We need to change Israel advocacy

Israel Defense Forces

It’s the first day of Hannukka. The story of the Maccabees reminds me of the power of Jewish uprising. What a far stretch from where the community is at today.

For too long Jews have been passive, understanding, and empathetic to anti-Semites. We want to be loved, to a point where we abandon our comrades for validation. It is part of the way we learned to survive. Truthfully, it is a Jewish sickness.

Imagine the following scenario:

James: Gold is valueless.
Jane: Not true! Gold is valuable!
James: No, it’s valueless.
Jane: Gold is beautiful and rare, therefore it has value.
James: No, it’s valueless.

Now imagine that scenario playing out for 20 years. Over time the optics are such that gold appears to have questionable value. The truth of the value of gold becomes irrelevant. This is what is happening with Israel on college campuses.

Over the years pro-Israel groups have focused their strategies on defending Israel by building bridges with hostile individuals, displaying empathy to lies about Israel, and humanizing the “other.” They believe being woke and ‘rising above’ is effective. Some notable advocates have even pedaled this malarkey of radical love.

That is not advocacy, that’s shameful pandering. You don’t get respect by pandering those who openly call for the destruction of Israel.

True defense is exhibited by the Israel Defense Forces. Their style is measuredly aggressive when under attack or threat. The Six Day War, after all, was a pre-emptive attack on what would have been an imminent war. Israel destroyed the entire Egyptian air base, flattening their chances of overpowering Israel. If this war would take place today, those same advocates would be apologizing for Israel’s ‘aggression.’ They would comment that not all people support the initiative taken by the Israeli government. (It’s those Jews who are the problem – not us).

That’s not advocacy, that’s a sickness.

I recall an incident when a man in Penn Station yelled anti-Immigrant remarks to a Spanish-speaking worker. It didn’t matter which country the immigrant had arrived from – the entire latinx community was rightfully outraged. Advocates exhibited their outrage in protests outside of the individual’s home and workplace. Whether or not one agrees with those kinds of protests, the fact was they were effective. They brought attention and visible concern to the issue.

Let’s compare that to Jewish advocacy.

When I was invited to speak at a panel at the Academic Engagement Network, my co-panelist, a student from J Street U, told the audience how she would bring cupcakes and cookies to Students for Justice in Palestine activists. This is a group that calls for the destruction of Israel and essentially believes that murdering Israelis is just and worthy of celebration.

After hearing this, I became embroiled with anger. Is this what the Jew has become? A pathetic beggar for love from those who hate us?

In that moment I knew something needed to change. This is why it is time for a new advocacy. One that encourages pride in being a Jew, and all that pertains to being a Jew. Being a Jew doesn’t mean being loved and it doesn’t mean loving your enemy (that’s a Christian idea). As the story of Hannukka teaches, it means believing in our cause, standing up for what our traditions teach us is right no matter the social cost, and being flamboyantly ourselves.