Coby Schoffman

Pro-/anti-Israel? Pro-/anti-Palestine? Just Stop

© KinHouse Creation Photography

Ringing in the new year, one thing should be clear to us all — as a people, we are predisposed to viewing almost everything in ‘”absolute terms.” I’m no exception. Nuance is dead, working across the aisle is near nonexistent, and things that used to bring us together are now the things that divide us.

Disclaimer. I’m a young(ish) American Jew who grew up going to Israel every winter to avoid Christmas and spend time with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Jerusalem. In high school I spent a semester studying on a Kibbutz. I loved Israel, and, equally as important, the idea of Israel, so much that I decided to move there for college. I studied counter-terrorism and conflict resolution at Reichman University, Israel’s first private university. I lived through two wars, spent countless evenings degenerately partying in the nightclubs of Tel Aviv, and made friends that will last a life time. I still love Israel, and the abstract — totally insane/remarkable concept of having a home for every Jew in the world — but does that mean I need to be on the exclusive roster of the pro-Israel ‘team’?

Let’s quickly break down what it means to be ‘pro’ something. Pro, quite literally, means being in favor of something. So by definition, I am pro-Israel. However, being a member of the pro-Israel community promotes an air of exclusivity. In this era of side-picking and us vs. them mentality, it’s unacceptable to be pro-Palestine while being pro-Israel. The same rings true for the pro-Palestine camp.

Let’s quickly break down what it means to be ‘anti’ something. Anti, quite literally, means being opposed or against something. So by definition, if I’m pro-Israel, does that make me anti-Palestine? If you were to ask me, I’d say hell no. Most would disagree.

For both ‘teams’ after 70+ years of conflict (it’s been a lot longer), in the diaspora, there is almost no cross pollination of peoples or ideas. No ‘players’ from either team come for any award ceremonies, all-star weekends, or industry-related parties hosted by the other. Why can’t I play on both teams (or at least be an active spectator at both teams’ events)?

Israel has the right to exist, and the Jewish community, after thousands of years of persecution, should and always will have a place to call home. That place for better or for worse, happens to be in ‘ancient Israel’. This won’t change, and everyone needs to come to accept that as fact so we can incubate practical solutions. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be able to make the case for Palestinian statehood, speak out against human rights violations, and advocate for the rights of all Palestinians, no matter where they live.

It’s time to do away with the following terms: pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, anti-Israel, and anti-Palestine. They promote intellectual laziness, polarization, and absolutism. They do more harm than good.

About the Author
Coby Schoffman is a San Francisco-based serial social entrepreneur and Founder of The Nation Foundation. Schoffman received a MSc in Transnational Security from New York University and has a demonstrated history of working to craft complex, community-driven solutions in high conflict zones. The views in his columns are his own, and do not reflect those of any organization.
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