Laureen Lipsky
Taking Back The Narrative

What Kept Me Anti-Israel for Nearly 20 Years

While most Zionists watched the campus antisemitic near-pogroms with outrage, I of course had the same response, but also thought, could I have been one of those self-hating Jews of IfNotNow, JStreet or JVP in those tents? Had I not seen the light of Zionism in 2014, who knows how much further I could have gone in my ignorance about Israel and actual Jewish history.

And no, I was not a Democrat. Ever, despite voting a few times for Democrat local politicians. That is the number one question I get when telling people I became a Zionist at the age of 32, did I become a Republican as a result. Nope, always have been.

I did not know I was a Jew until about 7/8 years old. As a first generation American of parents who immigrated from the former Soviet Union, it was not discussed who we were, when I was a child, outside of an immigrant family scope. Sure, my grandparents would come over for holidays, but it was never explained what holiday or why. It was merely nice meals with family. Having a New Years tree, a relic of the ‘old country’ was also was very confusing.

I found out I am a Jew because of the television show, Lassie. The protagonist was a blond, blue-eyed White Christian who prayed to Jesus every night. As an impressionable child, I followed suit for a few weeks. I truly thought all children across America got on their knees, crossed themselves, and prayed to Jesus. One evening, my father passed by my room, saw me praying and said what are you doing? I replied, oh I’m praying to Jesus. He said we need to have a talk.

Just like that, my world changed. I was thrilled! to find out we are Jews. But what did that mean to my child-self? That I could now go to Hebrew school like my Jewish friends. But no. My parents, and my father in particular, were against the local synagogue because their rabbi was too liberal. Years passed and I was obsessed with Jewish identity–I was the only 11 year old going to school half an hour early so that I could read Shalom Aleichem stories in the school library. My Yiddish was on par with Gilda Radner.

Jewish identity from an Ashkenaz perspective without understanding that Jews are a race. The Jews I grew up with all ‘came from’ Europe, all said they were ‘Polish’ or ‘German’ or ‘Russian’ or ‘European mutts.’ I had no clue there were Mizrahi Jews, Sephardic Jews, never mind not knowing that all Ashkenaz Jews are descended from Sephardic Jews who moved east across Europe (the first Jews in the Ashkenaz region were 20,000 Italian Sephardic Jews who were then joined by other Sephardim). And all Sephardic Jews and Mizrahi Jews in the Diaspora originally came from Israel.

When asked what my background was, easy, ‘Russian’ – completely erasing my relatives who lived in Austria, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, and through DNA testing I found out recently, also in Italy and the Iberian Peninsula. Or that all genetic Jews are indigenous to Israel, our roots firmly planted there as we literally emerged from the Semitic tribes in Israel.

I also falsely was fed that being Jewish was being part of a religion, and not a race that has a strong faith, culture, and customs. Back then, had no clue that religions seek converts and spread with intent across borders – that there are only three actual religions — Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. That Jews, Hindus, Druze, Yazidis, and Assyrians are all races with cultures built around faiths and are all indigenous to our respective lands. It was antisemitic Christians in Europe who first mislabeled Jews as a ‘religion.’

Being ‘Jewish’ was something my friends did on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays at Hebrew school; during holidays, and laughing at Adam Sandler’s ‘Chanukkah’ CD. Sure, my paternal grandmother lived at the time in Israel, but no explanation as to why. To me, Israel was just another country.

Despite multiple attempts of going to Hebrew school or even hiring a Hebrew tutor for a possible bat-mitzvah, my parents promised a trip to Israel instead and that I would have a bat-mitzvah (transliterated) on top of the Masada. Had no idea what that meant, but it seemed like a big deal.

Off to Israel we went and my family hired both a rabbi and a tour guide. Stepping off the plane, I felt something was special about Israel, but did not know why or what. Being on top of Masada was profound, hearing about the brave warriors who stood up to the Romans and who sacrificed themselves instead of being slaves, it connected me to my people. It was the first time I realized I am part of a long-link but still did not understand that Jews are a race because no one around me was using that term. A long link of a ‘religion’ perhaps?

I came back from Israel and was a fervent Zionist. I could not shut up about the trip to my friends. The Zionism was short-lived. Within a year, I started reading The New York Times, the Economist, and began watching CNN. Suddenly, I was bombarded with ‘facts’ about Israel – that Israel is ‘oppressing’ some ‘people’ called Palestinians, not knowing that Palestinians was in actuality a colonizer term for Jews who lived IN Israel from 136 AD – 1948. Or that Palestine was the colonizer term for Israel for that same 1,812 years period of occupations. And I saw on tv that the world was upset with Israel for something called ‘settlements’ – never mind that those are legal Jewish communities in our ancestral heartland.

More years passed and I became an atheist (I am no longer an atheist; more like Agnostic+), mostly after learning the horrors of the Holocaust and what happened to my family. I questioned how could there be a god if people could be murdered in barbaric ways while entire populations stood by and did nothing. So, if I was an atheist, then I am not part of the Jewish ‘religion.’ And just like that, Israel became even further separated from my mindset – to me, Israel was a country for ‘religious’ Jews and it was ‘over there.’

My college days were not filled with anything Jew-related. I avoided Hillel on campus like the plague. None of my college friends were Jews. Fast forward to moving to NYC in 2004, and I thought I was some WASP, and I joined the Junior League in 2007, but was fast made to feel anything but. Was the antisemitism outright? No. But the few Jewish women part of the Junior League were made to feel like outsiders in many cases. But, I made good friends there, and became their ‘token Jew’ when it came to questions on Israel. Whenever Israel was on the news, I was flooded with questions, and not in a Jew-hating way, but my then friends were mighty curious. And I filled in their knowledge gaps on Israel with antisemitic lies, unbeknownst to me at the time that I was lying. I read it in the NYT so it must be true. CNN would never lie.

I left the Junior League after two years, as fun as it was dressing in Lilly Pulitzer and partying with Union League men, I deep down knew I was not ”one of them’ and never will be. But still, I was not comfortable with sooo many Jews in NYC, it was too much for me at the time. I grew up in a town where most Jews were ‘pizza bagels’ – many Jewish families at the time were half Jewish and half Italian. And being a Jew was not central to our every day lives. NYC Jewry was on another level.

I dipped into the Jew pool slowly. First, I joined the ADL, where it was rammed down my throat that only White Supremacists were to be feared. No mention of Islamic terrorism, despite it being on a massive rise. The ADL also pushed the antisemitic ‘2 state solution’ which at the time, when I was still not a Zionist, seemed perfectly sound to me – apparently Jews were ALL exiled for 2,000 years, and then we ‘came back’ as victims of the Holocaust in 1945. No Jewish organization was filling in the actual historical ‘gaps’ – ancient times were mentioned and then boom, we ‘magically’ appeared in Israel after the Shoah.

Copy and paste the above paragraph for the numerous Jewish organizations I kept joining: AIPAC, CAMERA, AJC, etc.

Time and again the lie of ‘Israel was created’ by the UN in was repeated – again, had no clue that was not the case whatsoever. ‘Two states for two people’ or the monster of all lies, ‘Israel pushed out Arabs.’ No Jewish organization pushed back with facts that that was false nor explained that Jews in fact did not ‘massacre’ Arabs, not in Deir Yassin nor elsewhere.

It was also shared widely, and falsely, that Israel is a ‘Western’ country in the Middle East, as if it is some guest, ‘created’ for the ‘victims.’

Almost no organization paid any mind to Mizrahi history or even Sephardic history. Everything was shared from a very Ashkenaz-oriented lens.

Not one organization mentioned that Jews are indigenous to Israel or that our homeland was colonized for 1,812 years (136 AD – 1948). Chanukkah celebrations were told through the lie that it was some ‘festival of lights’ instead of what it actually was, the most Zionist of holidays celebrating military might against BOTH Hellenized Jews and the Seleucids.

And this is how I was fairly anti-Israel for nearly 20 years. It came to a point where I felt I had to always apologize for Israel, to ‘defend’ Israel, while also criticizing Israel for all the accusations directed its way. I truly believed that if only Israel stopped ‘building settlements’ there would be ‘peace.’

Believing Israel has the ‘right to exist’ is not Zionism whatsoever. That is where JStreet goes awry. They are not calling for the outright destruction of Israel but then veer off into accusing Israel of ‘building settlements’ – not possible to be a ‘settler’ on one’s own land. Those are legal communities in our ancestral heartland in our indigenous land. Then, they go on a hissy fit about imposing an antisemitic ‘2 state solution.’ Never mind that 78% of our homeland was stolen in 1922 by then Foreign Secretary Churchill, who violated the Mandate, to create an Arab colonizer state on our land. Actual Zionism is the right of the Judean indigenous people to restore full rights and sovereignty in the Jewish homeland.

No one was mentioning the rich Jewish history of Gaza. I remember watching the disengagement on tv, and being happy that ‘finally, Israel is doing the right thing’ by giving back Gaza to the ‘Palestinians.’ Sheer idiocy, as I look back to that time.

Polls show (falsely) that most American Jews are Zionists, and it is only a minority that are anti-Israel. I would venture to say more than half are anti-Israel, through voting records alone. In reality, one cannot be a Zionist and vote for the destruction of Israel, for the murder of Jews in Israel.

When you see the Jewish kids siding with terrorists on campuses it comes from all the above: not understanding that Jews are the indigenous people of the land in Israel, not because anything was promised to us, and not taking it away from those who believe in that, but physically and historically, a people cannot be more indigenous. Jews are more indigenous to Israel than the Native American tribes are to America. Only Semitic tribes lived in Israel and so when Jews formed a nation, the other tribes they conquered and absorbed were all Semites. Thinking that Jews are a ‘religion’ and because many of them are not ‘religious’ that Israel is for those ‘other Jews.’ Falsely believing that Israel is a ‘colonizer’ instead of having done the impossible, to be the only people who de-colonized after such a long time period of occupations.

It is falsely believing that Jews are ‘White’ and ‘we’ oppress the ‘Brown’ people. Skin tone is not race, and Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews make up the majority in Israel. And Ashkenaz Jews stem from Sephardim anyway. We, genetic Jews, literally are all part of the Judean race (J1 haplogroup). So are the Jews who never left Israel. Not one year has been Judenrein in the land of Israel, since Jews formed a nation. When Jerusalem was occupied by Crusaders and Jews were kicked out for 60 years, Jews simply moved north to the Galilee region.

It is also not knowing that Egypt settled in 250,000 of its nationals in Gaza in 1948 and radicalized that population. It is not knowing that some former Israeli Arabs joined the Egyptians in Gaza in order to help Arab armies kill Jews faster in 1948. It is not knowing the history of Judea & Samaria, and it is also the result of bastardizing the concept of tikkun olam.

And, most central of all, it is also Jews who are more comfortable being victims than victors. It is Jews who focus more on the Shoah, without knowing all the bravery enacted by Jews in the most evil of times, than preserving Jewish life in Israel. I know because I was one of those Jews. Today, of course, when I see the videos of the IDF bombing Gaza, I feel utter pride. Back in my anti-Israel days, when I would see images of the IDF doing operations, I would feel a twinge of guilt, can ‘we’ not be ‘too loud’ on the international stage?

So who knows, had I continued on my anti-Israel path, perhaps I would be joining in on a pro-terrorist march today or if on campus, being in those terror tents. I would be watching CNN, seeing only bombed out Gaza, the people around me would not know any actual history or reality. And, I would be saying ‘both sides.’

This is not excusing or condoning in any way the self-hating Jews. It is explaining how we get those types of Jews and how in reality they are not such a minority of our population of Jewry here in the U.S. Though I didn’t share their politics, I strongly shared their ignorance about Israel.

About the Author
Laureen Lipsky is the CEO & Founder of Taking Back the Narrative, a Zionist education initiative ( Her writing has been featured in The Federalist, American Thinker, Washington Examiner, Israel Hayom, and JNS. She has recently written an exclusive piece, "The semantics of anti-Semitism" for The Center for Security Policy.
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