Entering into my fourth year of college, I have seen the ups and downs of the Arab-Israeli debate. Sometimes you manage to come up on top. Sometimes you are caught off guard and find yourself between a rock and a hard place. Regardless of the outcome, every Zionist activist emerges stronger, smarter, and earns points for their credibility. I have been fortunate enough to come as far as I have in this field, but I did not do this alone. I have to thank CAMERA for every like I get on my posts, for every share my articles receive, and for every retweet my commentary acquires. Without CAMERA, I would not have met some of the finest activists I have the honor of knowing, nor the courage to stand up for what is both right and just.
Coming back to the CAMERA Student Leadership and Advocacy Training conference for the second consecutive year did not seem like a formality. It gave me a lens as to what great talent and influence this new group of Fellows and Liaisons has in store for their respective campuses. It was a microcosm of how powerful our voices can truly be following a hectic summer of violence, war, media bias, misrepresentation of facts, and above all, the rising Jew-hatred that has reemerged from the depths of hell. Nobody left this conference feeling scared, but rather empowered and emboldened to take on the vast challenges that lie ahead in the coming year.
For some of us, the battle has already begun. Our dear friend and colleague Daniel Vessal managed to receive a fistful of hate while others found themselves preparing for battle following Students for Justice in Palestine’s latest call for “intifada” a month from now. No, this is not going to be easy, but standing up for what is just is never easy.
It was not easy for Judah the Maccabee to come out of the woodwork to start a revolt against not only the Seleucid Greeks under Antiocus IV, but also the thousands of Hellenized Jews who joined the ranks of the Greeks in an attempt to end the Talmudic Jewish presence from Judea.
It was not easy for John Brown to step away from his white privilege lifestyle and join the abolitionist fight to emancipate the slaves in the mid-19th century.
It was certainly not easy for Martin Luther King Jr. to march on Selma, to speak in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and to sit-in to protest against Jim Crow laws and the vast racism against African-Americans.
But we, the Zionist community, stand at the crossroads of a major battle for our legitimacy and to preserve the very tenants that Theodore Herzl and many after him fought for.
Zionism is a declaration of the Jewish people’s right to freedom, self-determination, and a state in their indigenous homeland: Judea. Not “Palestine.” During this conference, we were constantly reminded of our grand history as freedom fighters for the rights of all Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, women, LGBTQ, African, and all other groups who live in the State of Israel practicing equal freedoms, civil liberties, and above all, political and socioeconomic rights.
The State of Israel is a light unto the nations that demonstrates the greatest examples of liberalism in our time. Israel is far from perfect, because no system of government emits perfection. But it is not only naïve to expect any country to show immaculate policies, but it is also anti-Semitic to hold Israel to a higher standard than that of Canada, the United States, European nations, and especially the not-free Arab world. That is what we will face in the coming months. That notion that Israel should be held to a higher standard is precisely what we must defeat. We are charged with fighting this battle, and we will succeed.
So what is my take following last week’s conference? I believe that CAMERA successfully taught 52 amazing student leaders how to properly defend Israel and to stand up against not only the gross injustices of both Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, but also the grand deception of J Street. This is my eighth year in Zionist advocacy, but I left this conference as if I just started over. I have been reinvigorated. I have received a reboot. I have a new set of friends and colleagues willing to join me in battle against the anti-Israel and anti-Zionist opinions infecting our college campuses.
No more will we stand idly by. No longer shall we remain silent. The Zionist community has come alive once again for another yearlong battle for legitimacy. CAMERA has done its part in teaching us; now we must apply.
Good luck, everybody! I will see you on the information front.
Contributed by Elliott Hamilton, CAMERA Fellow 2014-2015.