Saturday, 8 May 2010

Love of the Land: If This is Our Future

If This is Our Future

Daniel Gordis
07 May '10
Posted before Shabbat

Imagine this, if you can. A prestigious university in the United States, with deep roots in the American Jewish community, invites Israel’s ambassador to deliver its annual commencement address. But instead of expressing pride in the choice of speaker and in the country that he represents, the university’s students, many of them Jewish, protest. They don’t want to hear from the ambassador. (See this Facebook page.) He’s a “divisive” figure, the student newspaper argues, and the students deserved better.

Tragically, of course, there’s nothing hypothetical about the scenario. Brandeis University recently decided to award honorary degrees to Michael Oren, Dennis Ross and Paul Simon, among others, at its May 23 commencement, and Ambassador Oren, an extraordinary orator among his many other qualities, was invited to deliver the commencement address.

But the days in which Jewish students on an American campus would have been thrilled to have the Israeli ambassador honored by their school are apparently long since gone. Brandeis’s student newspaper, The Justice (how’s that for irony?), deplored the choice, writing that “Mr. Oren is a divisive and inappropriate choice for keynote speaker at commencement, and we disapprove of the university’s decision to grant someone of his polarity on this campus that honor.”

The ambassador is a polarizing figure? Why is that? Because, the editorial continues, “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a hotly contested political issue, one that inspires students with serious positions on the topic to fervently defend and promote their views.”

This is where we are today. For many young American Jews, the only association they have with Israel is the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel is the country that oppresses Palestinians, and nothing more.

No longer is Israel the country that managed to forge a future for the Jewish people when it was left in tatters after the Holocaust. Israel is not, in their minds, the country that gave refuge to hundreds of thousands of Jews expelled from North Africa when they had nowhere else to go, granting them all citizenship, in a policy dramatically different from the cynical decisions of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan to turn their Palestinian refugees into pawns in what they (correctly) assumed would be a lengthy battle with Israel.

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Love of the Land: If This is Our Future

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