Avoiding the issues, not fighting for Israel

By Lior Sayada, October 17, 2011

As an active Jewish student on campus, I feel that I have to defend Rabbi Yitzchak Shochet against the accusation that he is "misinformed and naïve", while defending myself and many of my Jewish friends at Birmingham University from the charge that we have "gone soft".

I have been involved in Birmingham JSoc and its campaigns for two years now and am strongly against the "Liberation" campaign. Unfortunately I was a lone voice in the meeting discussing the possibility of running the campaign in Birmingham, but my views are shared by many Jewish students who are less involved.

The campaign, as I read in its leaflet just two weeks ago, seeks to defend Israel by calling for the liberation of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and argues that someone who believes in Palestinian nationalism has to believe in Zionism, the Jewish self determination movement.

It will only damage Israel's reputation on campus

Lior Sayada

It sounds like a clever idea to win support we wouldn't otherwise get from undecided politically involved students. The campaign says that Palestinian liberation can only come about through Israel having security and that Israeli liberation can only come about through a Palestinian state. On the surface the campaign sounds fair but digging deeper I believe there are some fatal flaws that will only damage Israel's reputation on campus further.

It is true that most Jewish organisations in the UK support a two state solution, but this does not mean we need to openly wave the Palestinian flag. This flag was officially adopted as the flag of the Palestinian people in 1964 by none other than the PLO. For me, flying this flag as part of a Jewish Society campaign is completely against our Jewish values. Have we no respect for the lives of countless Jews whose deaths have been celebrated by the waving of this flag?

And what does Palestinian liberation even mean? Liberation from war? Liberation from the occupation? Liberation from the Israeli oppressor? It doesn't take too many steps to link the idea of Palestinian liberation to putting the blame on Israel. The ambiguity just feeds the stinging attacks against Israel on campus.

UJS believes this campaign is better than the simple hasbara of the past, but I believe it is worse. Rather than continuing to fight the lies and hate that the world throws against Israel, we are avoiding these issues. Since pro-Palestinian groups fight single-mindedly for their one cause, we are in essence giving three quarters of campaign space to the Palestinian cause, and only a measly quarter to Israel, the country which needs more protection than ever.

It seems to me that an element of my generation believes that Israel has wronged the Palestinians, when really Israel is a force for good in the world, a country that has had to make impossible choices in its short history. The Liberation campaign needs to disappear.

Lior Sayada is a student at Birmingham University

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Last updated: 4:32pm, October 17 2011