‘My country right or wrong’ — indoctrination in defense of Israel

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on 17 Comments

This past Monday evening, there was a meeting organized by the Westchester Jewish Council and sponsored by six other “pro-Israel” campus organizations (including Hillel, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League and Jewish National Fund), titled “A Night of Exploring Israel Bias and Anti-Semitism on Campus,” and attempting to equip Jewish college students with the tools necessary to combat “anti-Israel” activity, thereby preserving their “Jewish identity” from attack by proponents of BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions).

Unfortunately, it was an indoctrination session rather than a real attempt to discuss the facts on the ground or the dialogue actually occurring on college campuses across the country. Of seven or eight speakers, only the last acknowledged (briefly) Palestinian suffering. There was otherwise virtually no mention of the Palestinians and how they actually live, either within or outside the Green Line, which of course is what the BDS movement is all about.

At the outset of the meeting, the Executive Director of Hillel of Westchester promised that “We do not intended to endorse any point of view” and then, in an attempt to arm students with “the facts” which could be used to defend Israel, immediately showed a video created by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and narrated by then Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon of the Yisrael Beiteinu party (headed by right-wing ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s likely new Defense Minister). The video argued that the West Bank is not occupied territory, the settlements are not illegal, the 1967 borders are not borders at all, and that there is and never has been a Palestine or Palestinians!

One had to wonder how far those “facts” are going to get the poor kids who try to argue them on American campuses today. By the way, one of the sources cited by Ayalon was Eugene Rostow. For those of you under 50, Rostow was President Johnson’s Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and a staunch proponent of the Vietnam War, the pre-eminent moral and political issue of my college time, as Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is for American Jewish college students today.

Those of us who vigorously criticized the Vietnam War then were no more “anti-American” than those criticizing Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians today are “anti-Israel.” To the cries of “My country right or wrong,” we responded, “My country right or wrong; when it is right, keep it right; when it is wrong, make it right.”

At a time when IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan, former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak are warning about the “seeds of fascism” proliferating in Israel, it was truly remarkable (and sad) there was no acknowledgment that Jewish students of good will could disagree about the increasingly right-wing and ultranationalist cast of Israel and its government today. The speakers were content to trot out tired and discredited lines about both historical and current Israel. It was just “us against the BDSers.”

But Jewish and other students on campus today clamoring for Open Hillel, for BDS, for the right to criticize and pressure Israel to align its policies with Jewish moral and religious values — they are “pro-Israel,” not “anti-Israel.” The criticism and pressure they seek to bring to bear on Israel may be “tough love,” but it is not hate. And if it represents a challenge to newly-arrived Jewish students’ identity, so be it. That is what college is for: vigorous debate and argument with those who disagree, researching the facts and figuring out what values you really stand for when push comes to shove. Instead of shutting down the dialogue with “BDS’ers,” Jews who care passionately about Israel and its future should welcome it.

About Robert Herbst

Robert Herbst is chapter coordinator for Westchester Jewish Voice for Peace and a civil rights lawyer

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17 Responses

  1. lyn117
    May 26, 2016, 3:25 pm

    There were actually one or two facts in that video, but I lost count of the lies.

  2. xanadou
    May 26, 2016, 7:47 pm

    Desperation leaning over the edge of madness.

  3. Kay24
    May 26, 2016, 9:55 pm

    Rewriting history and treating the world as if everyone was ignorant about facts.

    Maybe they are not intelligent enough to realize that spewing the same old lies over and over, does not make it a fact.

  4. Atlantaiconoclast
    May 26, 2016, 11:21 pm

    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/531776668479961134/ Anyone who denies that Palestine existed should see this. Golda Meier wrote “Palestine” on her own passport for goodness sake.

  5. Talkback
    May 27, 2016, 5:30 am

    What Comical Danny maybe wants to tell us is that his parents like most of the Jews never legally acquired citizenship in the state of Palestine under mandate and therefore had no right to self determination in Palestine.

  6. pabelmont
    May 27, 2016, 6:02 am

    When all the Zios are panicking, it helps THEM to “go to camp” and “sing all the old Zionist songs”. It doesn’t make the “songs” true, but helps with social cohesion among the “tribe”.

    The corruption, here, is in indoctrinating the young, who should have a right to make their own decisions (and “know” their own “knowledge”) about I/P (as about anything else), just as we here at M/W are coming to “know” our own “knowledge”. I would say, to coin a term, that young Jewish Americans have a “birthright” (as Americans) to know as much “truth” as they can get.

    But we have a lot of propaganda in America too. And political manipulation. Look at Obama/Lynch/FBI sitting around waiting for the outcome of the Democratic Party convention before reporting on the famous Clinton emails.
    How many times have Americans been told that we are “the greatest nation on earth” and our Congress is “the greatest deliberative body on earth”. Gee, maybe the Trump and Sanders supporters don’t believe it anymore and are finding their own “truth”.

    Soon, the young Jews will discover the “truth” about Israel. and it is not that there is no higher “good” than “circling the wagons”.

  7. Shmuel
    May 27, 2016, 6:26 am

    When I lived in Israel and was active in the Zionist left and, eventually, in the non-Zionist left, I always felt uncomfortable with the argument that what we were doing was no less or even more “patriotic” than the views and actions of the right. Establishing some sort of loyalty, nationalism or love of country as the acceptable parameters of discourse inevitably put our basic positions of universal rights and justice at a disadvantage, and was often used to exclude us from the conversation altogether.

    When I moved to Europe, I discovered a similar dynamic at play, in general society (where being a “friend of Israel” seemed to be a sine qua non for any form of public and even not-so-public life), but especially within the local Jewish community, where critical voices were silenced by setting the boundaries of legitimacy at “we all love Israel”.

    Must we be stuck in a perpetual Scholem-Arendt Ahabath Israel (love of the Jewish people) loop? When such a framework for discourse is established, love of higher ideals, such as justice and equality, gets sidelined or discounted altogether. Let’s not play that game. Justice is justice for all, not the zero sum game of who we love best.

    • silamcuz
      May 27, 2016, 6:40 am

      This is something that resonates with me. I find it bizarre that many activist groups are focusing on the right-wing domination of Israel’s government as the focal point of their opposition to Zionism. So would this mean that if Israel elected a progressive left-wing government, the source of contention would cease to be and everything is OK?

      Obviously I don’t think so, because both right and left wing are operating within a framework that is illegally founded and therefore, both are equal participants of the crime of Zionism. True progressives are the ones who calls for the dismantling of the entire Israeli state establishment, including its political system and all of the parties that exists within. They are the ones who call for Palestine to be returned wholly as it was before Zionism arrived, and acknowledge that Palestinians as the indigenous population, are the true custodians of their homeland.

  8. eljay
    May 27, 2016, 7:14 am

    … At the outset of the meeting, the Executive Director of Hillel of Westchester promised that “We do not intended to endorse any point of view” and then … immediately showed a video created by the Israeli Foreign Ministry … The video argued that the West Bank is not occupied territory, the settlements are not illegal, the 1967 borders are not borders at all, and that there is and never has been a Palestine or Palestinians! …

    That’s a very Trump-like neutrality on I-P.

  9. a blah chick
    May 27, 2016, 10:16 am

    “One had to wonder how far those “facts” are going to get the poor kids who try to argue them on American campuses today.”

    They’ll be useless in any debate, which is why the anti-BDSers seek to ban protest rather than engage in debate. They simply do not have any answers that would resonate with a non-Zionist audience.

  10. johneill
    May 27, 2016, 10:18 am

    this video has the same logic as the push to rephrase int’l laws concerning human rights, so nitpick-y and obviously meant to “define what ‘is’ is.” that the groups (zionist terrorists) who benefited most (in the form of a religious-state that is *technically* not a theocracy) from these laws and ideas are now seeking to subvert them speaks volumes about the corrupting nature of power, and the quick memory of those seeking it.
    to state the obvious – encore une fois: never again means never again for anybody.

  11. SerenaGaza
    May 27, 2016, 12:12 pm

    Dearest friends of Mondoweiss, why such an old video (2011)?! I will not share it, we need something newer, exspecially about WB, since it’s little spoken about. Love

  12. Mike Hite
    May 27, 2016, 2:27 pm

    One of the main problems with the truth being brought out is when even a Jew writes about it he is labeled a self hating Jew or anti semitic. The treatment of Ted Katz and Ilan Pappe are great examples of how Zionist destroy anyones narrative but their own.

  13. ohplease
    May 27, 2016, 10:45 pm

    I remember growing up we were shown a map of Israel with no green line. The Palestinians were never mentioned as existing

  14. hophmi
    May 28, 2016, 3:59 pm

    “That is what college is for: vigorous debate and argument with those who disagree.”

    No one who pays attention to what college campuses are actually like would call them places of vigorous debate and argument with those who disagree.”. It is exactly the opposite right now.

    • Mooser
      May 28, 2016, 5:08 pm

      ” It is exactly the opposite right now.”

      Well, Saturday evenings aren’t the best time. Students like to go out, have a beer, hear some music, dance, you know.

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