I am responding to the recent letters that are critical of the two Brown students who wrote an editorial concerning Israel and the BDS campaign against it (June 2019). While I certainly support the students’ right to express controversial viewpoints about Israel in our Jewish paper, their arguments were rightly analyzed and subjected to critical review by the readership. However, I think the critics are missing the boat in addressing the real concerns.
It is easy to call these students “arrogant” and insulated from the real world in their ivy cocoon. Further, the critics are attempting to draw some conclusion that Brown is a hotbed of anti-Zionism and promotes a leftist agenda. Let me say outright that I am pro-Zionist and am horrified and dejected by the BDS proponents and their positions. But, one should consider two things before railing against Brown and the “arrogant” students.
First, Brown as an institution, through statements made by its forceful JEWISH president, (yes, Christina Paxson is Jewish) did not adopt the BDS referendum and has made it clear that such efforts to singularly punish Israel will not be tolerated from an institutional position. It is important and heartening that Brown would show this level of support.
Second, who is modeling this behavior for the students? Many of these students think that being critical of Israel is really expressing their love for Israel.
Sound familiar? This is the mission of J Street. J Street supports a critical “tough love” approach toward Israel. The Zionist Organization of America, led once by the great Louis Brandeis, comments frequently how J Street is anathema to the Israeli state. If a widely supported organization like J Street (particularly by members of Providence’s own clergy) is generating negative publicity against Israel, why do we foist so much blame on these students? Maybe they are just an easier target to hit.