Over the summer, I did a program affiliated with a prestigious liberal arts college. I had to create a university account in order to register, and thus, received all student emails. Most of the emails were weather alerts and class cancellations, but every once in a while, I’d read about on-campus anti-Semitism: swastikas spray-painted onto dorms with Jewish students or Jewish students being called “filthy colonialist Jews” or “Nazi pigs.” The university would always “launch an investigation” into what was going on and send periodic “updates” about their findings.
Unfortunately, these findings never prevent the problem. They point fingers, as if to show that problem still exists. I continue to receive bi-monthly emails about anti-Israel attacks, as well as the “findings” and “investigations” that follow every incident.
As we have recently seen, anti-Israel activity has become a politically correct form of anti-Semitism. It seems like every week I read about a Jewish student being denied a position in student government because she may or may not hold certain views about Israel that may or may not impact her judgement. It seems like every week I read about an anti-Semitic student verbally assaulting a pro-Israel (Jewish) one. It seems like every week I read about a new campus BDS movement targeting only pro-Israel campus groups supporting the only Jewish State. Shocking, really.
As a rising high school senior, I will have to soon confront this madness. As a staunch advocate of Israel and a very proud Jew, I have to decide whether or not I want to attend a school where I will not face anti-Semitic attacks and anti-Israel action or a school where I can confront an epidemic and try to reverse it. In short, I have a choice between my personal safety or Israel’s reputation on “embattled” college campuses. (The battle here being between BDS and pro-Israel groups.) If we continue our work on already pro-Israel campuses, we will not be reaching a new audience. We will be preaching to the same choir. We will be preaching to those who already know. And, thus, our preaching is worthless.
Until Israel advocates come to otherwise wonderful universities, the BDS will never be countered and verbal assault will be taken in relative silence. And by relative, I mean there will be a lot of blogging and letters to the editor (we are, after all, People of the Book and the Letter), but little action taken. If all the Israel advocates “stay safe” on campuses where danger is low (i.e. no BDS), there will never be change on the American campus. Mock checkpoints and die-ins will stay the norm and, in many places, become the norm thanks to our compliance.
That said, I’d like to sleep knowing I won’t be attacked for attending an Israel parade or saying that shakshuka is my favorite Israeli food. (“Excuse me, Miss Eisenberg, shakshuka is not Israeli,” says the BDS.) I’m not sure that I want to deal with verbal assaults every day for loving Israel or being Jewish. I’m not sure I want swastikas spray painted on my dorm. I’m not sure I want my eligibility for student government questioned, my religion/homeland disparaged or my pride hurt.
It’s a tough choice. My personal safety and sanity, or the safety of the cause? I’m going to have to strike a balance between the two-- perhaps a campus with relatively high anti-Semitic and BDS activity, but with a new approach: treating it all as a nuisance.
As long as we treat BDS as an existential threat, we give them the attention they crave and need to survive in the media. If we respond to Israel Apartheid Week with a defensive “Israel-Is-Soooooo-Great” Week, we engage in a childish fight. Instead, we should be treating the BDS like a child by ignoring its desperate pleas for attention and doing instead what is best-- proper Israel education on campuses.
Instead of drawing negative attention to ourselves by responding to Israel Apartheid Week with whatever week we decide upon, we should instead host an Israel Education Night that is based on facts (as opposed to common Israel advocacy propaganda) and would teach young Jews (and non-Jews) the truth about Israel. We cannot, after all, rely on the BDS community to preach the truth. Why start now?
I’ll start now. Verbal abuse may be the price I will have to pay. I will not let them win, though, and I hope that other young Israel supporters will join me. Israel Apartheid Week, BDS, Students for Justice in Palestine and the Apartheid Wall cannot scare me. They’re just a nuisance. We, Israel and the Jewish People, have survived plenty of BDS movements in our time. With the truth (and my people) behind me, I am never scared. --Follow my thoughts on Judaism, Israel, anti-Semitism on Facebook at Leora Noor Eisenberg and on Twitter @LeoraEisenberg. I look forward to connecting with you!