A letter to Romy Ronen, a Columbia student who shed tears for Israel

Do not cry, plan how to act so as to beat them at their own game.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer

OpEds Limmud FSU conference at Columbia University
Limmud FSU conference at Columbia University
צילום: PR

Dear Ms. Ronen,

I just read your account in Arutz Sheva/ Israel National News of the recent Columbia College Student Council vote to endorse BDS. As a regular op-ed contributor to Arutz Sheva and as a Columbia alumnus, I write you in this same public forum.

I graduated from Columbia in the mid-1970s. I was openly an Orthodox Jew, wore a yarmulka on my head, and I expressed conservative political views on that uniformly leftist campus. I marched for Soviet Jews and for Israel. My professors included some who hated Israel. I was assigned a dorm roommate one year who turned out to be an antisemite. I knew all the Jewish leftists and other leftists on campus who hated Israel because, like ants on a summer sidewalk where no one has cleaned off melted ice cream, they were teeming all over the place.

Ms. Ronen, I never cried. I never teared up.  Rather, for the sake of Zion, I simply would not hold my peace nor be silent. Student-organized hate for Israel never caused me to have a panic attack.  You mention all those kinds of reactions by Israel supporters on the night of the vote. Not in my day.

Rather, I organized my friends, then I organized non-Jewish dorm mates and classmates who either were (i) conservative, or (ii) mostly were apolitical but just could not stand the whiny know-it-all Leftists who kept trying to superimpose their values on us and who tried to force our professors to cancel classes to accommodate their nonsense. 

In time, I ran for the Columbia University Senate.  The University Senate was comprised of representatives from every school in Columbia University, with each school getting a few seats set aside, some for administrators, some for faculty, and some for students.  The college students were entitled only to three seats. I got elected to one of them. Yes, without apologizing for being pro-Israel, pro-Judea and Samaria, and conservative, I was elected.

Dear Ms. Ronen, I am telling you what I am about to write, as a guy who now is a few decades older but never stopped being a kid. I still teach approximately 200 new graduate students each year. They keep me in touch: all about “Game of Thrones” and the terrible final season, “13 Reasons Why,” “Stranger Things” and Eggos waffles.  I knew about “woke” the day it became a meme.  I despised Harvey Weinstein long before it became cool. So please give me a listen.

Forgive me for tough love, but you never will win for Israel by shedding tears on the battleground, and those who get heart palpitations and need Xanax when the showdown comes are not the people to lead Israel’s fight at this moment.  Hold back the tears, and save them for weddings and silver anniversaries, and for when Israel finally annexes the Jordan Valley and utterly cleans out the problem in Gaza. Instead, here is what Jewish students on American colleges need to do:

Kids have to stop apologizing for Israel. We have to stop agreeing that the “Palestinians” deserve their own country in Judea and Samaria. They “deserve” the “Hashemite Kingdom” of Jordan — if they want it. We have to change our own paradigm to understand that we Jews have every right to the Land of Israel, and they have no right to Judea and Samaria other than what Israel decides to allow them.  That is our land.  If you feel uncomfortable pointing to the Bible, then point to the Balfour Declaration and to the international agreements after World War I.  You are in Columbia, so I will let you look them up.  That land belongs to Jews.

When Israel was created in 1948, the Arabs went to war to destroy Israel.  If Political Science 101 at Columbia is the writings of Marx, Engels, Frantz Fanon, and Eldridge Cleaver, then the elective of Political Science 4001x is that any country that is attacked in war may hold permanently any land that it wins while defending itself. This exact situation recurred especially in 1967.  The so-called “Green Line” that existed before 1967 was not viable.  Until after Israel defended herself successfully during those six days and, by G-d’s grace, survived the attack of extermination by three invading Arab armies did Israel finally emerge with realistic borders. It is realistic for Israel’s western border to be at the Mediterranean and for the eastern border to be along the Jordan River and the Kineret farther north. It is realistic to have the Golan Heights as a northern border. These are natural boundaries, and they provide necessary security from rapid land invasion. That land all belongs to us.

Ms. Ronen, that is first. Palestine is a myth. And the Jews at Columbia who want to support Israel have got to internalize that as a fact. Certainly, there is no question that we sometimes do not say to other people truths that they cannot handle.  For example, you don’t tell a person with a big pimple that he has a big pimple. Unless you are incredibly close to someone, you do not comment on their weight, their hairstyle, their hygiene. So it is not necessary to tell others what they cannot possibly grasp in light of the Political Correctness culture and cancel culture that now permeates colleges like Columbia and Barnard.  But you — for your own self-respect and your own grasp of the issues, so that you can lead others in the defensive struggle for Israel — must internalize this.

I respectfully point you to three articles for starters: (i) this, (ii) this, and (iii) this.  Read them, learn them, and share them with others in your internal circle. And if Columbia students in JStreet, which has been funded with approximately one million dollars of George Soros money, will not agree, then wish them well, eat jelly donuts with them on Hanukkah, and focus on those with whom you can build a real pro-Israel coalition. Forget about JStreet; in time, you will come to realize that, like their George Soros benefactor, they are at the core of the problem, not the solution.

Next: You must begin a campus-wide movement on Morningside Heights to BDS Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.  Blame it on Khashoggi’s killing. Blame it on Saudi persecution of gays and women.  Blame it on the 15 of 19 who caused 9-11 all being from Saudi Arabia. But you have to start demanding a university-wide boycott of Saudi and Kuwaiti products, a ban of all Saudi armed forces from training anywhere in America, Columbia and Barnard divestment from all American companies (hint: energy) that deal with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, a ban on all student-exchange programs that see Saudi or Kuwaiti students coming to Columbia, or Columbia students going for a semester there. Boycott. Divestiture. And sanctions.

Next autumn, your group demands that the Columbia College Student Council pass two BDS resolutions, identical to the one that caused you to cry, one aimed this time at BDS’ing Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and the other at BDS’ing China.
Side by side — but do not entangle the two campaigns — you must also begin a university-wide campaign to BDS China.  Blame it on their persecution of Muslims because Columbia students will not be moved by hearing that China suppresses freedom movements. Demand a complete boycott at Columbia-Barnard of all products made in China. Y’know, like iPhones and computers and clothes. Divestiture from all Columbia corporate investments in companies that trade with China. Y’know, like Microsoft and Apple and Facebook and pretty much everyone that the snowflakes need for life.

Then, next autumn, your group demands that the Columbia College Student Council pass two BDS resolutions, identical to the one that caused you to cry, one aimed this time at BDS’ing Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and the other at BDS’ing China.  If you do this — if you demand this the way that college students at Columbia always have known how to make demands (look up “Mark Rudd” and look up “SDS 1968”) — then one of two things will happen. Either they also will BDS Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and China. (Not gonna happen.)  Or, to avoid insulting Muslims and Arabs on campus, and to keep their iPhones for texting and tweeting their anti-Israel hate, they will realize that they have to drop the recent anti-Israel BDS thing, too, or they will have their recta (a Latin term you can look up) sued in federal court for civil rights violations.

Ms. Ronen, there is one more reason not to cry. The University Administration, just as with Barnard’s across the street last year, will never dare implement a single syllable of a BDS resolution against Israel. Because if they would so dare, their tens of thousands of Jewish alumni from the last half century — alumni from eras before Obama and snowflakes and micro-aggressions and safe spaces and trigger warnings — would cut them off so dry that Hamilton Hall would end up being converted to a homeless shelter, also Earl Hall, and also Butler Library.

The bucks would dry up, and suddenly all the tenured social-sciences professors would have to go out and get real jobs in the real world.  And, please do believe me, Ms. Ronen, that prospect would terrify those effete snobs so badly that even the Jewish BDS professors would rather spend their spare time singing “Hatikvah” alongside the alma mater statue on the steps of Low Library than ever having to go out and get a real job in the real world.