Stop Trying To ‘Win’ The Campus Battle Over Israel
The 2016 Presidential election shook and widened the partisan gaps in American politics. Nowhere is this most reflected than college campuses throughout the United States. With each passing year, the number of student advocates and political bodies on campuses continue to steadily grow. The involvement of these students extends beyond tabling events to community outreach programs and even participation in national movements. Unfortunately, the fragile sentiments on campuses have served as a magnet attracting certain organizations that seek to manipulate specific agendas. It seems that even some of the most prestigious universities in the country have fallen hostage to the deceit radiated by these organizations in disguise.
At the onset of the 2014 “Pillar of Defense” operation, I was living on Kibbutz two kilometers from the border with Gaza — and constantly seeking refuge from incoming rocket attacks. Within a month after a ceasefire was reached with Hamas, I was drafted into the IDF as a combat paratrooper. While stationed in Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank, I saw with my own eyes the results of hateful indoctrination. I saw Palestinian children being given knives by parents encouraged to stab Jews. I was in the front lines and lost friends to horrific terror attacks. But I also saw the hope for peace and reconciliation among both Israelis and Palestinians.
None of these experiences compared to the shock I felt upon my return to the United States. Shortly after I commenced my graduate studies in Diplomacy/International Security at IDC Hertzeliya in Israel, I began to participate in delegations to the U.S. to speak about both my experiences in the IDF and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From Boston to Los Angeles, I witnessed Israel being portrayed in college campuses, by students and professors alike, as an apartheid nation, or IDF soldiers being compared to genocidal maniacs. Banners have shamefully been placed throughout the campuses of some of the most prestigious universities in this country demanding Israel cut its alliance with ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
The vindictive and polarized approach to discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, recurrent in college campuses throughout the nation, is an inherent obstacle to peace in the Middle East — and we must work to change it. How can we expect two fighting people to enter negotiations if we, thousands of miles away from the conflict, are unwilling to share different viewpoints based on historical and political truths?
But there is one sentiment that gives me hope: people in the United States want to be on the right side of history. Organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine draft supporters with the simple notion of joining the world’s most contemporary human rights crisis as social justice warriors. Despite the clear exaggeration, it works.
My family left Argentina for the United States when I was a young boy in search of a better future for me and my brothers. Throughout my high school and undergraduate education, I witnessed all the incredible opportunities that my family was given, opportunities that we would not have received in Buenos Aires.
I know this country, and its values. I know that ignorance is not promoted, and enlightenment is abundant. The majority of students want to be involved in noble causes, they want to make a positive change in the world. Through either victimization strategies or massive social media campaigns, Israel continues to be neglectfully placed on a pedestal of shame with accusations that would not even be fit for some of the most horrible regimes in the international community. I came back to the U.S. with the determination to use my academic background and experiences of the battlefield to project a new vision for change.
This new vision requires difficult dialogue between those who may vehemently disagree, always aimed at discovering the truth rather than “winning.” It will require hard work to build relationships. But I remain optimistic that truth and open-mindedness will triumph over ignorance, and that Americans can help bring about an end to the conflict rather than prolong it. Despite the difficulties that lay ahead, I am excited and grateful to return to the U.S. and work towards promoting the same values that make this country great. Will you join me?