There is a troubling trend among young American Jews: more and more are turning their backs to the State of Israel and actively participating in anti-Zionist campaigns.
A 2020 study by Pew Research Center, revealed that U.S. Jews under the age of 30 are less emotionally attached to Israel than those aged 65 and above. The same study found that only 27% of American Jews between the ages of 18 and 29 strongly oppose the boycott, divest, and sanction movement against Israel.
Zionism, the movement for Jewish self-determination and statehood in the land of Israel, the Jewish ancestral homeland, is losing the support of young American Jews.
All over the U.S., Jewish anti-Zionist organizations have sprung up on college campuses. These organizations spew inaccurate rhetoric and spread misinformation. Consider the organization Jewish Voice for Peace, which “unequivocally oppose[s] Zionism because it is counter to [the] ideals” of “justice, equality and freedom for all”. JVP has chapters in over 25 states and D.C..
Jewish students are also establishing local, new campus-specific anti-Zionist groups. The Anti-Zionist Jewish Coalition at City University of New York calls Israel an “illegitimate state”.
JVP and the Anti-Zionist Jewish Coalition at CUNY completely erase the Jewish historical and contemporary experience. JVP deems Zionism a “false and failed answer to the desperately real question that many of our ancestors faced of how to protect Jewish lives from murderous antisemitism in Europe”. But Zionism has not failed. It has provided an answer to the plight of Jews everywhere, especially after Israel’s establishment in 1948.
When over 800,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and Muslim lands in 1948, the majority fled to Israel.
Soviet Jews tried to escape antisemitism to Israel, the height being in 1990-1996, when over 600,000 Jews left the U.S.S.R. for Israel.
This same trend is repeated today. France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, but their Jews are leaving by the thousands for Israel. A third of French Jews who have emigrated to Israel since 1948 have done so in the last decade.
Extensive surveys conducted by polling firm IFOP, the American Jewish Committee, and think-tank Fondapol, found that seventy-four percent of French Jews have been victims of antisemitic acts. Both the French interior minister and President Macron recognize that France is witnessing a dangerous rise in antisemitism. Those leaving France for Israel cite antisemitism as the reason for their move.
The Anti-Zionist Jewish Coalition claims Zionism was “built with inspiration from European colonialism, ethnic nationalism, and white supremacy since its conception”. Unlike what the Coalition at CUNY and JVP would like you to believe, Zionism has nothing to do with European colonialism, ethnic nationalism, and white supremacy.
In the 19th century, Jews, from all over the world, not considered part of mainstream society, saw a Jewish state as necessary for the revival of the Jewish people. Political Zionism, cultural Zionism, labor Zionism, and even religious Zionism all agreed that a Jewish state could heal the Jewish people from centuries of antisemitism and subjugation. This has been proven true, time and time again.
J Street and J Street U misrepresent Israel’s presence in the West Bank. J Street claims this “occupation” is “de jure unilateral Israeli annexation” designed “to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state”, and is “an obstacle to peace”, making “peaceful resolution” impossible. J Street U’s campaign No Aid to Occupation promotes U.S. aid restrictions on the basis that aid may be used to fund “destructive policies” such as “creeping annexation”.
Calling Israeli presence in the West Bank an “illegal occupation” disregards the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Prior to 1967, the West Bank was under Jordanian rule. Then, in the Six Day War, Israel legally captured the West Bank by fighting a defensive war against Arab armies. In 1988, Jordan revoked its claim to the land, essentially leaving it in Israel’s hands.
The claim that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is an obstacle to peace is based on the land-for-peace myth. Since 1948, the State of Israel has made numerous peace offers that include ceding much of the West Bank to a future Palestinian state. All have been rejected by Palestinians.
No matter what concessions Israel makes, many Palestinians do not want peace because they are against the existence of a Jewish state. Palestinian support for the two-state solution is declining, with some leaders rejecting Israel’s right to exist altogether. J Street’s and J Street U’s analysis of the conflict is silent on this point.
Another Jewish organization claims to work for a “thriving future for all Israelis and Palestinians”, but actively works against Israeli interests. IfNotNow perverts Jewish tradition and spreads the false apartheid libel.
IfNotNow appropriates the language of teshuva, the Jewish concept of repentance, the imagery of the burning bush, a sign from G-d to Moses, Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, and Passover, the Jewish celebration of the Exodus from Egypt to promote an anti-Israel message. This is an abuse of the Jewish tradition, which supports Jewish self-determination in the historic homeland. Even part of the Passover meal itself is a prayer to return to Jerusalem.
We must educate and empower young Jews through our shared history. A historically literate generation would understand the necessity of the State of Israel and the Jewish connection to the land, and would not be fooled by inaccurate portrayals of the Arab-Israeli conflict. For the Jewish community, history is our most powerful tool.
This article was originally published in JNS.