My Zionism and passion for Israel are deeply-rooted within me, and date back several generations in my family. My great-great-grandfather attended the Second Zionist Congress, and my great-great-grandmother and great-great aunt raised money for Mount Scopus, the land where Hadassah Hospital now stands. Many of my other family members were also significantly involved in the Zionist effort.
I am a Zionist for many reasons. First, I believe the Jewish people deserve a homeland. As I learned the history and socio-political facts surrounding the State of Israel, I came to believe that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination and autonomy in the land we have lived in for thousands of years. I also believe, like any sovereign state, Israel has the right to defend itself against enemies.
I feel at home when I am in Israel. I feel a deep connection to my ancestors who had the dream of this land, and to the people of Israel, who are my spiritual brothers and sisters. For Jewish people, there is no place else like Israel.
When I woke up on October 7, 2023, endless messages from friends and family awaited me, asking if I heard the news. I could not believe what I was seeing on social media. Hamas had invaded Israel on multiple tactical levels: bulldozing through the security barrier, infiltrating on motorcycles, and paragliding into the country.
The terrorist organization broke highly protective border checkpoints that I had seen six weeks prior on a fact-finding mission, and mounted a terrorist attack that, given its population and scale, was more than 15 times greater in scope than 9/11.
The attack was also the largest number of Jews murdered in a single day since the Holocaust.
The nightmare that I saw unfolding through videos all day on Saturday was horrific. My heart sat in my stomach as I continued monitoring the events; it felt like watching a movie. How could this be real? Communities I had just visited in August, like Sderot and Kfar Aza, were overrun by Hamas. Horror ran rampant as these terrorists executed babies, raped women, murdered families, and kidnapped the elderly, women, and children.
Pro-Palestinian rallies were held the following day in Times Square in New York City, and major cities worldwide. At many of these rallies, the crowds called for the elimination of the State of Israel, and celebrated the murder of Jews. Nazi imagery was seen at a New York City rally, and elsewhere. These protests aren’t about Palestinian human rights.
The response from student groups on campuses across the country has been abhorrent. At my campus, Michigan State, a group called Students United for Palestinian Rights (SUPR) released their response in the days following the attacks. Every single claim they made in their statement was factually and historically incorrect.
Their presence on campus continues to make many Jewish students, including myself, feel unsafe. They whitewash the mission of Hamas, whose leaders and charter openly call for the murder of Jews and the annihilation of Israel.
SUPR instead calls the Hamas terrorists, “Palestinian resistance fighters [who] have shown the world that their oppressors are not invincible.”
It is deeply shameful and insulting that SUPR, a student organization on my campus, would attempt to frame the terrorist organization that led to a murderous assault that left over 1,400 Israelis dead, as agents of “resistance.” Let’s be clear: this is not a fight for freedom. It is terrorism.
SUPR made several false claims to justify this horrendous attack, the first being that “Palestine was ethnically cleansed in 1948 by Zionist settler colonists, none of whom were indigenous to Palestine.” First, no Palestinians were ethnically cleansed by Israel. Many left on their own accord, some left because of war — but many Jews had to flee because of the war also.
And the land Palestinians now claim is “occupied” was actually occupied by Jordan from 1948-1967. More importantly, the Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel, and their indigeneity goes back almost 4,000 years. We, too, have a right to live in the land of Israel. This is not an excuse to eliminate us.
Furthermore, Jews have long agreed to live alongside their Arab neighbors. It was five Arab armies, with the support of local Palestinian leaders, who waged war on Israel in 1948, which resulted in the displacement of 850,000 Jews across Arab and Muslim lands, as well as the voluntary departure and displacement of 800,000 Arabs living in the holy land.
Since then, Israel has made numerous peace offers, all of which have been rejected by Palestinian leaders. The truth is that Palestinians could have had a state as early as 1947 if they had agreed to live side-by-side with their Jewish neighbors. They refused — and still refuse, as terrorism from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority makes clear.
SUPR’s second claim is that “Israel continues to operate as a colonial state that oppresses indigenous Palestinians through apartheid…”
An apartheid state is one that racially segregates its people. Based on this definition, Israel is most definitely not an apartheid state. Arabs and Israelis live side by side as neighbors. Arabs also have the same rights as Israelis and have prominent roles in Israeli society, including in the government and private sector. Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza are represented by their respective governments, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. They do not live under Israeli rule, making the accusation of “Israeli apartheid” even more absurd.
If SUPR is truly concerned about Palestinian human rights, why do they not direct their grievances to the governments of the Palestinian people? Instead, they bash Israel and attempt to justify the evil committed against the Jewish people by Hamas.
I think back to the summer of 2022 when I lived in Israel. I reflect on my Birthright experience, my time on Fact Finders, and every other trip I have been on with family, classmates, and friends. Israel is the place where I know I belong in the world.
We will move past this tragic loss of life and attempt to crush the spirit of the Jewish people. Moreover, I will relentlessly speak the truth where it needs to be heard. Despite what SUPR says, Hamas are not “resistance fighters;” they are murderous, antisemitic terrorists and should be condemned for what they have done; shame on all anti-Israel college groups for trying to twist the narrative to justify the murder of Jews.
This article was originally published in the Algemeiner.