On Wednesday, the David Horowitz Center published a full-page advertisement in the Yale Daily News and other college newspapers in order to combat Israel Apartheid Week. The splashy ad was entitled “Wall of Lies,” and detailed falsifications on the part of the anti-Israel movement. In response, on the same day, the Slifka Center at Yale printed their own page, billed as a set of Jewish “truths.” In doing so, the Slifka administration implied that they uniquely speak for all supporters of the state of Israel on campus. While I deeply respect Rabbi Ponet and the Student Board of Slifka, they have mischaracterized my values and the ideals of many on this campus.
The authors of the Slifka advertisement wrote that supporters of Israel merely believe in the right of the State to exist. They then went on to talk about interfaith dialogue and the need for tolerance across communities. While these goals are admirable, they fail to address the real issue at play: During Israel Apartheid Week (and year round), many around the United States (and here at Yale) have attacked the legitimacy of the Jewish State through incorrect, misleading and deceptive arguments.
On Thursday, a student group brought Mazin Qumsiye, a self-proclaimed Palestinian activist, to campus in order to set the record straight on Israel. Mr. Qumsiye, a former professor at Yale, has publically claimed that a Zionist cabal dictates U.S. foreign policy and pushes for the formation of an American police state.
In the light of these farfetched claims and in the absence of constructive dialogue, here is what I know to be true:
Israel’s right to exist stems from three unique sources: Jews have documented historical ties to the land of Israel; Jews have been uniquely persecuted throughout history — during the Holocaust, nations watched the genocide of six million, and the state of Israel exists (in part) to be a defended home for Jewish people around the world; and a UN mandate in 1948 (thought necessary by some, though not me) provided for the establishment of Israel recognizing the above two facts.
The so-called international community subjects Israel to a hypocritical double standard. We expect no other nation to endure terrorist attacks on its civilian population and not respond with force. While, regrettably, civilians always die in war, the State of Israel has never directly targeted innocents — a stark contrast to the PLO, Hamas and other Arab nationalist originations.
Israel is not an apartheid state. It provides voting and civil rights for its minority Arab population. Arab representatives serve in the Israeli Parliament, and the Supreme Court of Israel routinely hears (and supports) Arab cases of discrimination.
Israel is a liberal democracy, the only one of its kind in the Middle East. It allows gays to serve openly in the military, and prosecutes elected officials who violate its laws. Only a few days ago, a former Israeli president was convicted on two rape charges. Imagine Syria, Iran or Libya holding its leaders to a similar account.
Israel is a center of brimming commerce and activity that has positively influenced the world through its inventions and humanitarian efforts. During the disaster in Haiti, Israeli rescue teams were some of the first on the scene; in a sensational story, they saved a women trapped for six days in the rubble. Israeli pharmaceutical and agricultural technologies have created a better standard of living for people all around the globe. These creative businesses are often started by and employ Israeli-Arabs; they have far more hope of a better life in Israel than in any neighboring country.
This short column is not meant to be a definitive defense of Israel. Instead, I hope to restart the dialogue on campus that has been lost in conversation the past few days. Israel is not perfect; it makes mistake too. But the Slifka Center did a disservice to the cause of the State of Israel by setting the bar for “truths” so low.
Nathaniel Zelinsky is a sophomore in Davenport College.
Correction: March 26, 2011
An earlier version of this column initially incorrectly said that Israel had convicted a former Prime Minister on rape charges. The official, Moshe Katsav, was actually the former president of Israel.