February 13, 2013

Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace

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The Jewish people’s insecurity does not provide us with a blank check for how we act to ensure our safety. While anti-Semitism still exists, this is not 1933.

My first column this semester was about my conflicting feelings as a liberal and a Zionist. I tried to explain that the liberal (in the classical Lockean sense) values I hold are largely informed by my Jewish upbringing. I also wrote about how I am an unapologetic Zionist. The Jewish people deserve a state in their biblical homeland where security can be guaranteed for a religious minority whose extinction has been proposed far too often by far too many.

One need only to scan foreign papers to see evidence that anti-Semitism is still a threat to Jews around the world. Finally, I pointed out that the origins of the Zionist movement were rooted in a desire for a Jewish state whose commitment to civil rights and equality would be unquestionable. I expressed that I was worried that those values are being lost in the name of ensuring Israeli “security.”

However, the Jewish people’s insecurity does not provide us with a blank check for how we act to ensure our safety. While anti-Semitism still exists, this is not 1933.

When I hear from my Jewish friends that they feel the haunting creep of anti-Semitism in their daily lives, I ask them if they would rather be Jews, Arabs , Sikhs, homosexuals, African-Americans, Latinos or any of the other minority groups whose morality, loyalty, patriotism and sheer humanity are wrongly questioned publically every day.

The Jewish people have one of the most advanced militaries in the world and they are allied with the strongest military in the world. Jews in America do face anti-Semitism, but American Jews also occupy some of the highest branches of power in American business and government. Jewish culture has been largely incorporated into American culture, whether it’s Woody Allen’s movies, Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song,” Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm or Shoshanna on Girls.

I always felt that the perspective I held was common, yet much of my interaction with the Jewish organizations on campus, when it came to Israel, left me wanting. That wanting turned to angst last semester with Israel’s military actions in Gaza. Instead of a forum for reasonable discussion, the (for lack of a better term) pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups on campus met in a frustratingly chaotic protest.

I worked with other writers and editors on the Sun to release an editorial decrying the lack of meaningful dialogue regarding Israel and was met with a flurry of responses. One response in particular stuck in my craw.

The response said that instead of complaining about a lack of dialogue, we ought to get off our butts and facilitate said dialogue. That, instead of putting the onus on the extremes of both sides, we “moderates” should make it happen ourselves.

Well after a few months of work, I’m extremely proud to announce that I and a few other students are forming a J Street U chapter here at Cornell.

There have been a lot of things written and said about what J Street is, but in short, we are a Pro-Israel organization that seeks to embolden America’s leaders to facilitate a two-state solution. We come from a belief that in order to maintain a strong and Jewish Israel, there needs to be a viable Palestinian state alongside it.

That said, our goal on campus is to facilitate discussions that will improve understanding of the conflict. Anybody who is willing to engage with us in a meaningful and respectful discussion will be welcome to do so.

I was worried that the response to my column would be negative, yet I received a tremendous amount of positive responses from Jews at Cornell who, like me, felt that their views on Israel were not well represented on campus.

Starting soon, that will no longer be the case.

Original Author: Noah Karr-Kaitin