If Israel is to remain relevant for a new generation of North American college students, its friends and supporters need to urgently change their arguments. Generation Z is no longer accepting the paradigms of the past.
Arguing that Israel exists because of the Holocaust, whilst never historically correct, today is distancing many Jews from a real and meaningful relationship with Israel.
Israel as a safety haven for Jews, ”in case there is another holocaust,” is finally proving itself as the shallow argument that it is. Life for American Jews is good and assimilation is a bigger threat than anti-Semitism. I have visited Beverley Hills in California and the Jews there are not suffering.
The time has come to change the Israel advocacy record, because this generation of university students has never owned a record and consider the traditional Israel discourse irrelevant to them.
If Israel is to remain relevant its supporters must recapture the liberal left, to continue to ignore them is a recipe for disaster. The Christian right have proven true friends of Israel, but by relying on their unwavering support Israel has distanced itself from the even more influential liberal mainstream.
The large majority of American Jews believe in abortion, gay rights and a pluralistic outlook. “Israel belongs to the Jews because of God’s covenant with Abraham” may be persuasive in the bible belt but not for the majority of young, assimilated American Jews.
Israel advocates need to find a voice that speaks to liberal America and not just the religious right. To do otherwise would be to lose a generation to the folly of J Street and their questionable Zionist credentials or even into supporting BDS. which has enveloped itself in the language of supporting the underdog, social justice and political correctness.
Despite Israel’s liberal credentials most liberals are falling automatically into the anti Israel camp. This fact necessitates those involved in Israel education to have a realistic appraisal of their methodology.
A recipe for success, of six basic principles, needs to be urgently applied.
Firstly – stop advocating Israel’s case, start educating about Israel. Show dilemmas, show choices, raise questions and show flaws. Israel is not all perfect nor is it all bad.
Secondly – remember empathy. Supporting Israel does not necessitate delegitimizing the rights of the Palestinian people.
Thirdly – speak the language of your audience. We must be able to the justify Jewish claim as an indigenous people’s right to their land and not as a God given gift.
Fourthly – stop giving out free copies of Alan Dershowitz’s “The Case for Israel.” Nobody under the age of twenty-five has read it. If you can’t explain the case for Israel in 90 seconds on YouTube or in ten points in Buzzfeed, don’t bother, nobody is listening.
Fifthly. Attack from the left – not the right. Showing that the boycotters of Israel are not interested in peace, but are stopping Israelis and Palestinian cooperation is more effective than talking about the Ishmael and Yitzhak.
Six – Stop sounding like a Jihad Jew. Are you really convincing the person you are talking to or are you convincing yourself? If you want to convince somebody you must show a contradiction between his or her value system and their belief.
If Israel is to remain relevant to this generation of students we must rediscover what is left of liberal Zionist values, because let’s admit it – no country is always right.