Let's Repeat the Obvious on Israel

COMMENT

Being a Zionist has never been easy. It means having to constantly repeat the obvious without sounding shrill or tedious.

This need for repetition stems from an unfortunate fact: Jews and Zionists have to defend themselves from allegations that would be thought completely outrageous if brought against any other group. For example, a columnist for the Yale Daily News argued last week that “the prevalence of Jews in American media, business and politics help explain America’s steadfast support for Israel.”

By grouping together individual Americans who happen to be Jewish, columnist Sahm Adrangi lumps together an extremely heterogeneous group of people and implies that they have divided loyalties between their professions and their “duty” to Israel. If any other group—say third-generation Scottish Americans—were subjected to the same charge, it would be laughable.

Adrangi further observes that the top positions at his Yale newspaper are held by Jews, suggesting that for this reason, the newspaper supports Israel. His comments came in the context of support for the poet Amiri Baraka, who famously claimed in a poem that Israelis were warned to leave the World Trade Center before its destruction.

I am a Jew. I am a Zionist. As an executive editor of The Crimson, I have met Jewish journalists from every part of the spectrum between Zionism and anti-Zionism. To repeat the obvious, Zionists do not control the American media.

Others have also taken it upon themselves to repeat the obvious about Israel. In a measured and clear-headed response to the knee-jerk detractors of Israel, a group of Harvard students has put together a petition that repeats what everyone should agree upon.

The petition, organized by Harvard Students for Israel, states that the signers “stand with Israel in the name of democracy, freedom and peace.” The petition argues that peace must not come at the expense of Israel’s security, that all nations of the Middle East must participate in creating peace and that terrorism is the common enemy of both Israel and the United States.

The petitioners are supported by student signers from every state, from many countries and from myriad ethnic backgrounds. Not just Jews signed this petition. The signatures of more than 1,000 current Harvard students show that support for Israel and reasoned, clear-headed positions on Israel’s current war have widespread support at this university. The organizers published the names of signers in The Crimson today.

For any other nation on earth, such a statement of support might seem superfluous. But Israel, unfortunately, is different. In a column last week, Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times cited Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen for his explanation of the double standard with Israel. “For too many Europeans, Arabs are of no moral interest in and of themselves,” Cohen writes. “They only become of interest if they are fighting Jews or being manhandled by Jews.”

The petitioners want to displace this old, bloody double standard. They envision peace in the Middle East and an end to the conflict now consuming both Israel and the Palestinians. They will need to persevere, however, and they will need to repeat the obvious, because old lies die slowly.

—Jonathan H. Esensten is an executive editor.