Advocacy During Battle

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I had planned a much more focused piece on the issue of strategy and advocacy, but with rockets raining down on Israel and the chances for escalation increasing, I decided instead to share a few semi-related thoughts:

  1. Kudos to Israeli diplomat Ido Aharoni who recently asked a crowd gathered at the JFNA General Assembly in Baltimore to reconsider some prevailing views on advocacy. In telling the group that activism should not be based on debating or debunking arguments ad nauseam, he stated, “Now we know that the real purpose of human communications is to build relationships.” For those readers that have followed this blog or The David Project as a whole over the past year, it should come as no surprise that we fully agree with that assessment. Building support for Israel, especially on campus, is not the result of responding to insidious allegations or claims of brutality, but by establishing and strengthening relationships with members of a diverse student body. This approach may seem ridiculous during times of conflict, however…
  2. We have been asked by multiple community members and students over the past few days whether they should counter-protest at the anti-Israel demonstrations taking place in various cities and on multiple campuses. My question to them is, “What will that accomplish?” Many advocates may disagree with me in encouraging people to stay away from such events, but I see little value in screaming at or picketing near a group of anti-Israel zealots. While the exercise may be cathartic, the benefits are probably minimal. The chances of convincing Israel’s detractors to support Israel, or even take a more nuanced look at the situation, are pathetically small. If our goal is to show our support for Israel, and the government’s right to defend its citizens, we can think of more constructive ways. With this latest battle raging, sparking additional calls for divestment on campus, it is all the more critical that pro-Israel activists use their energy to build relationships (see point #1 above) that yield understanding, and hopefully compassion for everyone involved. We can and should be vocal, but let’s also be productive.
  3. Finally, I think most people agree that the Middle East is an extremely complicated region with challenging moral and ethical dilemmas, not the least of which is how and when to respond to aggression. On numerous cases over the past few years, the Israeli government has shown restraint in dealing with rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza. The people of Sderot, especially, have lived under constant threat and ongoing fear, and I’m sure frustration at what may seem like indifference from the country’s leaders. Now, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and near Jerusalem, some individuals are suggesting that redlines had been crossed. Do statements like that suggest that targeting minor population centers in the south is somewhat acceptable and just a fact of life in the region, but hitting better-known cities is a grave violation? Is the targeting of one area less worthy of a response than the rocketing of another? One act of aggression is the crossing of a redline, the other just a dangerous nuisance? These issues must weigh heavily on the minds of those leaders charged with protecting civilians. Though I don’t have to make those calls in a time of battle, I certainly respect those individuals that must, and like everyone, I hope this latest round comes to an end quickly for everyone living in “redlined” areas and everywhere else.