Tag Archives: zionist

A Palestinian Flag Gave This Zionist Hope

Photo: Oshra Bitton.

That’s not a headline I had ever anticipated writing. And at a time when progressives seem increasingly dominated by an anti-Israel air, I expect every run-in with that crowd to produce the same pattern of animosity and mistrust. Initially, during my coverage of the recent Sister March for Racial Justice in Brooklyn, I felt my prediction confirmed.

Addressing the crowd from a podium at the Jay Street Plaza, Muslim-American activist, Linda Sarsour, spoke of “right-wing Zionists” in the same breath as white supremacists, creating a vile conflation between Jewish liberation and well, bigotry. One had an aery sense that the targeting was intentional –– an effort to ostracize Pro-Israel Jews and push them out of progressive spaces. And as marchers made their way towards the Brooklyn Bridge, I caught sight of what felt like another irrelevant political injection into the discussion of racial justice in America: a Palestinian flag. It waved to me from the top of a baseball cap of a petite elderly woman and seemed firmly placed above her head.

“From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go,” the 77-year-old woman chanted. That’s a Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) line I easily recognized. But aside from the gross fusion of two separate regional and political issues, the word ‘peace’ in JVPs acronym is actually misleading. While their mission statement claims to support “security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians,” JVP operates as an anti-Israel organization, supporting movements like BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions), which aims to destroy the Jewish state economically.

The woman explained that she’d recently become a member of theirs. I quieted my inner reservations and aimed to understand why. Maybe it was the soft lines in her face or her warm outstretched arms –– pulling me closer from time to time so that I could hear her better –– that made me want to stay and talk to Jane Orendain.

After revealing her native Filipino roots and Catalonian lineage, Orendain drew what felt like an associative approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her ethnic background –– a mixture of peoples seeking autonomy and independence –– must have guided her in the direction of sticking-up-for-the-little-guy just as my own identity helped inform my own views. Even though her chant sounded like veiled slander against my people, I suddenly understood why her free-Palestine stance seemed like a natural spot for her to reside in.

But then, when asked to get more specific about Israeli policy, Orendain revealed that she envisions “a Two-State Solution”––for Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side in peace. Surprised and impressed by her position, I informed Orendain that the Israeli government actually supports an independent Palestinian state based on secure borders for both peoples. I told her that most Zionists I’ve met uphold that as well. “What? They do? Really?” Orendain responded, positively stunned.

As she ingested my words, it occurred to me that I might have been the first person to ever reveal that bit of news to her. And I thought: perhaps our ideological opponents aren’t as unreachable as we think. It’s much easier, though, to scan a banner and feel like an enemy has been successfully identified. It’s a lot harder to remember that a human stands behind the picket –– their sensitivities real, their ideas changeable.

After parting from Orendain, I carried on with a brightened sense of hope that I’d again find conversation and commonality in an unexpected place. It was as if the anti-Zionist rhetoric heard earlier in the march suddenly evaporated. I saw a much larger goal ahead. I recognized the value of engaging with those whom I might have initially written-off.

Now, this doesn’t mean that JVP members and other anti-Israeli folks will suddenly drop their ideological armor and embrace a Zionist’s perspective. But it does mean that somewhere in a seemingly hostile crowd, one might find a marcher with a pair of wide ears and open eyes that’ll walk beside them and in good faith, engage.

Contributed by City College of New York CAMERA Fellow Oshra Bitton.

This article was originally published in Harlem Focus.

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.

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.

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 Life & Lessons of a Middle East Peace Activist

On March 14th, CUNY Hunter’s Emet for Israel group Students for Israel, hosted speaker Lydia Aisenberg from Kibbutz Givat Haviva. Aisenberg was on tour with Hasbara Fellowships, and co-sponsored by CAMERA on Campus. Givat Haviva is a nonprofit educational institute in Israel dedicated to creating a shared society between Jews and Arabs. Having Lydia help kick off “Israel Peace Week,” a series of events focusing on Israel hosted by Hillel and Students for Israel, was an easy choice.

The week is packed with events and came at a crucial time, as the previous week had been billed as “Israeli Apartheid Week” by numerous anti-Israel clubs on campus. For pro-Israel students at Hunter, spreading the truth about Israeli coexistence and free society is a critical undertaking.

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Bringing Lydia to present her personal accounts of everyday life in Israel, where Arabs and Israelis live side by side, caused more people to engage in a dialogue about this important topic. Lydia was an interesting and highly effective speaker. Originally, she is from England, but came to Israel in the 1960s due to anti-Semitic incidents she experienced in her youth. Upon arriving in Israel, she worked as a farmer on a kibbutz, and continued this work for nearly twenty years. Lydia felt as though she was living the Zionist dream in its truest form.

Now, and for the past few years, Lydia works toward bringing Arabs and Jews together by hosting events where they can meet and share meaningful experiences at Kibbutz Givat Haviva. For instance, one program she successfully organized involved Jewish and Arab women cooking together. Another was putting together a soccer match for children in elementary schools from nearby towns and intentionally forming mixed teams. Lydia envisions an Israeli society where such interactions are seen as completely normal, so much so that an organization such as Givat Haviva will not even have to exist in order to facilitate them.

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Both regular members of Students for Israel, as well as a significant number of outside faces were present to hear Lydia speak. These participants asked a great deal of questions considering the sensitive topic, but she was detailed and gracious when answering.

One student in particular asked what the relationships are like between Arabs within Israel and those living in the Palestinian territories. In response, Lydia illustrated her points by turning the class into an Arab village that was split during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, and then she guided the audience through the subsequent fate of its community all the way up to today. She conveyed the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through this example.

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Students for Israel successfully brought their peers together to learn constructively about the nuances of Israel.

Shabbat With Sgt. Benjamin Anthony

On November 20th, 2015 Binghamton University Zionist Organization (BUZO), SUNY Binghamton’s Emet for Israel supported group, hosted Sgt. Benjamin Anthony for Shabbat dinner together with Chabad. This was not the first time that Anthony had been invited to speak by BUZO and CAMERA at Binghamton, but it was still an honor to have him present his experiences in such an engaging manner. In the past, Anthony’s words left students feeling inspired so it was only a matter of time before he came back to Binghamton to share with a new group of undergraduates.

Sgt. Benjamin Anthony is originally from the UK, but is now a reservist for the Israel Defense Forces and the founder of Our Soldiers Speak. Anthony captured the attention of all 400 students in the room as he shared his personal journey. He spoke about the dangers of growing up in the UK as a Jew, and a brutal anti-Semitic attack that he and his brothers endured on their way home from school.

Shortly after this traumatizing occurrence, he decided to move to Israel. He made it a point to make the move when he was young and while embracing his Judaism, rather than later on when it may have been in spite of his Jewishness. Sgt. Benjamin Anthony also discussed his experiences in the army and the importance of defending the Jewish state, both on the front lines and from abroad.

Often, Americans supporters of Israel feel discouraged on college campuses, but Anthony reiterated the importance such advocacy. His strong attitude toward defending Israel gave many students the confidence to go forward in their pro-Israel efforts.

Pictures from BUZO's ZED talks, a TED Talk-style discussion about Israel.

Pictures from BUZO’s ZED Talks, a TED Talk-style discussion about Israel.

Anthony went on to point out that fellow Binghamton students may turn out to be future politicians or individuals forced to make critical decisions regarding Israel. The work that BUZO does to support Israel and demonstrate the country’s importance to the US will impact these potential leaders, and leave a lasting impression. Therefore, it is crucial that Israel advocates continue educating their peers with truth, history, and an unbiased facts when it comes to the Jewish state.

The Board of BUZO wearing their Israeli made t-shirts thanks to CAMERA funding and the NU Campaign.

The Board of BUZO wearing their Israeli made t-shirts thanks to CAMERA funding and the NU Campaign.

Muslim Zionist Kasim Hafeez Goes to UCF

Over the course of this semester we, members of the the University of Central Florida’s Emet for Israel supported group, Knights for Israel, realized we were growing much quicker than anticipated and we wanted to continue building on this momentum. We decided that bringing in another speaker and not generating too much space between events would be the best way to capitalize on our recent success. Given the unique perspective Bassem Eid provided and the feedback we received, we wanted to bring in someone unique and multidimensional; for example a Muslim Zionist. The second we learned that Kasim Hafeez was touring we knew to act quickly and book him as a speaker. We spent a few weeks before the event tabling multiple times a week for the ex-radical Muslim we were bringing to UCF. We used students’ common knowledge of ISIS in order to pique their interest.


Kasim Hafeez, a former Muslim radical, now a proud Muslim Zionist, spoke to students about his life changing transition. Hafeez’s change from anti-Israel/anti-Semitic radical to a Zionist started with The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz, which lead to a trip to Israel, which culminated in Hafeez’s realization that the Zionist cause was the just cause, and that he should stand for Israel.

Kassim Hafeez Speaking to UCF Students

Kassim Hafeez Speaking to UCF Students

The Friday before our event was a game changer. The Paris attacks occurred and people all over the world, including the students at UCF, were trying to gather the pieces. We spent the final three days prior to the event tabling more obnoxiously than ever before because there seemed to be a no better person to explain what happened in Paris than an ex-radical. We made it clear that if you wanted to make sense of what occurred in Paris hearing Kasim Hafeez’s story was the best way to start.

We managed to fill the classroom we reserved and even had people standing. Furthermore a UCF news outlet attended the event. The combination of Kasim’s incredible story as well as his charm and humor lead to another overwhelmingly successful event. I could not emphasize enough how everyone that attended absolutely loved what he had to say and I was reminded why he is one of my favorites. He shared a story you have to hear in person to believe and he did not hold back from criticizing the hypocrites inside and outside the Muslim community.

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This was contributed by CAMERA Fellow and President of UCF’s Emet for Israel supported group, Knights for Israel, Ben Suster.

What can I do?

Former American University CAMERA Fellow Rachel Wolf

Former American University CAMERA Fellow Rachel Wolf

For the last few days, which have felt like years, I have been sitting and watching as Jerusalem, a city that I have called home for the last two summers, erupts in chaos. Places where I would eat schwarma, meet friends and relax have turned into places full of fear where the courageous try to live a normal life. I have to ask myself what can I, an American Jewish Zionist who lives at least an 11 hour plane ride from Israel, do about it? How can I help a situation that I can’t see or reach?

Just before the violence began I heard from former ambassador, Dr. Michael Oren. In his talk entitled, “The U.S.-Israel Relationship,” Dr. Oren spoke about the changes that have occurred in the relationship between America and Israel, including those that took place during and after his ambassadorship, and the enduring importance of US-Israeli friendship. Dr. Oren emphasized that while both countries were seemingly different, they shared common goals and values such as democracy and freedom. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and treats its citizens the same way that Americans are treated by their government. Furthermore, Dr. Oren stressed that the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is mutually beneficial, both countries need each other to survive.

Americans can do a lot to support Israel and stand by the Israeli people as they go through a hard and dangerous time. In fact, this is something that Americans have been doing since the founding of the state.  In fact, several Americans helped to build the Israeli Air Force during the Independence war in 1948, as discussed in the documentary, Above and Beyond. Ever since 1948, the US and Israel have had a special relationship, it hasn’t been without bumps, but it has endured.

Now, while our ally is experiencing a tremendous upsurge in terrorism, Americans should stand by Israel and support it. This support can take many forms: from writing on social media about Israel, educating others about the situation, and calling out members of the media on their bias about Israel to buying Israeli products or even just talking about Israel with friends. The impact of these small acts is significant and can be outsized. No one knows when that one item that was posted on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram could start a viral wave of support. This could be an impact that YOU make.

I can no longer stand by and watch what is going on in Israel, but I am a college student, I have classes and homework and internships, I don’t have the ability to pack up my life and go to Israel at the drop of a hat, as much as I would like to do that. For now, I will post on social media, tell my friends what is going on, write pieces like this one and encourage my friends, family and fellow Americans to stand by and support Israel.

This was contributed by former American University CAMERA Fellow Rachel Wolf.

 

Lessons from Gil Troy: Verticality and Horizontality

91giltroyGil Troy began his presentation to the delegates of CAMERA’s Student Leadership Mission to Israel by asking each student to share the name of his or her favorite Israeli. Some of the names required an explanation, while others were known by everyone. Some individuals, like past leaders of the country, elicited hushed and respectful musings of “me too”. Other individuals, like celebrities or family members, were cause for some snickering. When everyone in the room had spoken, there was a different feeling in the room than when all of the other speakers on our trip presented; there was a palpable feeling of comfort and ease. We had started the conversation flowing in a positive direction, and everyone was relaxed.

 

One of the most important lessons that we learned throughout our entire trip was Professor Gil Troy’s insistence on the value of both verticality and horizontality. Verticality is what keeps us grounded – our roots and our values. And horizontality is what encircles us all – our community. Discussing the simple question about our favorite Israelis enabled us to achieve both verticality and horizontality. The people we respect and love share our values and our passions, and our common knowledge of these individuals and their stories unifies us as a community.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Ginsberg

Students listening to Gil Troy speak. Photo Credit: Jeremy Ginsberg

 

With that one simple question we discovered that we could engage in a genuine dialogue. We were able to express what values mattered most to us, and what traits we respected or admired. There was no anger in the room, and there was no harsh disagreement about political or religious ideologies. Professor Troy showed us that the discourse on campus about Israel does not have to be the negative one that has become so prevalent; on the contrary, it could be one of laughter and comfort.

 

Professor Troy shared many novel ideas in his presentation, but three main lessons resonated, and they all circle back to his concepts of verticality and horizontality.

 

The first message he shared was that it is delusional to believe that solving Israel’s problems alone will lead to world peace. There is endless talk in the media and on college campuses about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So much so, that it seems that if this problem was solved, the entire world could live in harmony. However, that theory overlooks the serious problems taking place throughout the rest of the world. If we want to achieve world peace, first and foremost we must have common values, or in Professor Troy’s words “verticality”. There is a tremendous need for a change in values in many communities in the world, and in particular throughout the Middle East. The treatment of women and homosexuals, or people with different religious or cultural values needs to change. If there were complete peace in Israel, our world would still be far from perfect. Using Israel as a scapegoat for the rest of the world’s problems must come to an end. As student leaders who are committed to peace, we need to be honest about what we stand for and advocate for change globally.

 

The next message promoted by Professor Troy involved the basis of the American-Israeli bond. This, too, reflects “verticality”; it comes from shared interests and shared values. And yet, what is often neglected in discussing our shared values is our shared fears. Professor Troy explained that a country’s internal actions come from dreams, whereas its foreign policy comes from nightmares. When it comes to one’s own country, a leader envisions the utmost state of perfection without obstacles. On the contrary, when it comes to a country’s relationship with another nation, a leader often acts based on the worst-case-scenario mindset. America and Israel share many common values, namely democracy and freedom. We also share common fears, of terrorism and social hardship. But we experience different realities connected to these fears. One can see many commonalities between the two countries’ actions based on our core internal beliefs. But America cannot begin to comprehend the threats that Israel faces from enemy neighbors on nearly every border. Therefore, America needs to show its support for Israel – the connection “horizontally” – to stand beside Israel and declare its support for her, rather than impose rules and policies when we cannot comprehend Israel’s situation.

 

The final lesson shared was the need to fight educational malpractice. This lesson was aptly aimed at the CAMERA students in the room, who deal with issues in the realm of learning constantly. Professor Troy used the word “malpractice” to demonstrate the seriousness of the educational lapses among our peers. This lesson was much more focused on the need for “horizontality”. He explained that the bias in the world of academia must be treated medically – with the right precautions, the right terminology, and the right emotion. Cutting into a patient without knowing what is wrong should never happen. Likewise, we cannot jump into a fight on behalf of Israel if we do not have the proper knowledge and appropriate defense. In our technological world, every word can be picked apart, and we must therefore pick our words wisely, rather than throw them around carelessly. A good doctor makes his or her patient feel comfortable even and especially during a time of distress. The case for Israel must be made in the same way: it must be honest, personal and compelling, and it must be a message that people can believe in. Most importantly, we need to be making this case as a community and not as independent voices.

 

If we pay attention to our core internal values as well as the community that unites us, act out of trust and not just fear, and band together to change the narrative, we can overcome the anti Israel pressure on our campuses and in our world.

 

This post was contributed by 2015-2016 University of Illinois CAMERA Fellow, Hayley Nagelberg.

Zion Stand Up: A New Perspective at Northwestern University

Contributed by CAMERA intern Shoshana Kranish 

On November 6th, the Wildcats for Israel EMET for Israel group at Northwestern University hosted two notable African-American pastors for a talk on relations between Jews and the African-American community. Pastors Dumisani Washington and Chris Harris were able to shed light on this lesser-known cooperation.

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In an effort to introduce the pro-Israel discourse to non-traditional supporters like the African American community, Wildcats for Israel found success in the impact of the event. For many students that attended, it was their first time being exposed to the cooperation between Jews and African Americans, and they found the information intriguing. Pastor Washington, one of the speakers, is the founder of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, an organization created to foster the relationship between the two communities. Pastor Chris Harris, Sr. is a pastor at a church in Chicago and has previously been recognized for his work promoting the relationship between African-Americans and the State of Israel.

Pastors Washington and Harris with a Northwestern University student

Pastors Washington and Harris with a Northwestern University student

In its success, the event ran over the time limit originally allotted for it, thanks to an extensive question-and-answer session. The students were very much engaged with the speakers, and left the lecture with a new perspective. One student even requested contact information for the speakers so they could pass it on to friends at different universities, hoping to pass on the same transformative experience. CAMERA liaison Alyssa Kincaid reported a successful event that left students feeling ‘intrigued’ with new knowledge.

Click to learn more on notable Zionists and discovering your own Zionism.