Dear Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and the entire Netanyahu government,
I asked you, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, a question this Sunday at the Jerusalem Post’s Annual Conference in New York. My question, I thought, was simple; “What is the Foreign Ministry of Israel doing to stand with college students, like myself, to fight BDS [Boycott, Divest, Sanction] on campus?” Your response was nothing but loaded rhetoric downplaying the existential BDS threat and downplaying the attacks against me on my campus for being a Zionist. Perhaps worst of all, you downplayed the anti-Semitic attacks on students across the United States, Europe and soon the world. These attacks exist because we are proud Zionists.
You should have responded with a big fat “nothing,” because the Foreign Ministry of Israel has decided to focus its attention elsewhere. Though it may be more practical to allocate time and resources elsewhere, in doing so, Israel is taking a risk it cannot afford to take. By focusing all of its energy on its adversaries, many of whom will never recognize Israel either on a map or as a Jewish state with a right to exist, Israel is putting the passion of North American Zionists, many of whom are Jews and many of whom are not, on the back burner. This, I believe, is of a greater existential threat than a nuclear-ambitions Iran.
I was not born in Israel. I was not born in an Israeli home in American. I am a Jewish American. But before I am anything, at the most fundamental level of my existence; like Foreign Minister Liberman, like Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, like every soldier my age in the IDF, I am a Zionist. And you, Mr. Foreign Minister, overlooked the fact that, unlike Israelis, I and the thousands of students made the active decision to fight for Israel, a country which has redefined and challenged our perception of what “home” really means.
Though five thousand miles away from Israel, we awake to Israel each morning as we flinch our eyes to see the Israeli flag hanging in its infinite blue beauty above our beds. We do so with pride. Israel is with us as we wake to see the news from the past day in Israel as we slumbered in our secure beds in upstate New York.
Though not wearing a Magen David every day, we carry our Zionism on our backs each day, and people try to slander us for it as if “Zionism” is a dirty word.
We are the lost unit of the IDF Spokesman’s Office, we are the story of SUNY (State University of New York) students who stayed up until 5 a.m. to watch the victorious fight against BDS resolutions at UC Berkeley, we are the students who laughed off the libelous labels of being called “imperial genocidal maniacs” by a paid employee of our university. And we carry out these increasingly routine acts of educated-backed passion, not because we are in contract with Israel to do so or because we want accolades; we do it because we are Zionists. Contrary to those closed-minded individuals who say Zionists must live in Israel, the movement of young college students in the States fighting for Israel represents the very core of Zionism. That is, young people doing incredible things for the State of Israel.
You have given us MASA, you have contributed to the founding of Birthright-Taglit and this was your gift to us. We, now, have a gift for you, Mr. Foreign Minister and Mr. Prime Minister. Its called hasbara (public diplomacy). It’s free, it’s our duty, it’s our calling, it’s our obligation and it’s our gift to you and the Jewish state and the flag we awake to every morning.
Justin Hayet is a proud Zionist and voice of Israel activism at Binghamton University.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org