There is a growing disconnect between America’s students and our ally Israel. Our students are compassionate, multi-cultural and disgusted by racism. If they knew the truth about Israel, they would automatically admire this bastion of their highest values in the most brutal of neighborhoods. But before they learn the truth about Israel, they are mugged by the lies of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Beyond doing long-term damage to the U.S.-Israel relationship, BDS is creating an increasingly hostile campus environment for Jewish students today. Students who dare to support Israel face physical assault and intimidation. Jewish students have been questioned about whether their faith makes them ineligible to serve in student government. And young Jews have awoken to swastikas drawn on their dorm rooms.
It took years for the BDS movement to slowly spread its lies. It will take years of truth telling to reverse their progress. When it comes to battling BDS, don’t think Six Day War; think War of Attrition. And so far, this is a war we are losing.
Even when we win, we lose. Pro-Israel students have defeated many campus efforts to divest from Israel. This is certainly better than letting these ridiculous resolutions pass. But these “victories” – like being acquitted of any ugly crime – leave a dark stain. A generation of Americans are learning about Israel from a campaign of lies. They are leaving our universities less sympathetic to Israel than when they arrived.
This failure is not the fault of our front-line fighters. The situation we face would be far worse without them. The problem is that while BDS has rapidly metastasized, the pro-Israel community has responded with insufficient attention and dollars. We’ve left our best activists to battle with too few resources.
This summer, two of the most important pro-Israel philanthropists in the world – Sheldon and Miriam Adelson – stepped up to provide the laser focus and generous support we’ve lacked. They recognized BDS as the number one non-military threat to Israel and the Jewish people. And they pledged to invest significant funds to turn the tide by founding the Maccabee Task Force.
All involved in the Maccabee Task Force agree that our effort will be strictly non-partisan. We will work with liberals and conservatives, Jews and Gentiles, and people of all races and ethnicities who share a love for justice. The only way to beat BDS is for we who support Israel to come together and leave our differences for another day.
We must grow the pro-Israel movement so that it is as racially and religiously diverse as Israel itself. We must boldly share the truth that Israel is one of the most moral, multi-cultural and compassionate countries on the planet.
We must also tell the truth about our adversaries. For too long, groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Student Association have scapegoated Israel while ignoring the real threats to the Arabs and Muslims of the Middle East. As hundreds of thousands of Arabs fall to the extremism these groups ignore, the moral bankruptcy of BDS stands in ever-starker relief. Defeating BDS not only serves Israel, it serves humanity.
The Maccabees will not compete with existing pro-Israel groups. To the contrary, we will support those doing good work and enable them to do more of it. And we seek the counsel of all groups and activists who are close to the constituencies we must influence. The pro-Israel community is a brain trust we intend to nurture and utilize to the fullest.
Finally, we will be brutally honest in our follow-up. The most passionate pro-Israel speech changes nothing if the only people who hear it are already on our side. The Maccabee Task Force will track every project we fund. Together with our partners we will distinguish between what worked and what merely made us feel good. And then we will share these best practices with our larger community of partners.
Polls show that support for Israel declines as we move from right to left on the political spectrum. Sympathy for Israel likewise drops as we move from older to younger generations. But the truth about Israel can shift the views of both of these demographics.
It’s time for all who care about Israel to join hands in this urgent mission to spread the truth. Wars of attrition are not won by lightening strikes. They demand persistent effort backed by united societies. It’s not too late to get it right.