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March 1, 2016 6:56 am

Israel Activists Must Embrace Liberals, Not Shun Them

avatar by Leora Eisenberg

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A Students for Justice in Palestine sign plastered on the UCLA campus. Photo: Twitter.

A Students for Justice in Palestine sign plastered on the UCLA campus. Photo: Twitter.

A few days ago, a friend sent me a social justice video. It was completely unrelated to Israel and instead had to do with racism in America. Nothing in the video was particularly mind-boggling, and there was certainly nothing new. But my friend, when he sent it to me, did not describe its content, its style or its intention. He simply wrote that “something tells me this girl is not a Zionist.”

There was a rapid jump in logic from being an activist against racism to being an anti-Zionist. It seemed illogical, but I had to agree. Those unfamiliar with the language of “intersectionality” and social justice might not understand the point my friend made, but it made perfect sense. The assumption is that anyone who fights for progressive values is inherently anti-Israel.

Intersectionality is the new gripe among the pro-Israel community. Formally, it is the notion that various forms of oppression — misogyny, apartheid, racism — make up a larger system whose victims must join forces for their collective liberation. The anti-Israel movement has successfully begun to align itself with these causes.

In the meantime, the pro-Israel camp has either made a few meaningless efforts to appear “intersectional” (i.e. bring in a speaker who extols gay rights in Israel) or has rejected intersectionality completely. I don’t understand this desire to detach ourselves from a whole community of people that could invigorate our cause.

Many in the pro-Israel community have, at some point, lamented the new identity merger of “pro-Israel” and “right-wing.” We have also bemoaned our liberal students’ enchantment with the “liberalism and progressivism” of Students for Justice in Palestine, a group that will condemn neither terror nor incitement. And who hasn’t looked at a social justice advocate and thought that s/he has probably been to an anti-Israel protest at some point?

This phenomenon, neither novel nor new, invites us to brush aside all the liberal, progressive supporters of Israel who aren’t already on our side. Deemed too radical and “noisy,” we insist that there is no way they can support us. Intersectionality, we say, is for those who can handle “the progressives.”

Students participate in progressive causes, and we assume that they want no part of our Zionist schemes. Thus, we (generally correctly) assume that they wouldn’t fit in well with our crowd, nor would we with theirs. We don’t reach out; they are free to attack us. Our radicalism for peace and tolerance doesn’t fit the social justice bill.

I urge pro-Israel organizations to give otherwise-radical students a chance to channel their energies into a cause that would do more good than boycotting SodaStream. Give them the social justice they want, need and crave. Let them do good in Israel’s name, loudly and proudly.

Students need to feel involved and invested in an ideology that makes them feel enlightened and edgy. In order to promote Israel’s image as a state of justice and tolerance, we must encourage students to pursue justice and tolerance as part of their work on Israel’s behalf.

Israel is not a social justice cause; it is social justice in the Middle East. However imperfect the state may be, Israel works hard to award equal rights to all of its citizens, regardless of religion, sexuality, or color. To see students turn against Israel in the name of a flawed conception of human rights is a grave mistake. In their rejection of Israel, they embrace radicalism that opposes all of their liberal values, and instead espouses that which they should despise.

Israel activism mustn’t turn away from liberal students and should instead seek to create an outlet for them. They want to be lauded and loved; we want to further our cause. They are passionate for social justice; we are the ones who work for social justice in a region where there is none. And if we open our doors to the students who would otherwise slam them shut, we can hope to see “intersectionality” work in our favor.

Radical chic must become radical-for-peace-chic or radical-for-justice-in-the-Middle-East-chic. And then, hopefully, we’ll be inclined to think that “something tells me this girl is a Zionist.”

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  • Miriam C.

    Would it be inaccurate to say that the liberal/leftist is the root of all Israel’s problems and they are the primary obsticle to resolving those problems? Do the terms “corrupt and/or ignorant” describe all liberals/leftists? And is it inaccurate to say that liberals/leftists are Israel’s(if not the world’s) primary enemy? And how many “reform”/”conservative” Jews do you think are not liberals/leftists? And who are the most rabid self hating Jews who delegitimize Israel’s rights to exist? Would someone seek help from a doctor, lawyer or any professional who either has no clue what he is doing or wants you dead? It’s not wise to keep rabid animals as pets.

  • Yale

    The key is to make the csae that imposed ignorance is the greatest form of oppression. People who do not know what’s really going on because they have allowed their minds to be controlled by forces that know that their case is factually unsupportable are no more than slaves to the real oppressors: the advocates of the self-styled “progressive” ideology.

    Forced ignorance leads to racism, sexism, and all forms of exploitation; the irony is that the forces that claim to be opposing these wrongs have come to rely on the root cause of those problems.

  • Larry Andrews

    The truth is that anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism. And, to
    call it anything else is denying this truth. Every time someone demonstrates against Israel, it is anti-Semitic. It’s very simple, and must be called exactly what it is!

  • stevenl

    What about the excesses of liberalism? That also needs to be embraced? The absolute lack of restrain in anything! The absence of ethics? The moral relativism! All liberal values worth embracing? I DON’T think so.

  • ted weiss

    liberals side with the enemy and constantly belong to organizations such as Jay street Americans for Now , and soon which are doing major harm to Israel
    Some of them are supporting BDS or on the least they are indifirent to what happends to Israel . How could we reconcile with these traitors ?

  • alex

    But aren’t you assuming that there actually exists such a liberal who’s pro-Israel? I suppose there are exceptions but I haven’t encountered such black sheep.
    Moreover, I don’t think it’s a good idea to embrace regressives. They should be shamed for supporting:
    1) Islamist occupation
    2) Violent racism and bigotry against Jews which results in murder.
    3) Jihadi imperialism and misogyny, Arab supremacism and religious persecution.

    Holding pro-Israel events with gay IDF or Druze IDF speakers is a waster of time. Crash their intersectionality events, disturb, and agitate them, accuse them of every injustice they help support. Do it until even the thought of Israel fills them with awe and trepidation.

  • Ephraim

    The problem is, and has been for decades, those ‘people’ are NOT liberal. There is nothing liberal or progressive about bigotry, and antisemitism is bigotry. These vermin are worshipers at the shrine of politically-coerced censorship, not liberal, not even close (unless you consider Hitler liberal).

  • Joel

    Cannot disagree more!!!!

  • This is the most important demographic to welcome into the pro-Israel tent. I welcome anyone who wishes to help engage progressive and liberal students to contribute to our development effort now underway.