As America’s long tradition of bipartisanship continues to undergo attack, there is one area we, a Democrat and a Republican, urge college students from our respective parties to refuse to abandon as a bipartisan cause: Israel’s right to exist.
In a year where all things political seem to be inverted, America’s refusal to veto the United Nation’s resolution to condemn Israeli settlements is not out of character. This is a symptom of a long evaporating support for Israel on the American left; a trend which seems unlikely to be reversed in the foreseeable future. This coincides with a growing anti-Israel sentiment manifesting within America’s liberal youth. According to Pew Research earlier this year, over a quarter of the millennial demographic have come to side more closely with Palestine, while less than half support Israel.
Campus trends such as the popularity of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which advocates a desire to destroy the Jewish state, point towards a bleak future in which the defense of a people’s right to call a place home has become a partisan issue. SJP has in the last fifteen years swelled in size, with chapters in 126 universities across the United States. While there continue to be many progressive students who are staunch supporters of Israel, many now feel as though they are reactionaries for supporting citizens to live peacefully. This is especially ironic considering historical Jewish support for American progressive causes. Something has clearly gone amiss.
An embodiment of this problem presented itself when Bernie Sanders, a Jewish senator with the largest millennial following in the presidential primaries, did not take the time to speak to AIPAC – a move emblematic of the campus left. Even more revealing was when the regressive left – exemplified by the vitriolic remarks by Glenn Greenwald, no less – attacked Hillary Clinton’s inclusive and balanced speech supporting Israel at AIPAC as hopelessly violent and biased. In the far left, no longer is it enough to blame America for the world’s problems. Centrist Democrats must also be attacked mercilessly for supporting a people’s right to their homeland.
The shift away from Israel can be partially attributed to the current higher education culture and the perception of Israel in the media. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a favorable topic for college seminars, and students often learn about the conflict from a single-sided perspective. In addition to this, many liberal college students have declared themselves the champions against colonialism, with a definition twisted and stretched to encompass the actions of Israel. Israel today is no more a colonial nation than the United States, and expelling Jewish people would be just as wrong as expelling Americans without pre-Columbian ancestors on the continent. If Israel is actually as genocidal as the regressive left claims, its “genocide” has been an incredible failure given the rapid increases in the Palestinian population.
In response to groups such as SJP, some pro-Israel groups have arisen. Campus Democrats for a Secure Israel is just one of many student groups across America that have taken a stand against BDS (boycott. divestment and sanctions) resolutions in student governments across the country. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has made a push to assist college students that are pro-Israel and bridge the partisan divide.
Beyond American national security, our country has a strong reason to support Israel in that it continues to be at the forefront of developing technologies. For instance, an exploding global population and industrial development in third world nations has created a global demand for better procuration and treatment of water – precisely an area in which Israel has made significant innovations. Having a technologically sophisticated friend in the world’s most dangerous region is absolutely in the best interests of the United States, but for the international community as well.
Even if the United States were to completely ignore a humanitarian or economic rationale for defending Israel, America would still have ample reason to support the country. Should the United States no longer remain an ally of Israel, then America’s most powerful ally in Middle East would become Saudi Arabia, a state rooted in Islamic fundamentalism. Alliances with states with whom we share a common affinity are much stronger and more durable. Israel shares many of our same values of freedom, democracy, and the inalienable rights of citizens. Reliance on states that align with the United States merely for strategic benefit is not an alliance that can last. A dependence on nations whose citizens at best do not share American values and at worst despise the United States makes our nation less safe.
The progressive impulse has a ceaseless desire to fight oppressors and serves as an immune system against elements in a society that seek to diminish the rights of others. The problem, however, occurs when there are no more oppressors to fight, or worse, when some oppressors become part of sacred groups that cannot be criticized. This once-useful immune system becomes an autoimmune disorder. Democrat and Republican alike, we implore campus progressives: Israel is not a partisan issue. A free Israel and a free Palestine are not mutually exclusive, and in fact a safe and secure Israel is a prerequisite to a free Palestine. Those who sponsor the destruction of Israel sponsor the very hatreds they mistakenly believe they are fighting against.
This article was written by Fairooz Adams, President of Southern Methodist University College Democrats and Kassy Dillon, President of the Mount Holyoke College Republicans.