In their words, “the aim of Israel Apartheid Week is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.” BDS’s goals include: Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories, removal of the peace barrier in the West Bank, and the right of return of all 4.88 million Palestinians. Ensuring the end of the State of Israel.
During this week we spoke to all different kinds of people. Those who believed Israel had no right to exist. Others who claimed Israel is a colonialist, imperialist apartheid regime. I also met Zionists from Russia, Poland, Bangladesh and more. I spoke to Jewish students who were deeply grateful that we were speaking for them, and Jewish students who loathed us for our views. There were many students who told me they had no stake and just walked back and forth to converse and learn from both sides. There were others who were silent and simply listened.
By telling us the story of the Four Children, the Haggadah is reminding us to accept each person for who they are, what they know and begin from there. However the four archetypes, “one who is wise, one who is wicked, one who is simple, and one who does not even know how to ask” can also be understood in regards to four models of political engagement with Israel and Zionism.
The Smart Alec, Ashkenazi, Cherry Tomato Zionist:
This child’s heart is full of pride about Israel. He or she knows that at 70, Israel is a strong, prosperous country and is overwhelmingly optimistic for its future. He or she revels in the biblical landscapes of Israel and the skylines in Tel Aviv. When faced with criticism of Israel their response is, but did you know Israel invented the cherry tomato? Israel is a fun birthright trip. A sexy, sleek America with better hummus. They sit at the Passover Seder bursting with facts to tell of Israel’s technological achievements, how amazing supermodel Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was and how incredible the Startup Capital of the world is. Did you know Israel has more startups per capita than any other country in the world? They have no questions for you, but they supply answers to questions that you never asked.
To this child you will say, you are like Moses. You see the Promised Land but you are not here with us yet. Your Zionism is sweet but unsophisticated. Let me teach you to move beyond being an old Jew from Eastern Europe, and see yourself as the new Jew from Judea. When you visit Israel, you must think of yourself as an ancient Israelite returning home.
The Jewish Voices for Peace, Self-Hating Child:
This child grew up in a liberal Zionist community. He or she came to college yearning for acceptance. They wanted to be considered one of the ‘good’ Jews so they joined anti-Israel advocacy groups. They describe Israel as an apartheid, settler-colonialist regime and called for the boycott and sanction of Israeli products. They use their position as a Jew in an elite University or human right NGO to attack Israel.
They ask, “How could you support Israel a settler-colonialist state?”
Do not set this child’s teeth on edge. They hate Israel not because they are evil, but because the Diaspora has torn them away from their Jewish identity and indigenous roots. This child’s identity has been colonized, and it must be decolonized. As a parent and as a community we must educate them. An analysis of the genomes of 128 Ashkenazi Jews shows that we are all related to the same 350 people from 600 to 800 years ago who fled the Land of Israel. Thus, the creation of the state of Israel is a story of the self-determination of an indigenous people and should be used as a model for all indigenous peoples.
The “it’s complicated” I don’t have an opinion, Simple Child:
This child is a liberal idealist. They insist that there are two equal sides and repeatedly assure you that they just want peace. Why can’t we all get along? They’d rather not discuss historical claims, religious connections or assert any firm opinions. When asked about whether Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, they stress the importance of Jerusalem as an international city. They are not in the process of learning and reconnecting with Israel, but entirely apathetic to the idea of Zionism.
The “Doesn’t know how to ask”
This child doesn’t know where to start. They might be afraid. They might be uninterested. As a community, we must engage with this child.
You shall say to the simple child and the child who doesn’t know how to ask, “There is no reason to waver in our commitment to Israel and Zionism. We are Zionists not in spite of our liberal values, but because of them. Let us talk about how you feel most comfortable reconnecting and forming a personal connection with your homeland. This is not about telling you what to think, it’s about teaching you how to love your identity. Learn to be unabashedly proud of being Jewish and of your homeland, the modern State of Israel.”
I believe that this article misrepresents the different perspectives on Israel.
First of all, the smart Jew, in this article, is said to be a person who has blind support of Israel. When provided with criticism of Israel, he responds with “yeah but Israel’s got tomatoes!” Instead of teaching him to identify fully with Israel, I believe we should let him discover for himself that love for Israel does not mean he must agree with anything that the Israeli government does.
Second, Jews who disagree with Israel are not at all self-hating Jews. I do not find the explanation that they hold their opinion solely because they seek acceptance, and if they found it, then they’d return to agreeing with Israel. Instead of dismissing or fighting those who disagree with Israel, bring them into the conversation. Seek to understand them. Many who hold this opinion actually have a noble value- that each person is equally worthy of living a good life. They see that because of Israeli actions, many Palestinians are suffering. Some might counter that Israel only does this in self-defense. Unfortunately, this only creates a self-perpetuating cycle of violence. The Jew that holds this opinion has most likely found a way to express their opinion and feel as if they’re making a difference through political vehicles such as BDS. Do you disagree with the way that BDS functions? Offer a genuine alternative towards correcting the flaws in Israel. It’s very important to include these Jews in the conversation and respect their viewpoints, rather than exclude them. After all, those who led big, positive changes through the American Civil Rights Movements weren’t self-hating Americans- they were visionaries with goals for America.
Third, the “It’s complicated” Jew in this article wishes for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. I think this is valid. However, there is a claim that they aren’t in a process with connecting with Israel. In a way, I believe they are. Some might not be interested in the historical and religious claims to Israel. Others might simply believe that the loss of human life through the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more important than history, so they believe that it is in our best interest to strive towards peace and coexistence, even if it might mean giving up some land, as long as it would mean peace.
As for the last child- yes, you are telling them what to think. To teach them to love their identity and to love the modern state of Israel, that is the literal definition of telling them what to think. I believe it is important to hold a nuanced discussion, where your voice, the Smart N’ Sweet Zionist, the Jewish Voice for Peace, the “It’s Complicated” Jew, and the kid who doesn’t have a lot of information all have equal weight in the discussion.