As many people probably know, I have a deep love for Israel. Growing up my whole life, my parents instilled in me a strong Jewish culture and a love for Israel. But, my true love for the country didn’t start until I was in college. I was always taught to love Israel, but wanted to love it on my own without any connection to what my parents said or convinced me of.
Israel is a place that is undeniably incredible. If anyone has been there, they know the feeling Israel shares with everyone traveling through. Israel has this aura about her that you can only understand if you are there. Its culture, beauty, food, loud people, beaches, etc. are just a few of the reasons why I love it so much.
Being part of a community that has, for the most part, always talked positively about Israel, it was extremely difficult for me to understand why people had such negative things to say about it.
I started becoming involved in Israel advocacy after I spent the summer in Israel during Operation Protective Edge. For those who do not know what OPE was, it was an Operation against Hamas, which is prevalent in Gaza. Everyday I was there, rockets were being launched from Gaza into Israel and everyday sirens sounded constantly and I had to go into a bomb shelter to protect myself from the falling debris. I was scared. I had never been in a place where rockets were being dropped and people were openly talking about a war going on in their own country. What saddened me most, was that the media was portraying the situation in the most biased way. People here at home were calling me assuming the worst, when really I was perfectly safe. There were riots all over the world that were pointing fingers at Israel. I just could not understand. How could Israel be to blame, when Gaza was launching rockets and using terror tunnels to murder Israelis. How could Israel not defend herself? Why does Hamas use their citizens as human shields then blame Israel for the innocent lives being lost in Gaza? Nothing made sense to me, so I came back to school and began a club to advocate for Israel, to show people why people should care about Israel.
People always assume that because I advocate for Israel, I dislike Palestinians, and I agree with everything the Israeli government does. This is completely false. The reason I wanted to advocate in the first place was to show Israel in a light many people don’t see, to advocate for peace, to show that I personally and the members of my club also support the peace-making process. Like any other country, including the United States, Israel is far from perfect. Their government has many flaws in which I do not agree with, just like laws here. People always jump to conclusions before listening to the facts and the stories people have. Some people have been so brainwashed, you cannot say anything to them to convince them otherwise.
The true reason I am writing this blog today is I am upset. I am upset as a student at the University of Georgia, as an advocate of Israel, and as someone who identifies as Jewish. I am upset because we have let the “Anti-Israel” following come to UGA. The student organization, Students Justice for Palestine, better known as SJP, has taken rise here and has used emotions to intimidate Pro-Israel groups.
The other night, I attended a program in which two Israeli soldiers came to speak about their experiences in the IDF. When I arrived, there was a large group of SJP members who attended the event, which is very rare. Sometimes there are a few members in attendance, but I had personally never seen this big of a group. In the middle of the soldier’s story, a member stood up and interrupted the soldier saying specifically, “as students of the University of Georgia, we do not support this!” After rudely interrupting, a group of about 25 people got up and walked out of the program. I know this doesn’t sound that intense, but it made myself and the others left in the room extremely angry. Not only was it disrespectful, but they generalized the entire student body of the University of Georgia saying that no one here supports Israel. I am a student here and I refuse to be put into a group that does not support my beliefs.
After their event this picture was posted on the organizations Facebook page:
This really made my blood boil. Never once has my club, Students Supporting Israel, made our advocacy about winning. This is disgusting and aggressive. These people clearly have no interest in any sort of peace process. They clearly don’t like Israel, don’t want Israel, and for me, this implies anti-Semitism. Whether it be the real message they were trying to get across, this is not okay. I would like to make it clear that I have never stood in the student union pointing fingers at the Palestinians. NEVER. I have tables that specifically talk about how Israel has done things for the environment, or how Israeli culture has influenced other parts of the world, or comparing US Politics to Israeli Politics, but never said hateful things about Palestinian people. Why is this about winning? Why can’t we set aside our differences and have an open forum discussion? What message are you trying to give across by coming to our events and getting up and leaving? You look immature, you look scared to hear facts you don’t want to hear, you look cowardly, and you look aggressive. If you are passionate about this cause, then do it in a way that doesn’t invoke winning. This cannot be about winning, it has to be about compromise. The winning card has been played too many times for this situation in the past, and look at where it has brought us…..nowhere.
To SJP: I want you to know that myself, the pro-Israel students at UGA, and in the United States are not afraid of you. We are not going to let you get in the way of us showing what Israel has done for the world and giving people the opportunities to form their own opinions. If you saw me on the street without knowing I had any connection to pro-Israel groups, you would welcome me with open arms. Instead, you stare at me, whisper about me, and dislike me. You don’t know me. You don’t know my stance on the politics of Israel. You don’t know my friends, my family, my opinions. You haven’t taken the chance once to ask me any questions, talk to me, or be my friend, and for that I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry that I can’t explain myself or answer your questions. I feel sorry that whatever I say to you will go in one ear and out the other. I feel sorry that you have shown aggression in this photograph instead of peacefulness, and I truly feel sorry that you take no opportunity to learn more. I have read, listened, and asked questions. I don’t always feel confident about what I read from one side, so I read it from another. Maybe it’s not the case for everyone in my position, but it is the case for me, so before you go and make your assumptions about me, you should remember that I am just another person trying to learn, educate, and understand and you will never keep me from doing that.