Beating the Drum for Israel

The fall semester is in full swing and the nation’s campuses are already rocking with anti-Israel activities as the usual parade of anti-Semites make their vitriolic speeches and seek to delegitimize Israel through the divestment and other hate campaigns. Jewish students have responded to these attacks with unprecedented vigor, but the key to winning the war on campus is not reactivity, it is proactivity.

The goal is not to be more radical than our critics or to try to outdo their street theater of the absurd. Our goal is to set the tone for the entire year on the campus, a tone that is pro-peace and pro-Israel. We want to create a climate where there is always something going on related to Israel so that Jews and non-Jews see that we are proud to stand with Israel and that it is cool to be pro-Israel. We are on the side of right and we are going to stand tall and make every Jew on campus feel comfortable to be Jewish and pro-Israel.

The way we are going to do it is by beating the drum for Israel.

What I mean by beating the drum for Israel is to constantly have some activity related to Israel going on. Depending on the size and activism of the particular campus, it can be daily, weekly, or monthly.

By beating the drum for Israel, Jewish students set the agenda. They are not sitting back waiting for the other side to assail Israel, and they are not reacting to their attacks. If our drumbeat is loud enough, we can drown them out altogether, and it may be possible to ignore some or all of the detractors’ activities. The anti-Israel students are going to be shouting in frustration because every time they turn around the bloody Jews and their supporters are putting on another program about Israel.

The drumbeat should not be restricted to politics. Every aspect of Israel should be explored, discussed, and celebrated on the campus. Bring speakers to talk about current political events, archaeology in Israel, the high-tech industry in “Silicon Wadi,” advances in medicine, and the environment. Sponsor cultural activities such as dances, art exhibitions, and concerts. Invite classmates to Shabbat dinner and talk about Israel, create a tour of Israel on campus, study Hebrew.

The anti-Semites believe Jews control the media. If it were true, every Jew in America wouldn’t be convinced the press is anti-Israel. But there’s no reason why Jewish students shouldn’t try to take over the campus media. Join the staff of the paper and radio station. Become an editor or writer. If you aren’t on staff, send in op-eds and features. Don’t wait for someone to attack Israel, start beating the media drum by sending in letters and articles today and continue every week until school ends. Make the other side respond to you. Ideally, the Jewish student message should focus on the positive, especially Israel’s desperate craving for peace, and the risks it has taken — and is prepared to take — to end the conflict with the Arabs.

Don’t stop at control of the press, Jews should beat the drum at the student government as well. Run for office, join committees, volunteer. You want to have a say in how student funds are spent so they are used for pro-Israel activities and not or programs that violate the will of the students or promote hate and anti-Semitism.

A drum is not always a solo instrument. It is not the Jews versus the world. Jewish students have allies on campus. Seek them out. College Democrats and Republicans, Christian groups, ethnic organizations, Greeks. You don’t have to agree with everything they stand for, but they may be willing to support Israel and you should see if that can be the common ground on which you can stand together.

Young Jews should educate their fellow students and themselves. Read everything you can and try to pass on your knowledge to others. Read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict and Myths and Facts: A Guide to Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Don’t be afraid to read what the other side has to say; in fact, it is incumbent upon you to know what they are saying and how to respond. If you do the research, you can’t help but be pro-Israel because that is the side of right and truth.

No, Israel isn’t perfect. American Jewish students have no obligation to defend every Israeli action and every right to express an independent view. They do, however, have an obligation to put issues in the proper context. So long as you have a love of Israel, it is possible to have legitimate concerns, as every citizen of Israel does. Critics, however, who do not recognize Israel’s right to exist, who speciously denigrate Zionism as a form of racism, and whose intent is not to improve Israel but to destroy her, are nothing more than anti-Semites trying to use the academy’s guarantees of free speech to cloak their bigotry.

Instead of hearing what the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel forces are doing on the campus, I want to hear the constant sound of the drumbeat of Israel thundering across the land. Am Yisrael chai.