On May 10, Yom ha-Zikaron was honored at the Dwares Jewish Community Center in Providence. Yom ha-Zikaron, as its name in Hebrew implies, remembers the thousands of Israeli soldiers, Jews and non-Jews, who have given their lives during the many wars that have been thrust upon Israel since its founding. It is a solemn day, which brings to mind Golda Meir’s famous statement: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”
It is difficult to imagine any person, especially a Jew, dishonoring Yom ha-Zikaron. But unfortunately that is what has occurred in our own community. On May 11, at Brown University, groups calling themselves “Brown Students for Israel,” “J Street U Brown” and “Brown RISD Hillel” advertised that they would show three movies describing the Palestinian “Nakba,” which is the Arabic term for the “catastrophic” day when the state of Israel was born. The show was further advertised as being a “discussion about the selective and political nature of memory.”
Needless to say, calling Israel’s birth a catastrophe brings to mind the international effort to delegitimize Israel as having been born in sin. It also ignores and disrespects history, since Israel’s independence was declared only after the United Nations voted to partition the territory – a partition accepted by the Jewish community but rejected by the Arabs, who chose war instead. The insult strikes a deep nerve among Jewish people, making it even more inexplicable that a Jewish organization should engage in such provocative behavior. It should have come as no surprise to the organizers of the program that members of the Jewish community immediately expressed their shock and outrage at Brown RISD Hillel for promoting it only one day after the Jewish community honored its fallen soldiers. Giving credence and a platform to the murderers of those who were honored just the day before raises the term “tone deaf” to a level not seen since the 1930s.
And here is the part that has me laughing with tears in my eyes. Hillel announced that the event had been canceled, and it was removed from its website. However, in a scene reminiscent of a Calvin and Hobbes secret club prank – I am not making this up – the youngsters, pledged to secrecy, snuck into the Hillel building for a clandestine showing of the Nakba movies. Afterward, they chortled that they had out-witted those Jewish Neanderthals who foolishly thought they could prevent them from revealing Israel’s Great Sins. All of this has been colorfully reported by the students themselves (openhillel.org), as well as by an eyewitness to the event (legalinsurrection.com).
Now, admittedly we have to remember these are children who are often blissfully unaware of the serious consequences of their actions. Many of them have only recently reached puberty, and are living away from their parents for the first time. Like all children of that age, it is an exciting opportunity to declare independence from parental influences. As parents, we can shrug our shoulders, wait for the immaturity to pass and continue to love them as they grow from naïve children to functioning members of society. But when the rebellion endangers the lives of millions of Jews, as parents it is our obligation to take corrective action. Moreover, it has become all too common for certain groups to take advantage of the immaturity and emotionalism of children who have only recently graduated from high school, and use these children to fight the battles that cannot be won on the battlefield.
It is time for the Jewish community to unequivocally assert that honoring our enemies dishonors our people. In fact, the real Nakba is how lost and misguided some of our own children have become, allowing themselves to be manipulated into thinking that demeaning the Jewish state somehow serves the cause of right and good. Schools may tolerate these antics, but history tells us that the Jewish community cannot remain silent. The Jewish community is free to reject this approach and call these activities what they are: shameful, dishonorable and self-loathing.
Kids, go to your rooms!
RUSSELL D. RASKIN is a Providence attorney. He has written this on behalf of the Rhode Island Judges and Lawyers for Israel.