I have studied karate for the last 15 and a half years. Throughout the course of my training, I have learned important principles of etiquette, sincerity, self-control, effort and character. More importantly, I recognized that the right to self-defense is only legitimate when somebody intends to harm you. If someone tries to strike you, stab you or hit you with a club, you must be able to block the attack, hit them with a counter and ensure that your attacker no longer has the means to harm you.
I look at what has been happening to the Jewish community on college campuses throughout North America and Europe, and I cannot help but feel frustrated over the lack of response from college administrations to counter the bigotry. Whether it comes in the form of "anti-Zionism" or through generations of taught resentment of the Jewish people, anti-Semitism has always manifested itself in a threatening, dangerous manner. Rather than responding proactively to false charges of blood libel or the ridiculous claims of "apartheid," members of the Jewish community either try to hide their Jewish identity to keep them from being targeted, or they brush anti-Semitism aside and pretend that it does not exist.
These options have not worked, and it allows anti-Semitic commentary and actions to continue unchecked and unpunished at the expense of the minority of Jewish students who have the courage to stand up. Our continuous existence over millennia is contingent on our emphasis of maintaining our identity, and furthermore, being proud of our heritage. Rarely have I seen a Jewish individual, who upholds his or her identity and shows pride in his or her heritage, remain silent when Jews are targeted on campus. It is those individuals who embody the true meaning of Zionism.
The Zionist movement started as a response to a handful of influential Jewish thinkers and writers losing their patience over the institutionalized anti-Semitism of Western Europe. Following the Dreyfus trial, Theodore Herzl penned the first works of modern, political Zionism, hoping to see the reconstitution of the Jewish homeland in Judea as the answer to Europe's engrained anti-Semitic attitudes. Contrary to what the critics and the revisionist historians claim, Zionism has not changed its course of action, and it seeks the goal of Jewish empowerment against the rising tides of bigotry and intolerance.
Assimilation failed to give us security and peace of mind; it only led to more scape-goating and pogroms. No matter where the wandering Jew settled, he or she was never at home and never truly accepted into their community. Jewish nationalism was seen as the answer to that, and it did so by empowering Jews to believe they deserved the same civil and political rights as every other non-Jewish citizen. Thus, the rise of Zionism began the time when Jews started to fight back against the institutionalized anti-Semitism in the world.
What Zionism also demonstrated was another example of how the Jewish people were to rise up against the same oppressive forces that have sought our annihilation since the beginning of time. When the Seleucid Greeks implemented racist, anti-Semitic laws in Judea, it was Judah the Maccabee and his comrades who revolted against tyranny and liberated the Jewish homeland from the occupiers. In order for the Jewish people to exercise their self-evident rights, they had to fight for them, through political means or through force. The moment where a Jew fights back against anti-Semitism and the world's attempts to subject us to second-class status is the moment where the world will start paying attention. When seven Arab armies tried to annihilate the newly founded Jewish state, it took hundreds of thousands of Jews to take up arms and fight back and establish its legal right to exist. Our existence was saved because of our will to defend ourselves.
Whether we'd like to admit it or not, anti-Semitism on campus is not going to go away that easily. College administrations have done nothing to stop the anti-Semitism of Students for Justice in Palestine or other hateful organizations. What must be done to abolish this Jew-hatred is the rise of the Jewish community. We cannot afford to be divided on issues of anti-Semitism on campus, nor can we afford to remain silent when somebody punches you in the face, rams a shopping cart at you or starts chanting, "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free."
We have to stand up against these bullies and counter their advances of divestment and their apartheid walls. When the future of Jewish life on campus is in danger, we must proactively defend ourselves. That means we must know our facts about the Arab-Israeli conflict, the history of the Jewish people, and the true history of anti-Semitism.
If someone tells you that Israel is responsible for the rising anti-Semitism, then you scold that individual for blaming the victims of hate crimes. If a "pro-Palestinian" activist calls you a baby killer, remind him or her that they remain silent when Hamas and the PLO teaches their children to blow themselves up, thus they truly do not care about Palestinian-Arab children. If they call you a racist because you identify as a Zionist, ask them if they cared when Hamas takes part in the black African slave trade. More importantly, if someone claims that Israel is causing the lack of peace, explain to them that every time the Palestinian leadership rejected every single chance to create a legitimate, sovereign "Palestine" side-by-side with Israel.
In the same way that I was trained in martial arts, all Jewish students should learn from the basics of self-defense. For every attack against the Jewish people or the Jewish state, we should be able to block and counter. The moment that we start defending ourselves against the anti-Semitism is when the bigots will fear us. Students for Justice in Palestine can continue to stage their walk outs on our events, write inflammatory articles and spew their racist rhetoric, but they should be warned to never threaten any Jewish student on campus.
We must demand to be treated like everyone else, no double standards or exceptions. As long as we are empowered and as long as we remain proud of our identity, we will ensure that the Jewish community can thrive on campus.
That is how we ensure that Zionism continues to flourish on campus.