Pro-semitism: A new path
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OpinionGuest columnist

Pro-semitism: A new path

It still hurts to hear people demonize a country and a people that have done so much good in the world.

The Old Queens building at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
The Old Queens building at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

If you were shocked by the alarming growth of anti-Israel sentiment after Israel’s spring 2021 engagement in Gaza, you haven’t been paying close enough attention. For years, America’s “finest” institutions have been promulgating an anti-Israel agenda. Many schools seem as committed to promoting the notion that Israel is a colonizer as they are to their students’ post-graduation employment outcomes. I had the opportunity to witness this firsthand as an undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh, where a sociology professor assigned a book, “The Making of a Human Bomb,” that justified suicide bombings, claiming they were a rational response to having occupiers in your homeland.

Although I’ve heard this rhetoric for many years, it still hurts to hear people demonize a country and a people that have done so much good in the world. Recently, much to my disappointment, Rutgers Law School — where I am currently a student — posted 22, minute-long videos about Palestine. Unsurprisingly, these videos slandered and demonized the Jewish state. In so doing, they ignored Israel’s many peace offers and gestures of good faith.

Allow me to provide a couple examples of these gross distortions: In one video, its creators opine that “Israelis receive vaccinations … that Palestinians typically do not get.” In fact, in June of this year, the Palestinian Authority rejected a deal in which Israel would have provided 1 million COVID vaccines to those living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority valued optics more than its citizenry.

Another video claims that “between 250,000-350,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes by Zionist paramilitaries” between November 1947, and May 1948. Although this number may be accurate, its purpose is to confuse, not clarify. In truth, Israel did its best to avoid conflict in the years before 1948; in 1937, when the Peel Commission announced that Israel would be provided with a tiny, discontinuous piece of land, the Jews quickly accepted the offer. The Arabs, who would not abide by a Jewish state of any size, categorically refused. Such refusals would become a recurring theme in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 2001, after eight years of failed peace negotiations, President Bill Clinton met with Yasser Arafat, then chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Arafat praised Clinton and called him a great man; Clinton responded, “I’m a colossal failure, and you made me one.” After years of disappointments, Clinton likely realized that most of the Palestinians’ problems stem from corrupt, inept leadership.

But for most anti-Israel activists, this realization has not come. It never will. They will continue to demonize Israel and spew disinformation about the world’s only Jewish state. Hatred of Am Yisrael is not new; it has been with us for as long as our people have existed.

My intention is to not depress or dishearten. My intention is only to point out that what we’ve done up until now has not reaped the rewards we hoped for. When we decry the horrors of antisemitism, we are met with only more hate, more vitriol.
So, what’s a Yid to do? Should we just accept that people will always hate us and smear us?

For many, the solution has been to spread awareness of antisemitism. We delude ourselves into thinking that if we teach our neighbors about enough pogroms and the Holocaust, perhaps they will start to support Israel as staunchly as we do. Our efforts have not worked.

After seeing the videos posted on Rutgers Law’s YouTube page, I contemplated sending the creators an email, explaining their videos were a false portrayal of what’s going on in Israel and Palestine. But then I would be falling into the trap that we always fall prey to: Maybe, just maybe, I can convince the person who hates me of the truth by using facts and logic.

Instead, I think it’s time that Jewish people turn away from their emphasis on antisemitism and focus our attention elsewhere: on the beautiful inheritance we have, on the G-dly message we have for the world.

If we are serious about combatting antisemitism and anti-Israel hatred — which are really the same thing — we ought to launch a campaign of pro-Semitism. If we wear a Magen David around our neck, we should replace it with one that is twice the size; if we wear a kippah full-time, we should wear one that is larger and more colorful.

If we are serious about combatting the hatred of those who seek to distort our truths, we must be proud and resolute. We’ve tried for years to combat our enemies with the realities of antisemitism and its dangers. It has not worked.

Maybe it’s time for something new. PJC

After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Gavriel Kaufman pursued Jewish studies at Mayanot Yeshiva, a Chabad yeshiva in Jerusalem. He is currently a student at Rutgers Law School.

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