A true victory

It’s wonderful that UW students working together, with the support of Rabbi Oren Hayon, StandWithUs Northwest, and others, helped defeat the anti-Israel divestment resolution considered by the UW student senate. But I would like to respectfully disagree with Rabbi Hayon’s characterizing their victory as possibly “Pyrrhic,” so costly that it “prevent[s] us from realizing we are actually marching unwittingly toward defeat” (“How much have we lost?” May 30).
What did the students learn during their struggle? That “they were all able to come together and realize we were stronger together,” according to student Robbie Ellenhorn (in another article); that there are people, not just in other countries, but right here at the UW, who are willing to be completely unscrupulous in their fight to delegitimize Israel; that defending Israel requires moral commitment, teamwork, knowledge, critical thinking, the ability to persuade others (including student senators), and the capacity to remain calm and moderate in the face of vituperation from multiple directions. And they have learned that engaging in a complex, extended, demanding moral struggle can lead to insomnia and anxiety.
Rabbi Hayon is quoted as saying that the struggle “distracted us from spending time doing thoughtful, engaging, meaningful, fulfilling programming.” Of course it would be better if Israel were not under attack, so the students’ energy could be devoted to other things. But what could be more thoughtful, engaging, meaningful, and fulfilling than learning to work effectively together to defend Israel, and, ultimately, the Jewish people?
Rabbi Hayon is concerned that “our students will continue to opt out if these tactics [inside and outside the Jewish community] continue.” I hope that’s not true. I hope that the students have learned that defending Israel can be difficult, but the need to do so is urgent; and that the defense depends critically on the younger generation. If they opt out, there will be no one to take their place. I hope that their experience will teach them just how important they are, and how critical it is that they not opt out.
Paul Burstein
Mercer Island