state of Israel I’m against, not the Jewish people.” A mere justification to continue pushing an irrational narrative. “I’m anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic.” A clarification to dispel any notion that one can discriminate against an entire group of people. “Make America Great Again.” All expressions that evoke a specific set of emotions. We have become numb to the point of blind acceptance when it comes to these statements when we should be questioning the underlying meanings and intentions of these dangerous assertions. Taking issue with the land of Israel’s existence and her people is a mentality created through hate and ignorance; not out of a desire to improve the conditions on the ground. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism and to disagree could only mean that one is unaware of the proper definition for Zionism or alternatively that one is just a blatant anti-Semite.

My identity has been hijacked and I, a proud Zionist, am fighting to take back what makes me who I am. Not a baby killer, settler, or colonizer (all terms I’ve been referred to as in the past), but a Jew that is proud of my people’s story. The Jewish people were forcibly exiled from their land 2,000 years ago. This isn’t “religious” or “biblical,” but fact based on archaeology and a simple understanding of human history. Our return was not a scriptural promise from God but a basic human right.

Today extremists are trying to associate the term “Zionism” with extreme right-wing politics and ideologies that solely embrace the Jewish settling of land. In doing so, anti-Zionists are striving to warp the term to fit the false narrative that Zionists could not care about the well-being of the Palestinian people. Yet, in reality, Zionism has nothing to do with land or settlements. While the Zionism movement was originally founded to re-establish a sovereign Jewish nation, it has transformed into one that seeks to affirm the right of a Jewish nation to continue to exist. The means at which we can ensure a secure Jewish nation is a varying opinion each one of us are entitled to; however it’s the understanding that the Jewish people have a right to flourish in their eternal homeland that makes one a Zionist. This is a concept that is hatefully invalidated by anti-Israel activists on campuses and in high bodies of power each day.

To invalidate a part of who I am and deny my story in the name pushing an opposing agenda is anti-Semitic. These claims do not lead to compromise and solution but to delegitimization and conflict. Now more than ever is it our job to challenge the common sentiments that “Zionism is racism” and that we have simply stolen the land we now call home. We have overcome expulsions, pogroms, and a Holocaust and finally returned to our home. This is the home we have been longing to return to for thousands of years and whose existence is the only way to guarantee that “never again” remains a reality. After 2,000 years we are finally home and for that reason alone we must find the bravery to stop those with hate from defining who we are.

Originally published in Heritage Florida Jewish News.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow and President of Knights for Israel at UCF, Ben Suster.

The Identity Crisis of the Cautious Zionist

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

One warm afternoon this past semester, I found myself in the car of a Saudi girl. We hadn’t met before – she was a friend of a friend — and had offered to drive us somewhere. While we were in the car, I blurted something out to my friend. At the time I was in a cross-continental, not-quite relationship with an Israeli boy, who I had always simply referred to as “the Israeli.” I don’t remember what I said, but I referred to him by that moniker, forgetting whose company I was in. I had let my guard down. How did this Saudi girl feel about Israel? Did she despise Zionism? Would she kick me out of her car and drop me on the side of the road?

The story ends well, and with me still in her car. She didn’t say anything at the mention of ‘the Israeli’. She’s a liberal girl, dressed in Western fashion, studying architecture at a prominent university, and apparently a Bernie supporter. But those facts alone weren’t enough to make me feel totally comfortable letting my Zionism show.

I should say here that my previous interactions with Saudis – and other Arabs – stemmed from my experiences in high school. The boarding school I attended regularly pulled well-to-do kids from various Middle Eastern Arab countries. Though they came from a mix of different countries, they all had a few things in common – a heightened sense of nationalism that likely came from being transplanted in a society so far from home at a young age, and a hatred (or a strong distaste for, to put it mildly) for Zionism. As one of the only Jews in my grade, and as one who had traveled to Israel during my high school years, I became the target of their anger toward Israel. I was, to them, what the country represented. My knowledge about Israeli and Middle Eastern history was, at the time, lacking, and so I found myself swallowing my words, arguing with someone whose history I didn’t know, and arguing a history I barely knew myself.

For the full article, visit the Times of Israel.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Syracuse UniversityShoshana Kranish.

No question about it, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism

CAMERA Fellow Ben Suster.

CAMERA Fellow Ben Suster.

“It’s the state of Israel I’m against, not the Jewish people.” This statement is a mere justification to continue pushing an irrational narrative. “I’m anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic,” is a clarification to dispel any notion that one can discriminate against an entire group of people. “Make America Great Again.” These are all expressions that evoke a specific set of emotions.

We have become numb to the point of blind acceptance when it comes to these statements when we should be questioning the underlying meanings and intentions of these dangerous assertions.

Taking issue with the land of Israel’s existence and her people is a mentality created through hate and ignorance, not out of any desire to improve the conditions on the ground. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism and to disagree could only mean that one is unaware of the proper definition for Zionism or, alternatively, that one is just a blatant anti-Semite.

My identity has been hijacked and I, a proud Zionist, am fighting to take back what makes me who I am. Not a baby killer, settler, or colonizer — all terms I’ve been referred to as in the past — but a Jew who is proud of my people’s story. The Jewish people were forcibly exiled from their land 2,000 years ago. This isn’t “religious” or “biblical,” but is a fact based off archaeology and a simple understanding of human history. Our return was not a scriptural promise from God but a basic human right.

Eshtemoa synagogue menorah, carved during the 3rd or 4th century. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4264750

Eshtemoa synagogue menorah, carved during the 3rd or 4th century. Source: Wikimedia

Today, extremists are trying to associate the term “Zionism” with extreme right-wing politics and ideologies that solely embrace the Jewish settling of land. In doing so, anti-Zionists are striving to warp the term to fit the false narrative that Zionists do not care about the well-being of the Palestinian people.

Yet, in reality, Zionism has nothing to do with land or settlements. While the Zionist movement was originally founded to re-establish a sovereign Jewish nation, it has transformed into one that seeks to affirm the right of a Jewish nation to continue to exist. The means by which we can ensure a secure Jewish nation varies among individuals. However, the understanding that the Jewish people have a right to flourish in their eternal homeland is what makes a Zionist. This is a concept that is hatefully invalidated by anti-Israel activists on campuses and in high bodies of power each day.

An anti-Israel protester equates Israel with Nazi Germany.

An anti-Israel protester equates Israel with Nazi Germany.

To invalidate a part of who I am and deny my story in the name of pushing an opposing agenda is anti-Semitic. These claims do not lead to compromise and solution but to delegitimization and conflict. Now more than ever, it is our job to challenge the common sentiments that “Zionism is racism” and that we have simply stolen the land we now call home.

We have overcome expulsions, pogroms, and a Holocaust and finally returned to our home. This is the home we have been longing to return to for thousands of years and whose existence is the only way to guarantee that “never again” remains a reality. After 2,000 years we are finally home and for that reason alone we must find the bravery to stop those with hate from defining who we are.

Originally published in the Central Florida Future

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow and President of Knights for Israel at UCF Ben Suster.

Tough Love

Lilia Gaufberg's recently received degree. [SOURCE: Facebook]

Lilia Gaufberg recently completed her degree and graduated from Clark University. [SOURCE: Facebook]

Clark, you haven’t always been easy on me.

In fact, as soon as I found my fervor for Israel and began putting that passion to use, there were times when you left me feeling bullied, deeply pained, lonely, and drained. There were times when you left me in an isolated panic, wondering if I was truly strong enough to confront the torrent of animosity against Israel by myself.

But, in retrospect, I like to think of it all as tough love from you.

Because I ended up taking that loneliness, that pain, that challenge with which you provided me, and I ran with it.

Clark: you taught me that I, a once shy, soft-spoken girl, could reach inside of my heart and soul and extract a dormant courage.

You taught me that projecting a dissenting voice with truth and conviction, while terrifying, is also one of the most empowering experiences a person can have.

You taught me that believing in a cause to the point where it runs through your veins and permeates your existence can trump any instinct to curl up and close yourself off to the possibility of resistance.

Clark, you haven’t always been easy on me.

But in many ways, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Thank you for all that you taught me. You’ve made me strong.

Contributed by member of Clarkies for Israel at Clark University, Lilia Gaufberg.

Wall Brings Pro-Israel Pride to Cal State Long Beach

Hailed as their most successful event of the year, 49ers for Israel at California State University Long Beach (CSULB) set up a Peace Wall on campus. The wall was one of seven events held for Cal State Long Beach’s Israel Week 2016, which aimed to showcase Israel’s vibrant culture through art, music and food, while advocating for Israel’s right to exist in peace and security.

The Peace Wall is an initiative of Artists 4 Israel. The group was founded after a group of artists observed that during Operation Cast Lead, while Israel was being attacked by Hamas rocket fire, those who were attacking Israel were also attacking the arts: arresting, intimidating, and in some cases, killing artists who dared to express themselves freely. Even more disturbingly, the founders saw that these attacking groups were abusing the arts to spread lies and anti-Israel propaganda.

49ers Mascot piece by Artists 4 Israel.

49ers Mascot piece by Artists 4 Israel.

In response to the terrible situation, the founding members state that they “dared to draw the straight and unflinching line between the two points: artists’ rights equals the right of Israel to exist in peace and security”.

While on the Peace Wall, the four artists spray painted a beautiful image of the CSLUB mascot with “peace” written behind it, their focus went beyond creating art. The artists were proactive in encouraging students to come and share their own messages of peace on the wall.  The artists’ engaging manner had many students asking them questions about how it feels to be in Israel. Having students painting and talking at the wall attracted even more students, which meant that hundreds of students of all ages, faiths, origins, beliefs and ethnicities engaged in genuine conversations about Israel, community service and peace.

49ers For Israel pose with Artists for Israel in front of their Peace Wall.

49ers For Israel pose with Artists for Israel in front of their Peace Wall.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), accompanied by their anti-Israel and anti-Zionism signs, made an appearance at the event, and wanted to spray paint messages on the wall. However, once the students of 49ers for Israel explained to SJP what the focus of the event was, they decided not to protest the event.

Students paint the Peace Wall

Students paint the Peace Wall

Attracting an amazing diversity of students unaffiliated with Judaism or Israel and successfully deterring SJP from engaging in hate was a huge success for 49ers for Israel and partnering group Beach Hillel. A strong sense of accomplishment was felt by the students that day, who noted their sense of pride in being pro-Israel. Sadly, this sense isn’t always easy to come by as a student on Cal State Long Beach’s campus.

An Open Letter to the Stanford Community

CAMERA Fellow Michal Leibowitz.

CAMERA Fellow Michal Leibowitz.

On May 14, 1948, in the small Tel Aviv Art Museum, the Jewish state of Israel declared its independence. The following day, Israel was attacked on all sides as the armies of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq invaded.

The intention of the five invading nations was clear. In the Egyptian newspaper “Akhbar al-YomAbd,” the Secretary-General of the Arab League declared: “It will be a war of annihilation. It will be a momentous massacre in history that will be talked about like the massacres of the Mongols or the Crusades.”

The Israeli Declaration of Independence followed the UN’s November 29, 1947Partition Plan (Resolution 181(II)) which aimed to create independent states for both Israel and Palestine. The Jewish residents of British-controlled Mandatory Palestine accepted the plan, while the Arab side rejected it. After many months of fighting, ultimately resulting in several armistice agreements, the fledgling Jewish state survived.

Today, Cardinal for Israel and the Jewish Student Association invite the greater Stanford community to celebrate Israel’s 68th birthday with a celebration of culture through music, food, and fun.

We ask that you recognize that Israel is more than its conflict — it is a country that many Stanford students call home.

The festival we’re hosting is not a political event — inasmuch as any celebration of any state’s independence can be termed apolitical – and we’d like ask that those who might be thinking of protesting reconsider their choice. It’s legitimate to criticize the policies of any country, and within certain frameworks, it’s legal to protest any event. But is protesting a cultural celebration – one meaningful to many in our student body – the way to create a community that embodies Stanford University’s founding values of “intellectual debate, the open exchange of ideas in the service of learning, and the creation of new knowledge?”

In the spirit of Stanford’s founding values, Cardinal for Israel would like to invite any students interested in political dialogue to visit the Florence Moore Lounge on May 23 at 6 p.m. for a roundtable discussion. And we would like to re-invite all students, teachers, faculty, staff, and community members to experience a piece of our culture today, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. in White Plaza, as we celebrate Israel’s 68th birthday.

Best wishes,

Michal Leibowitz

Editor’s Note: After the event occurred, Michal submitted the following update:

“Despite our request to the Stanford student body, members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) tried and failed to disrupt our celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut. The culmination of 2,000 years of Jewish struggle for autonomy, Israeli independence is an occasion for celebration. SJP can never change that, nor can they stop us from celebrating our culture, heritage, and pride.”

Students celebrate Yom Haatzmaut at Stanford University.

Students celebrate Israel’s 68th Yom Ha’atzmaut at Stanford University.

Originally published in the Stanford Daily.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow and member of Cardinal for Israel at Stanford University, Michal Leibowitz.