This week Tikvah: Students for Israel held our sixth annual Israel Peace and Diversity Week (IPD Week). As always, there was an array of informative lectures, exciting activities and educational events about the most vibrant democracy in the Middle East.
Israel Peace and Diversity Week has special importance given the extreme misinformation being spread about the Israeli-Arab conflict. Among some on the fringe of American politics, it has become trendy to denigrate Israel. Outlandish claims about Israel spew from the mouths of the radical and ignorant; they hold misleading events and construct mock checkpoints on campus to supposedly mimic Israeli security checkpoints. In reality, checkpoints are not at all like they are portrayed (I can attest to this having been through a few myself). Moreover, they have contributed to a decline in suicide bombings and other terrorist activities over the last 10 years. Checkpoints are removed when security conditions improve, as more than 120 have been in recent years, according to the U.N. Notably, the IDF has removed major checkpoints in the West Bank in cities such as Jericho.
Notwithstanding Republican efforts to make supporting Israel a fringe issue, support for Israel is one of the few remaining areas of consensus in American politics. There are some very good reasons for this. Israel is the Middle East’s only true democracy where fundamental human rights are respected. Minorities are not excluded from political participation. Arabs hold prominent positions in key Israeli government offices, including the Supreme Court, the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry, the police force and regional councils. Israel is also the only country in the Middle East that respects women’s and gay rights. In fact, on Thursday, Tikvah hosted an event about LGBT rights in Israel. Women comprise 23 percent of Israel’s new parliament, and gays have long been able to serve openly in the military. Israel’s economy is buoyant, affording its citizens great opportunity, while a welfare state shelters Israel’s poor.
In the troubled Middle East, Israel is a shining example of what the freedoms we cherish can make possible. Small disagreements over specific policy aside, that is why Israel merits and receives support from liberals and conservatives alike, including from our president.
That is not to say that Israeli society is perfect nor that its record regarding the Palestinians is perfect. Yet, in light of the fact that Israel has been consistently under attack since its founding, its record is truly exemplary. No other free or democratic society has held so true to its values despite constantly being under threat. No matter that the peace process can sometimes seem interminable, the majority of Israelis remain committed to it. They want to see a Palestinian state alongside theirs and to coexist without fear of suicide bombings or rocket attacks. Israel should be commended for its shining virtues, not calumniated for its comparatively petty flaws.
The story of Israel is one that all Cal students should be able to empathize with and appreciate. It is the story of a people exiled from their homeland 2,000 years ago, who always yearned to return. Through a long and bitter exile, the land of Israel ever remained in Jewish minds, hearts and daily prayers. Zionism brought about the Jewish return to their ancestral homeland, the ingathering of exiles. On Tuesday, Tikvah hosted Gina Waldman, who shared her story of exile from Libya and discussed the struggles that Jewish refugees have faced throughout the Muslim world. Israel has sought peace with its hostile neighbors since it was reborn as a state. It still does.
Tikvah: Students for Israel shares this Israeli hope. We refuse to stoop to the hate-mongering tactics of the anti-Israel movement on this campus. We desire to see a viable and prosperous Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel and peaceful coexistence.
Ariel Fridman is a member of Tikvah: Students for Israel.