January 25, 2019
Civility. It was something basic to our society. We were taught at home to be respectful of other people, specifically those older than ourselves. We were taught to listen to other peoples’ opinions, not interrupt and then offer our own take on the subject—with respect.
Recently, times have changed. When it comes to matters Jewish, or the subject of Israel, Jews can tend to be more dogmatic than even the loudest of the chatterers filling the 24-hour news cycle. In the beginning, it was simple. The Jews were a people who had been cast out of their land. By the Romans. Then the Ottoman Turks cast out the Romans. In WWI the British cast out the Turks. The Jews saw an opportunity and the necessity of going back to the land that had been in the hands of foreign powers for better than two millennia.
Were there people living in the land? Of course. Mainly farmers, mostly Arabs and most of them tenant farmers on land owned by Turkish interests—although there were Jewish villages that had never left, even when the Romans took over. But, the fact remains that since the Romans destroyed the Second Jewish Commonwealth, there had been no legal internal government in that land.
In 1947, the United Nations, in a nation-by-nation vote, elected to divide the land between Jews and Arabs (the word “Palestinian” is nowhere to be found in the document). As we all know the Jews agreed to give up half their land, but the Arabs wanted it all.
After four wars, the Arab nations gave up the possibility of removing Jews from their native land by force and now operate in the shadows using money and influence to change the narrative. Somehow, they have managed to penetrate the conscience of a large number of people—including a number of Jews, mostly young Jews.
Never believe for a moment that the #Ifnotnow movement sprang from ultraliberal young Jews suddenly concerned for Arab citizens of Israel, West Bank politics and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It took organization, money and personnel to have the effect that is now plaguing Birthright and has practically destroyed the purpose of the “Women’s March.” When you see a Linda Sarsour or a Tamika Mallory in leadership roles of the “March,” know that anti-Semitism has taken root in this once proud endeavor. Sarsour and Mallory are anti-Semites to their core. Sarsour because of her background and hatred of Israel and therefore Jews. Mallory as an acolyte of Farrakhan.
Birthright and the High School in Israel programs are now under attack. Those on the extreme left have been reached and to some extent educated in a false narrative about Israel. The target market for #ifnotnow are young—including young Jews; very few of whom have been to Israel and fewer still who have been there long enough to get a true picture of daily life.
Is there to some extent discriminatory treatment of the Arab population in Israel? Yes. But a much greater problem for them arises when they want their children to be integrated into the daily life and opportunities in the country. Our daughter Tracy, who has lived in Israel for almost two decades, tried to start a joint Arab/Jewish opera company of young people a few years ago. As soon as it began to get some traction, Arab militants went to the homes of these youngsters and warned their parents not to participate in any joint Arab/Israeli programs or they would be killed.
Should Birthright include some dialogue and open discussion on the Arab population of the Jewish nation? Absolutely—but not a narrative directed by anti-Israel, anti-Semitic radicals. Now, Birthright’s reaction to young people taunting their groups on the way to Israel is neither smart nor effective.
These young, virtually untrained “counselors” get into arguments at U.S. airports as the trip is leaving. These confrontations are not spontaneous. They are well planned. The Birthright “counselors” obviously have not been trained to handle and defuse these confrontations. They should be. To shoo these #ifnotnow people off only leaves the Birthright attendees curious and ready to ask questions which their “counselors” obviously cannot handle.
What the Birthright youngsters are getting is an uneven and unproductive answer to their questions. Questions that need to be answered if these first-time travelers to Israel are to get the truth. And, it should be done with civility—something lacking presently in our national discussions and will never be part of the #ifnotnow narrative.