This article was originally published in The Jerusalem Post on June 13th, 2023, written by Adam Milstein.
From pull factors, to collaboration, to going on the offensive
The new antisemitism of our century, also known as modern (or contemporary) antisemitism, reinvented itself from the classical hatred of Jews, which is no longer publicly acceptable, to a now “tolerable” form, the hatred of Israel. The increased vitriol for the State of Israel and a growth in antisemitism is no coincidental correlation. Once seen as a darling of the world, an underdog, a weak nation in need of help, a sanctuary for Jews after the Holocaust, Israel has become a victim of its own success. Outside political forces are committed to paint Israel and the Jewish people as just another target in their obsessive racialized world view. Zionism, which is the movement for the self-determination and statehood for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel, has become a vile concept.
Younger generations, especially Americans, see only one State of Israel – “a strong Israel”, an “oppressive” Israel, a “colonizer” Israel, a “Zionist” Israel, an Israel that fits into pre-existing, yet unrelated, social and political constructs of race and power. To secure the future of the U.S.-Israel alliance friends and allies of Israel must wake up. The lines have shifted, our strategies must adjust swiftly.
The battle for the future of Israel is playing out everywhere, in high schools and college campuses, across mainstream media and social media, in Congress and the European Union, and even at Jewish dinner tables. As stewards of Israel’s cause and advocates for the Jewish people, to fight back against this tide, we must commit to the following three principles:
1. Create “pull factors” that help young people understand what’s “right about Israel”, not what’s “wrong about Israel”.
We must explore and highlight why Israel’s founding, existence and endurance is important today not only for the Jewish community, but also for America, and for the world. Israel’s creation was against all odds and nothing short of a miracle. Yet today’s younger generation has little concept for how close it was from ceasing to be and an obscure idea of the actual facts that led to Israel’s establishment. David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister declared, “in Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” His words should be repeated, retold, and heeded.
As supporters of Israel’s past, present, and future, we must emphatically declare what is certifiably true – Israel’s existence, its persistence, and its unparalleled resilience, are miraculous.
We must also continuously showcase and communicate the wonderful humanity and diversity Israel represents. Shimon Peres, Israel’s 9th president said, “In Israel, a land lacking in natural resources, we discovered the greatest resource of all: human capital, which is richer than any of the resources in the earth.” This small country, roughly the size of New Jersey, with a population of just over 9 million people, is the technology hub of the world, imbued with rich multiculturalism and a humanitarian core.
We also need to strengthen connections of Americans to Israel through business ties, innovation, and science. Our mutual democratic values, our unbreakable bonds through history and shared faith serve as strong links through decades of solidarity. And programs like Birthright, Tamid Group, Itrek, Onward-Israel and Gap Year Israel, are needed more than ever to bolster efforts to bring young Jewish and non-Jewish Americans to Israel to solidify the bonds that only personal experience can create.
2. Collaborate with friends and allies
Israel’s values such as individual rights, equal opportunity, freedoms of speech, protest, and an independent press are America’s values. Israel’s interests such as liberty, prosperity and security are America’s interests. And Israel’s enemies such as the Islamo-leftist alliance which is comprised of radical Muslims and the far-left extremists are America’s enemies. Despite these fundamental facts, an increasing number of groups in America, some of them anti-American themselves, are adopting and spreading the new anti-Semitism, advancing lies about the Jewish State. We need to empower and support our American allies – helping them to understand that anti-Semitism starts with the Jews, but never end with the Jews – and that this evil is a danger to America, and the values that make it great.
3. Going on the offensive is imperative – defense is a losing preposition
While the Jewish diaspora is often reactive, Israel’s military and intelligence are known to be proactive and excel in taking the war to the turf of the enemy. American Jews must collectively adopt the same strategy and the embrace an unabashed tenacity. We must not apologize for being proud Jews or for being Zionists and teach our kids so be proud as well. If we’re to concede and appease our detractors, we’ll lose not only our courage, but also our standing. Without going on the offense and being proactive, terms are constantly re-defined, and events are skewed with competing “narratives” – flying in the face of historical facts.
When we’re always explaining, we’re losing. For example, the establishment of Israel was branded by the Islamo-leftist alliance as the “Nakba” leaving us trying to fight against a nebulous, dubious definition instead of telling our factual miraculous story. In fact, “Nakba” was originally coined as a reference to the so called “catastrophe” of the six Arab armies losing to the Jews in Israel’s War of Independence. In the last several decades, however, it’s been co-opted by the UN and Israel’s enemies to reflect Palestinian alleged ethnic cleansing, human rights violations and victimhood.
Secondly, the Palestinians’ “Right of Return” needs to be called out for what it is. It is not a call for justice, but annihilation of the Jews living in the land of Israel. Believed by many to be a tool in the negotiating toolkit for the conflict, the ‘Right of Return’ is just another perpetual piece of semantic propaganda to undermine the State of Israel and prevent peace for future generations. We must continue to expose Israel’s critics for what they are through research, facts, and media efforts.
In the last two decades, we’ve witnessed a significant shift in rhetoric and support for Israel across the Western world. It’s no accident that antisemitism has increased as well. Too often, Jews are left responding to assertions made by others – hesitant about telling OUR story, and reluctant to go on offense. We must prepare one another, our allies, and the next generations for how to have conversations on our terms…as proud Jews and supporters of Israel. We, the Jewish people, in the face of an overwhelming opposition, must re-commit to be bold. To be unapologetic. And to maintain a gaze to the future.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Anders Bjerkhoel.