An uncommon Zionist

Chloé Valdary founded a pro-Israel organization on campus, which seeks to spread truth on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Pro-Israel Organization521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Pro-Israel Organization521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘The year is 2013, ladies and gentlemen; how far will you let it go?” This question was posed by University of New Orleans sophomore 19-year-old Chloé Valdary during a passionate speech she delivered at a pro-Israel rally which she helped organize on campus last month.
Citing the horrors of the Holocaust as well as recent calls by anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment, sanction) activists around the world for the annihilation of the Jewish state, Valdary, an African-American and a Christian, was directing her question not only to the more than 100 activists in attendance at the Zionist rally dubbed “Declare Your Freedom,” but to the world community at large who she feels is once again ignoring the dangerous warning signs and threats directed against the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
Less than two weeks since the rally, which was organized with the support of the CAMERA organization’s Campus Activist Project, not only has Valdary’s speech gone viral on YouTube generating over 13,000 views, but she has become a “must-have” speaker – receiving requests from Zionist organizations and Jewish campus groups all over the world to share her fervor for Israel.
She was even invited to attend the AIPAC Conference in Washington as a special guest after AIPAC leaders realized how remarkable she is.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post from her New Orleans campus, Valdary discusses how she was drawn toward taking action on Israel’s behalf.
While she admits that she wasn’t raised on modern-day Zionism, Valdary says she is an “unconventional” Christian, and observes many Jewish customs including Shabbat and holidays.
The Zionism and connection to Israel that she was instilled with growing up, she says was taught to her “in the Biblical capacity.”
But Valdary says that the main reason she decided to get involved in standing up for Israel was that she believes “in pursuing justice and doing what’s right.” She adds that “many people are unaware of the anti-Semitism in the Middle East, and so because of how I was brought up, I feel that it’s my duty to combat the growing rate of anti- Semitism. If I don’t do anything, people who are ignorant obviously won’t.”
In addition to organizing the rally, Valdary has founded a pro-Israel organization on campus called Allies of Israel, which seeks to spread the truths on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since the University of New Orleans has a very small Jewish student body, the active members of the organization are mainly non-Jews who share a mounting interest in Israel’s well-being.
She admits that when she started, people joined simply as her friends to show their support. But she says “that as we continue in our endeavors, many of them have become more passionate and more involved, and want to become more informed on the Arab- Israeli conflict.”
Valdary says that there was a true awakening among the group this past November of exactly how strong the anti-Israel sentiment is on campus when the university hosted “Diversity Day.”
According to Valdary, “We [Allies of Israel] had a poster-board about our organization and some Palestinian students approached us and were averse to having our group represented. They were also openly denying the Holocaust, and praising Haj Amin al-Husseini [The Mufti of Jerusalem who had a pact with Hitler]. Just by seeing that response – some of my friends became more passionate and wanted to get the word out about why this [anti-Semitism] is a problem in the Middle East.”
Another alarming incident took place when the Stand With Us organization hosted an event on campus, which included presentations delivered by two female IDF soldiers. Valdary says that “despite the fact that one of the soldiers told us how she was a medic in the army and saved the life of a terrorist who perpetrated an attack in Haifa and the other talked about how she facilitated access between Arabs in disputed territories and their relatives in prison so they could more easily have contact with each other, the response was negative.”
She explains that “many in the audience were anti-Israel and staged a walkout protest in the middle of the talk. Those who stayed for the question- and-answer session caused the event to spiral out of control, and also there were those who publicly endorsed Hamas.”
Valdary says that both of those experiences – the “Diversity Day” and the event featuring the IDF soldiers, in which the true hatred of Israel among some members of her student body was exposed, just added more motivation for her group to take action for Israel.
“We saw the contrasts in the way we approach the Arab-Israeli conflict in terms of striving for coexistence, as opposed to other [pro-Arab] groups on campus who are hostile to both Israel as a state, and to us as a pro-Israel group. We are calling for peace with our Arab brothers and sisters, but many in the Arab world don’t want to entertain that idea.”
Like many other supporters of Israel on campus in North America, Valdary is trying to find that perfect formula and utilize the available resources at her disposal in order to creatively and effectively “make the case for Israel.”
“I studied film in high school at a contemporary arts center,” she says.
“That’s how I want to help. I find the whole idea of Zionism to be glorious.
It’s very ‘braveheartish,’ it has an aura.
I believe that it needs to be shown more often in film and entertainment.”
Valdary says that she recently launched a campaign called “Once and for all, the Nola (New Orleans, Los Angeles) campaign to end anti-Semitism,” which she says “is a pro-Israel advocacy campaign using filmmaking as the means to reach more people – in my generation specifically.”
She says that the campaign’s first project “is the production of a music video that pays homage to victims of anti-Semitism both recent and in the past, and the central figure of the video is [eight-year-old] Myriam Monsonego, killed last year in the Toulouse, France, attack.”
Valdary adds that “in addition to paying homage to victims, the video celebrates the resilience of the Jewish people through the manifestation of the State of Israel.”
Prominent supporters of Israel have taken notice of Valdary’s initiative, with Dr. Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, already donating $3,000 to the project. She says that she needs to raise around $10,000 total to complete the video.
“The plan is to go viral,” she says, “and we have people interested in England and in Israel in helping it go viral, but we need to raise the money first.”
WHILE VALDARY has never been to the Jewish state, she is slated to visit for the first time this June on a mission sponsored by CAMERA. Aviva Slomich, CAMERA’s director of student programming, notes, “Chloé is an inspiration for those who support Israel and the ideals of freedom. She has awakened a pro-Israel spark across the country.”
In the meantime Valdary is debating whether or not to pursue all of the speaking requests which have come her way, while at the same time, trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy as a college student.
“I don’t know what speaking offers I will eventually accept,” she says, “but just the prospect weighs heavily on a 19-year-old. As a 19-year-old I’m thinking about school and friends and hanging out, but at the same time there are things that are more consequential.
“Also people have told me that I have the potential of becoming the next leader of a revolutionary Zionist movement, which is flattering, but also scary because it’s a huge prospect. I don’t want to fail and not live up to the cause. They say that ‘fear of success is even more visceral than fear of failure.’” When asked what her vision is of a lasting peace in the Middle East, Valdary admits she doesn’t have all the answers, but says that “I do not at present believe in the two-state solution.”
She adds that “for people to say the options are a two-state solution or nothing or to suggest that if you are against a two-state solution you are against peace, that’s dishonest, and stifles debate. Every proposed solution should be examined based on its merits. Other ideas should be entertained, to say the least.” ■