Protesting is quite a common subsequent reaction for Los Angeles Jews when an unfavorable incident occurs in Israel. This past summer especially, my Facebook blew up with event invites to the Federal Building or to the Israeli Consulate to protest on behalf of Israel.
When the three boys were kidnapped? There was a protest. When the three boys were pronounced dead? There was a protest. When Israel was getting backlash for protecting itself? There was a protest.
As a strong advocate of Israel, I went to probably almost every protest in my area. But the more I protested, the more it occurred to me that having a bunch of people sporting IDF shirts, waving signs and flags, and yelling at cars, can only do so much. Don’t get me wrong — having pride in your support for Israel is great, but what kind of an impact will that have on onlookers? And yes, I will not deny that resulting media coverage can be a plus as well, but the protestors on the other side will end up with the same — if not more — media coverage. So then what?
Protesting should be just one step, rather than the only step, one takes to support Israel. I spent a lot of time at these protests thinking about how much the individual protestors actually knew about the Israeli conflict and if they had the ability to truly defend Israel if they were presented with the opportunity.
The fact of the matter is that most anti-Israel Americans become anti-Israel because of the information they are fed either through the media or by anti-Israel radicals. Consequently, people should spend less time holding up flags from their sunroofs on Wilshire Boulevard, and more time educating themselves so that they can educate others and defend Israel.
It is our responsibility as the Jewish youth to spread pro-Israel ideologies and inform others about the conflict’s specifics so that they are not left with just one side of the argument. Informing other UCLA students is especially important right now in light of the various anti-Israel incidents taking place on campus.
It is hard to ignore that our campus has been subject to a lot of anti-Israel, and even anti-Semitic, propaganda. As a new student to UCLA, I have come to recognize just how widely diverse our student body is and how some of my beliefs may inevitably contrast with many of those around me. This realization became especially apparent when sixth week came around and many anti-Israel advocates changed their profile pictures in anticipation for BDS.
At first, I was appalled to see the different people around me who were pro-divestment — one sits behind me in history, another helped me navigate my way through campus on my first day, and one made me laugh hysterically at a club meeting. I soon came to the understanding that I have no right to be angry or disappointed with people who have differing opinions than I and that there are always two sides to every story. With that said, however, we need to make sure that our side of the story is actually being told in the first place, and that we make our desire for peace clear.
This year, Bruins for Israel made a bold statement with their wise decision to hold off on protesting against SJP’s installment on Palestine Awareness Week. They reasoned that protesting was counterproductive and that a more educational approach was necessary. I applaud BFI for comprehending that a protest would not benefit our ultimate prospect of getting our message across.
Generally — both on and off campus —, we must sympathize with the hurt of the Palestinians, but have the ability to explain and defend Israel’s actions. We must not fight ignorance with ignorance; rather, we must become acquainted with the concerns of anti-Israel supporters so that we can possess the knowledge necessary to directly address their issues. We must turn people away from using biased media as their main source of knowledge and direct them toward the facts.