Throughout university campuses, Pro Israel groups and representatives are hard at work preparing curriculums for the academic year and the anti-Israel activism that welcomes students into universities across the world. Israel’s most recent offensive into Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, has left almost 2,000 Palestinians dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, and has cost Israel 66 citizens and almost 15 Billion NIS ($4.3 Billion USD). Armed with these staggering numbers, hateful groups on campus have added new weapons to an arsenal replete with disproportionate figures. To the apathetic student, such disproportionate figures cry oppression, colonization and excessive force. However, this year, Israel groups on Campus have one less task to complete, a task, ironically, completed by the rallies and protests held by their enemies. This season’s anti Israel protests and rallies have taught the Jews of the diaspora exactly why a Jewish homeland matters so much, and why we need Israel now more than ever.
For many Jews of North America, this summer’s protests and rallies have broken an illusion shared by many in the New World. In Toronto, where I live, we have the opportunity to live in multicultural communities where each culture is respected and recognized for what it brings to the cultural mosaic. Though I have experienced minor acts of anti-Semitism, I cannot remember a moment in which I felt at risk for being part of the Toronto Jewish community. However, this summer has seen a dark change in the fabric of this mosaic, a mosaic, seemingly, in danger of cracking.
In cities around the world, from Toronto to Sydney to London, millions of citizens have taken to the streets to protest Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip. Under the guise of political activism and freedom of the speech, these protests in every major city in the world have sharply veered away from championing the cause of the citizens of Gaza to demonizing the representatives of the Jewish State in their own cities. The protests have shifted towards demonizing the Jews. What all these protests around the world have in common is a veiled, but well satiated anti-Semitism that is hidden behind legitimized anti Israel rhetoric.
In Toronto, the tires of Israeli supporters have been slashed, Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated and bus terminals have been vandalized with swastikas. However, as heinous as these incidents are, they are dwarfed by those in other cities where Jews have been beaten (Los Angeles) and murdered (Miami, USA) and where rocks have been thrown at synagogues (Montreal, Canada). And though it would be naive to expect no hate and no racism to follow these politically natured rallies, it must be recognized that the summer 2014 has brought a sudden crash to the dream that Jews can live free from the hatred of the Old World in North America.
A great majority of Pro Israel programming on campus is devoted to building its Jewish membership, and at the very least, instilling the idea of Israel’s importance to the Jewish university student. While also objectives, combatting anti-Israel rhetoric and BDS on campus is, in my opinion, secondary. This summer my fellow Jews and I have heard the cries of protesters screaming “Freedom for Palestine” being drowned out by those who scream “Slaughter to the Jews” (Antwerp, Belgium). Many of us for the first time have witnessed or been subject to anti-Semitism and these have demonstrated what no amount of lectures or programs could ever have taught. Ironically, it is the screams and the acts of anti-Semitism around the world that have led many Jews to unite to confront the anti Israel protests with rallies in solidarity of the Jewish State and demonstrate our deepening appreciation for the one true safe haven for the Jews of the world, the State of Israel.
(Note) For the above incidents of violence and racism I have drawn upon the findings of the Anti Defamation League’s report published in August 2014. The ADL has reported upon thousands of acts of anti-Semitism associated with “Pro Palestine” and “Anti Israel” rallies around the World. It has also documented a surge in anti-Semitism worldwide since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge.
Violence and Vitriol; Anti-Semitism Around the World During Israel’s Operation Protective Edge – July-August 2014. Rep. New York: Anti Defamation League, 2014. Print.