Today, Israel, the Jews, and the West are up against dangerous demagogues who flourish on campuses and in the media. Would we allow a professor to teach that the earth is flat and reward him for teaching Junk Science? Imagine that this professor had a following which demonizes, intimidates, and death threatens all those who believe that the earth is round! Such behavior is typical of Islamists and Stalinists, but here I am describing the Western intelligentsia.
What is frightening about campus anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism is that the Israeli Apartheid Weeks and BDS campaigns have become such a familiar part of North American university life and the internet. Such Big Lie events have become normalized. They have been well-organized by the Muslim Brotherhood through its Muslim Student Association and Students for Justice in Palestine. Already, Jewish students have to be rescued by the campus police from Gaza-like mob attacks and riots. What next? Broken bones, a concussion, God forbid, a murder?
It is inevitable.
And then, the usual suspects will say: There is no connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism which are protected by free speech. This is an isolated event. The murderer is mentally ill. Or, he is a 19-year old freedom fighter whose family supposedly lost everything in the “Nakba” sixty years ago and he still cannot forget it.
We have lost 35-60 years in terms of combating the lethal War of Ideas against us. Despite valorous grassroots efforts, including my own, we have lost the war of ideas. Israel is now utterly defamed. We face a tsunami of hatred.
We have lost the campuses, the human rights organizations, the media, the UN—we have lost the ideological high ground. It is now almost Israel’s military ability to defend herself is not in question but her right to do so very much is.
impossible to convince people with closed minds that the most abhorred “settlement” has always been Tel Aviv; that the “settlements” refer to Israel as of 1948.
Israel’s military ability to defend herself is not in question but her right to do so very much is. Israel is now surrounded by a hostile international community: legally, economically, and politically—in part, because we have lost the ideological war. After fifteen years on the front line fighting this war, I must conclude:
One cannot win such a war if one refuses to fight it.
Our unfunded or under-funded “cognitive warriors” have not been supported by the large Jewish organizations or by the Israeli government.
One cannot win a war of ideas when some of one’s own people are also part of the problem.
I have, in the past, written about Jewish anti-Zionism and Jewish perfectionism vis-a-vis Israel-only. I do not think that the problem is one of self-hatred—rather it is one of opportunism and cowardice. I think that liberal and left-wing Jews want to lead safe and happy lives. Who can blame them? They do not want to be burdened with pariah status by taking up the very unpopular cause of Jewish survival and a less-than-perfect Jewish Israel.
Here’s what is going on.
Rabbi Hillel famously asked: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”
Zionists and conservatives, both Jews and Christians, are answering Reb Hillel’s first question; Left-liberal Jews are answering his second question. Neither group is answering both questions. The Israel-firsters are not committed to a secular human rights agenda. The left-liberals are not viewing this moment in history as exceptionally perilous.
What We Must Do
As Jews, we are commanded to stand against evil in our time; we are not commanded to complete this work.
Although I certainly support it, I do not believe that bravely standing up at Berkeley or San Francisco State and holding an Israeli flag is equivalent to “taking back the campuses.” Nor do I think that training a handful of future students to engage more effectively in on-campus shouting matches or counter-demonstrations will do the job. Nor do I think that documenting the Big Lies—something I and others have done—is enough.
We need the equivalent of a global “Iron Dome” to protect Israel from defamation.
We must outwit the opposition globally—which is their chosen playing field. We need a worldwide, multi-language, pro-Israel, pro-America, pro-West, unbiased “al-Jazeera,” a TV and internet station that focuses not only on Israel but also covers the world—but when it comes to the Middle East, simply tells the truth. This may cost billions of dollars each and every year.
This cannot be done on the cheap and it cannot be staffed by con artists of “sensation.” This must be a sober undertaking of high quality. We need team players, strategic thinkers, not breakaway egotists. We have the talent, we lack the money.
We need funding to de-program all those who have been brainwashed into this mass anti-Zionist psychosis. Campus wide mandatory all-day Teach-Ins must be held every single semester on at least 2,000 American campuses (less than half of the existing 4,500 campuses).
This is barely a start.
The true history of the Middle East, including the history of Jews, especially that of the Jews in Arab and Muslim countries and the true history of religious minorities in Muslim countries must be taught in the West. In order to balance an unbalanced view of history, we must teach students and professors about Islam’s long history of imperialism, colonialism, conversion via the sword, anti-black racism, slavery, and religious and gender apartheid. We have the talent, we lack the money. Above all, we lack unity.
We must also shed our illusions—permanently. We cannot expect that conditions will always improve, or that one country or another will always be a safe haven for Jews. We have repeated our history many times.
Our ancestors suffered in exile for more than two thousand years, and while we are privileged to live at a time when our homeland has been restored to us, it was foolish to have thought that Jew-hatred would suddenly become extinct or that Israel would not remain under siege.
As Jews, as Israelis, as members of a nation holy unto God, we must understand, and never forget, that ours is an eternal struggle.