Israel is often misrepresented at Penn. Whether through the placement of black flags on College Green or the construction of an “apartheid wall” in front of Van Pelt Library, Israel is depicted as an abominable tyrant, and the substantive facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are deemed insignificant. The pro-Israel community at Penn actively chooses not to propagandize Israel, the conflict or the immensely complex situation in the Middle East. Portraying Israel’s geopolitical circumstances as simple or the conflict as one-sided is a disservice to the well-educated Penn community.
Last Thursday’s issue of The Daily Pennsylvanian and a banner on Locust Walk soon feature a leadership statement that affirms support for the United States-Israel relationship. The statement, coordinated by the Penn Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel group on campus, is signed by over 80 student leaders, as well as the Republican senator from Pennsylvania, Philadelphia’s new Democratic mayor and several candidates for the Philadelphia-area seat in the House of Representatives. The presidents and executive vice presidents of all four class boards, as well as many leaders of the Undergraduate Assembly, College Republicans, Penn Democrats and the Penn Political Coalition signed PIPAC’s 2016 Leadership Statement. The statement was also signed by leaders of Greek life organizations, minority coalitions, performing arts groups, community service groups, student publications and numerous other organizations that reach all corners of student life at Penn.
At the very least, this display of strong support for the U.S.-Israel relationship should encourage you to learn more about Israel and its important bond with the United States. It should further remind you that the aforementioned demonstrations, which are superficial and devoid of context, are just noise. Those who take the time to learn about the complexities of America’s strongest democratic ally in the Middle East become stronger advocates, producing nuanced arguments that account for the multiple sides of this political situation. By doing so, they can advance an allegiance to peace in the Middle East above any particular side.
To put it simply, Israel is complicated. Israel is barely larger than New Jersey, and it has an incredibly diverse population of Jews, Muslims, Christians and others with roots all around the world. It is a country in which people of all faiths work together in business, are treated together in hospitals and govern together in parliament.
However, Israel has enemies that seek its destruction from both outside and within its borders, thereby forcing proactive defense to be a constant necessity. Innocent Palestinians living in the West Bank are frequently subjected to security checkpoints where their mobility is unfairly restricted, and innocent Israeli Jews often walk in fear of being stabbed in the street because of their faith. The people of Israel — Jews, Muslims, Christians, etc. — live through these complexities and traumas every day.
The United States and Israel have always shared a deep bond. Both countries are committed to democracy, equality, human rights and the rule of law. Despite the myriad obstacles to peace, the two nations work together to pursue prosperity and stability in the Middle East. American and Israeli armed forces collaborate to keep both the United States and Israel safe from a seemingly infinite stream of threats. Furthermore, Israeli innovation, ranging from technology to pharmaceuticals to agriculture, has led to momentous progress in both societies.
Attempts to delegitimize and demonize Israel — through propaganda, divestment campaigns and boycotts — are not productive in achieving peace and prosperity for Israel, the Palestinians or the region. Instead, let’s make an effort to engage in dialogue with all sides. Let’s educate ourselves, read different articles recounting the same events and attempt to isolate the true impediments to peace. Unfortunately, we are not going to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East overnight. Nevertheless, by supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship, we can create an environment that is more conducive to peace in the long term.
In 2011, President Barack Obama said, “America’s commitment to Israel’s security flows from a deeper place — and that’s the values we share. As two people[s] who struggled to win our freedom against overwhelming odds, we understand that preserving the security for which our forefathers — and foremothers — fought must be the work of every generation. As two vibrant democracies, we recognize that the liberties and freedoms we cherish must be constantly nurtured. And as the nation that recognized the State of Israel moments after its independence, we have a profound commitment to its survival as a strong, secure homeland for the Jewish people.”
With that in mind, it is my hope that you — the Penn community — will see past the noise. Penn’s campus leaders have joined our policymakers and the White House in doing so. Now it is your turn.
JEREMY JICK is a senior in the College studying political science and economics. He is the outgoing president of Penn Israel Public Affairs Committee. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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