These past few weeks, I have been teaching English to high school students in a small Negev town. All the while, many of my friends on campuses all across North America have been dealing with much more sinister activities in their lives. They have been working the front lines, pushing back against the vitriolic Israel Apartheid Weeks (or as I prefer to call them, Hate Weeks) presented by Students for Justice in Palestine chapters at their schools.
I have been texting friends and sharing their posts nonstop, hoping to lend my help in their fight against anti-Semitism, false facts, and the purest hate possible as it strengthens on their campuses. As the voices of one side call for boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israeli companies and those tied to Israel, the voices of another must fight against these ridiculous demands to try and maintain peace and sanity in their universities.
So, imagine my shock when I walked into the class of 10th graders I was teaching last week to find that the poem they were learning that week was actually a song by Pink Floyd.
You know, the same Pink Floyd that includes Roger Waters.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the name, let me familiarize you: Roger Waters, who is not shy to express his anti-Israel opinions and support for boycotting all goods, divesting all funds, and sanctioning the hell out of Israel. The one who has been known to include the Star of David alongside fascist and communist symbols on a giant pig balloon flown at his concerts. The one whose hatred knows no limits and ridiculous political demands know no end. Yes, that Roger Waters.
Now you may be asking yourself, why would an Israeli school use the music of an outspoken anti-Semitic, Israel-hater to educate its students in English? I can tell you why: Because in Israel and on the pro-Israel side of the campus debates, we are able to be the mature ones. We know that just because we boycott the people or products, it won’t make the problem go away. Most of all, we are ready for peace, and have been for a long time. And our actions show that when we choose to embrace the cultural and technological products of the other side instead of calling for boycotts against it in resolutions and speeches laden with hate.
Before any progress can be made on college campuses, before any peace can be made on the quads and in the dining halls and student centers of educational institutes all across the world, both sides need to be mature and ready for peace. But as long as the anti-Israel side, with its Roger Waters types and SJP and BDS, continues to demand to cut all ties economically, culturally, and politically with the Jewish state, they cannot be deemed mature or ready. As long as they continue to give us an exaggerated silent treatment, they cannot be deemed mature or ready. As long as they continue to demonize artists, businesses, and individuals for having any ties at all to Israel, they cannot be deemed mature or ready.
Let me clarify something: I am not saying that the pro-Israel side is perfect as a whole, that every single individual meets these criteria, or even that everyone would agree that it is mature and ready for peace. But last I checked, my friends and I haven’t called to cut all ties with Palestinian businesses. We haven’t demonized those who have ties with individual, peaceful Palestinian groups. And speaking for myself, if someone gave me a ticket to see Roger Waters in concert, I’d take it quicker than you could say “Am Yisrael Chai.”
And why is that? Because my interest in good music, books, movies, products, and other parts of culture and business is separate from my politics. Because boycotting the opposing side of an issue won’t make it change; it will only make the issue more ingrained and make their views of the issue more unmoving. Because just like the song we listened to says, “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control,” and dictating what parts of culture we can and cannot enjoy based on political agendas does not solve anything.
My Israeli students don’t know that Roger Waters hates their country. Even if they did know, they wouldn’t demand that his song never be played again, because they think it is a good song. And why should it be any different? Let it be the same on college campuses. We can’t afford to make the focus of the discussion be discrediting any and all who have ties with Israel or the Palestinians. We need to focus on moving forward, not backward. We need to focus on having productive conversations, on figuring out how people to people peace can work.
Once both sides can act maturely, see each other as more than opposing sides but rather as groups working for the same cause, and truly be ready for peace, the conversation will seamlessly shift to this cordial discourse. But until then, one side will continue yelling hatred, unready for peace, while the other educates others about the facts, holding peace weeks, and waiting, maturely, for the day when all can work together to build a sustainable peace.