My heart sank. There, front and center on the magazine rack, was the recent issue of Time. The Star of David, a symbol of so much that I cherish, filled the cover. But the headline is what really caught my attention: “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.”
Even before reading the article, I experienced a range of emotions. Anger. Despair. Resolve.
Anger because I knew—from firsthand experience and from closely following events in the Middle East over the course of a lifetime—that the cover title was a lie. “No!” I wanted to scream. Israel cares deeply about peace. As history shows and opinion polls consistently bear out, the facts speak for themselves: a huge majority of Israelis want peace, are prepared to sacrifice for peace and have integrated a language of peace into their daily lives. Israel and her people care profoundly about peace—it forms a part of the national identity like in no other country I have known. I am furious with Time for lying about that.
Despair because once again, in six simple, untruthful words designed to sell copies, yet another step was taken to delegitimize Israel. I am painfully aware of the international campaign to paint Israel as a human rights violator, to question its very right to exist. It is an effort that occurs daily in university classrooms, on campuses, in parliaments across the world, in media outlets—both new and traditional media alike—in the chambers of the United Nations and elsewhere. And the next step is already clear: demonize and isolate Israel through boycott, divestment and sanctions, an insidious effort already widely known as “BDS.” It fills me with despair to think of how disastrous these attacks could prove for Israel. We cannot allow what has failed on the military battlefield to gain credence in the realm of ideas.
Finally, resolve because I believe that I am inextricably connected to Israel; that Israel’s fate is my fate; and that I have an obligation to do what I can to stand up for Israel and to demonstrate to others, both Jews and non-Jews, why they should as well.
I have chosen to do so by fighting the darkness of lies, distortions and misinformation with the light of better facts, deeper knowledge and firsthand experience. That is why our foundation is investing deeply in a range of efforts to educate young people about Israel, including:
- At the pre-collegiate level, through a new organization called the iCenter, which is advancing high-quality, innovative and meaningful modern Israel education for schools, camps, youth groups and others;
- At the university level, working with the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise to bring close to 20 experienced Israeli professors from a range of disciplines to teach each year at universities across the country and to support scholarships for doctoral students pursuing degrees related to modern Israel;
- Through a world-class Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis; by exposing college students to thoughtful perspectives of experts such as David Makovsky through the Israel on Campus Coalition; and by underwriting fellowships for Israeli artists to teach and share their work across the U.S.; and
- By providing as many young people as possible with firsthand experience in Israel, especially through Birthright Israel, so they may develop their own personal understanding and direct connection with the country, and working to deepen this experience through Birthright Israel NEXT.
These are just a few of the initiatives that I am resolved to support. And I do so because I have a deep faith in, and respect for, our young people. It might be a cliché, but knowledge is power. Knowledge requires learning about and appreciating the complexity of situations. It forces people to struggle with difficult concepts and new information. And it enables students to synthesize what they have learned in order to form their own conclusions, all in the search for truth.
I spend a lot of time meeting with young people. And while my initial reaction at seeing the cover of Time was decidedly negative, as I began to think of the intelligent, fair, open-minded and motivated students that I am in touch with daily, my courage and optimism returned. I believe that if we all resolve to deepen our knowledge about Israel and are proud in our informed support for Israel, then the future will indeed be bright and peace will surely come.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
- Los Angeles Times: Why Israelis Care About Peace by Ambassador Michael Oren
- Wall Street Journal: Rhymes with Fagin by Bret Stephens
- Commentary: Acceptable in Polite Society (A Commentary Magazine Blog) by Daniel Gordis
- Jerusalem Post: Jewish NGOs Slam ‘Time’ Magazine Cover Story by Gil Shefler