“Israel is not a witness to be put on a stand for cross-examination,” Sergeant Benjamin Anthony said in addressing students at a Realize Israel NYU event on Tuesday, March 29th. Sergeant Anthony, founder of Our Soldiers Speak, was discussing the gross double standard to which Israel is constantly held in the court of public opinion. Israel, as a country, should not have to defend her right to exist more than does any other sovereign nation.
Israel’s right to self-defense is often unnecessarily justified by the citing of statistics which prove that Israel has a diverse governing body, or that it is the home of a disproportionate amount of successful startups. However, as Sgt. Anthony said: “it is not democracy for which we fight….it is not about technology.” Yes, those things are important facets of Israeli culture and contribute to its status as a significant player on the world stage. It is true that it is the only place in the region that affords rights to all people, regardless of gender, race, religion, or creed. It is a beacon of democracy and equality, but this is not what gives Israel its significance or its right to exist. Israel is inherently significant for the fact that it “is not just a country. It is also a people.”
At the end of the day, what is so vital about Israel is its nature as the homeland of the Jewish people. Sergeant Anthony himself moved to Israel from the UK, after growing up in a place where he could not safely walk outside in his kippah, the skullcap typically worn by Orthodox Jews. When explaining why he moved to Israel, he said that he “yearned to live in a place where I am safe because I am Jewish and not despite the fact that I am Jewish- and there is only one place that is afforded to me.”
Historically speaking, Jews have had to run away from every single country in which they have resided. “Jewish people, embattled run away,” said Sgt. Anthony, “Not because they are cowards, but because if they do not, they are ostracized, banished, or burned.” Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, and it is a homeland for which they are willing to fight.
This is why the Uganda Scheme failed definitively at the Seventh Zionist Congress in Basel Switzerland.
This is why, with all of its problems, more than half of world Jewry resides there today.
And this is why Israel was the first and only place for which the Jewish people were willing to fight en masse.
The Holocaust survivors that fought at the 1948 Battle of Latrun were no longer running from persecution, but toward the promise of a 2,000-year-old dream, on the verge of being realized.
It was not for the democracy.
It was not for the technology.
Jews were praying to return to Israel when Mark Twain called accurately described it as “a silent mournful expanse.”
It was because, as Anthony said, “our futures are inextricably tied.”
As such, Jews have not only the right, but the obligation to defend it. Israel, stressed Anthony, has every right to “rid herself of the scourge of terror.” However, Israel is being held to a horrific standard, where governments and news outlets world-wide villainize her for exercising her right to self-defense. “It is not a contradiction,” he maintains, “to dispatch troops to bring quiet to your border.”
However, in our globalizing world, it is not sufficient to protect Israel within her borders. She must also be defended on college campuses, where pro-Israel students often do not voice their opinions due to fear of backlash from not only powerful anti-Israel groups, but their professors and peers as well. “A pro-Israel student,” opined Anthony, “can be no less embattled than soldiers on a battlefield.” But what can one student do? First, advises Anthony, “get politically enfranchised.” So often, students get wrapped up in the day-to-day stresses of academic and social responsibilities, that we lost sight of the fact that we live in a democracy where public opinion shapes policy. We must “pull the levers of democracy” and take advantage of the fact that we have a voice.
On a smaller scale, it is important to stand up to injustices on a daily basis. If there are people spreading lies about Israel, it is the obligation of a pro-Israel student to point out those fallacies. The truth matters, and there are so many people who consider themselves anti-Israel because that which they know about Israel is either an outright untruth or a misrepresentation of facts. Yes, it can be difficult to take a stance on such an explosive issue. No, it is not always easy. But, as Sgt. Anthony said: “Some people are not worth it- but Israel the country and Israel the people are worth it.”
Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at NYU Polytechnic Raizy Cohen.