This piece was contributed by CAMERA on Campus’ Editor-in-Chief, Samantha Rose Mandeles.
On March 8th, I had the honor of speaking at a program alongside several of my heroes (former Israeli Ambassador Danny Ayalon and Sgt. [res] Benjamin Anthony of the IDF) about the dangers of and resistance to anti-Israel propaganda on college campuses. I spoke as a representative of the co-hosting organization, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Since 1982, CAMERA has worked to identify, correct, and prevent oppose media bias against Israel; we’ve been working on college campuses since the early 1990s to help students to do the same for their campus communities. As we stress to our students, we value truth and empirical evidence above all else—which is why I was surprised to read the New Jersey Jewish News’ (NJJN) characterization of our work, and the work of many other co-sponsoring organizations, as “espousing right-leaning positions.”
What does the NJJN, and the author of the piece in question (Debra Rubin) mean by “right-leaning”? By what criteria does Ms. Rubin decide that CAMERA, for instance, is right-wing?
Since our creation, CAMERA’s goal has always been to foster accurate reporting, careful analysis, and high academic standards within campus, local, national, and international media coverage of Israel and the Middle East. We believe firmly in the importance of exhaustive research and rigorous debate; our researchers’ time is frequently spent plumbing the depths of Lexis Nexus to find the origins of a citation, or discussing the finer points of language and legality as they apply to United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. CAMERA analysts subject their work to intense scrutiny by our colleagues; everything CAMERA publishes has been reviewed and checked many times.
CAMERA’s Boston headquarters office is home to a politically diverse crowd with varying viewpoints on international and domestic policy. I am privileged to work with Jews and non-Jews, religious and secular, Democrats, and Republicans, and independents, American-born and foreign. Walking through the hallway, you’ll hear fragments of conversations in English, Spanish, Hebrew, Russian, French, and yes, even Arabic. The one thing we all have in common? We’re proud Zionists.
Perhaps this is what Ms. Rubin means when she neatly categorizes us in her “right-leaning” box. After all, there are those in the American Middle East conversation who would have Diaspora Jewry believe that the only way to be truly be “pro-peace” and “pro-Israel” is to abnegate one’s own Zionism, disregard the history of antisemitism, and pressure Israel to take tactical risks with which its own population is largely uncomfortable. Groups that espouse such views often self-identify as politically left and cast themselves as the antidote to the staunchly Zionist position of groups like CAMERA.
Thus, “proudly Zionist” becomes “right-leaning.” Because CAMERA stands for right of Israel to exist in security and safety (this is the only remotely policy-like declaration CAMERA will make), we are suddenly “right-leaning,” and implicitly, it seems, all of our work is illegitimate. Suddenly, those hours sifting through newspaper archives, painstakingly pouring over Ben Gurion’s handwritten diary entries to glean their intended meaning, checking and double-checking our facts against primary sources—all amount to nothing more nuanced or complex than ”right-leaning.”
If Ms. Rubin casts CAMERA as an example of “right-leaning,” then she should clarify for her readership that, in the case of Israel, the labels “right” and “left” represent a new political reality, about which she should be explicit. She should clarify that supporting Israel—a pluralistic, tolerant, democratic, and (yes, imperfect) Jewish nation-state in which individual rights are protected by law—means that one leans to the right. Does blaming Israel for defending herself against her enemies—feudal monarchies, theocracies, and authoritarian dictatorships in which citizens’ human and civil rights are abrogated by law—then mean that one “leans to the left”?
Finally, Ms. Rubin should explain that in this case, where a journalist and a newspaper accept the emotionally manipulative political epithets “right” and “left” as useful in describing levels of support for Israel, “right” is an obvious position for people of morals and conscience on all sides of the political spectrum, and this CAMERA staffer is proud to be “right-leaning”—and will be, so long as that means “proud Zionist.”