By Ariel Koiman
Letter to the Editor
I want to start by noting that, until recently, I hadn’t realized how many other Jewish day-school alums go here. Who knew?
Regrettably, I haven’t spent enough time with the tribe lately; these days, you can usually find me at my adopted home, Beeghly Library, where I indulge in typical senior activities such as trying to graduate and finding gainful employment. Activism simply isn’t on my personal agenda, and to the many among this readership who concurrently excel in advocacy and academia, I admire you and I have no idea how you do it.
Last week, the Transcript ran an opinion piece jarring enough to capture my attention. In it, News Editor and former Jewish day-school attendee Emily Feldmesser declared her newfound acrimony toward the state of Israel, largely as a function of her having reevaluated her stance on the matter after leaving the “bubble” of Jewish day school.
For the uninitiated, Jewish day school (JDS) is, indeed, a bubble. There’s even a BuzzFeed list to prove it, and #9 and #15 on said list are so very true (here’s looking at you, Mrs. Rosenthal!). So I understand Emily’s eagerness to step back and reconsider what they hold self-evident in ‘the bubble’.
There’s another component of Jewish culture I’d like to share with you all: there is seldom any consensus about anything, and rigorous debate is commonplace with respect to religion, politics, and cottage cheese (yeah, really). If you’re not acquainted with Israeli politics, it’s a circus made up of thirty zillion political parties where they all hate each other and form alliances rivaling those on “Survivor.” This extends to attitudes toward the Palestinians, where Knesset member opinions vary from the overly wary to the entirely sympathetic.
Yes, folks, the Middle East situation is ugly, and just as the conflict isn’t black and white, neither is the Israeli role therein.
As it was at my JDS, there exists no commonly held view that Israel is perfect, immune to criticism, or innocent of any and all wrongdoing. It is not the nature of the bubble to push one idyllic view onto young Jews while sweeping unpleasant truths under the rug.
I, like Feldmesser, do not blindly support Israel. But I contend that I never have; after all, blind support would entail being oblivious to the circumstances Palestinians endure. With the onslaught of vitriol that is part and parcel of my Israeli and Jewish heritage, being oblivious is impossible.
My support is the result of an informed decision, because awareness of the conflict’s tragic nature and concern for the welfare of Israel are not mutually exclusive. That informed decision came from constructive, robust conversations, wherein we don’t shy away from the tough questions and don’t ignore the facts.
Such facts do not include unfounded comparisons to Nazi Germany and misleading maps that present British Mandate Palestine as the Palestinian state, as were both published in the Transcript last week.
These tactics are used by hate groups who wish to see Israel’s undoing, not the peace that Feldmesser and I so rightfully aspire for. A prosperous peace means that both parties should abandon their mutual mistrust and entrenched cynicism, acknowledging that lasting peace is more worthwhile.
This isn’t just boundless optimism talking: the Irish Republican Army reached this very conclusion less than a decade ago, during the aftermath of the Troubles, stressing that “We are conscious that many people suffered in the conflict. There is a compelling imperative on all sides to build a just and lasting peace.”
To Feldmesser and those with similar persuasions, let me emphasize that you absolutely have standing in the vibrant, ongoing debate about Israel’s role in the conflict. Don’t be surprised to find that the Israeli Jewish community isn’t a monolith, nobody is trying to silence you, and you can influence others within the community without feeling compelled to speak out against it.
I, for one, look forward to reading more of Feldmesser insights about international relations in her weekly column, the Global Grab, but I also hope to never again see such generalizations of Israelis and the conflict on this campus. We’re better than that.