Invest in our young people

Thank you Rabbi Hayon for an honest assessment of the risk of limiting our response to boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and all criticism of Israeli policy with the blunt and stultifying tools of the past (“How much have we lost?” May 30). While your commentary may draw the ire of some, after handing the BDS movement its greatest defeat to date it is incumbent upon us to not simply listen but to understand and act.
In many ways today’s campus environment is similar to a generation ago, when we fought against the UN’s “Zionism is Racism” vote — a core of students committed to Israel remains strong. Our greatest challenge was Jewish student apathy toward Israel; they may have been indifferent to our cause, but it didn’t alienate them from the Jewish community. Our environment wasn’t dominated by the divisive “you’re with us or against us; you support the government of Israel or you’re a self-hating Jew” venom characterizing today’s conversation.
This is not to say we should turn our backs and ignore the challenges of BDS on campus. Your two years of building capacity on campus gave students, faculty and the community multiple nuanced opportunities to develop relationships, encouraged deep listening, and demonstrated respectful discourse. It is possible to have open conversation about Israel in the face of hysteria and maligning tactics.
By welcoming pro-Israel students who acknowledge the occupation, the anti-BDS UW community established the credibility resulting in a resounding defeat for BDS. While BDS emphasizes divestment, we must not forget to invest in our own young people, by engaging them in a candid discussion of Israel that welcomes the very same opinions so strong in Israel’s national discourse. This requires the campus environment to be a microcosm of our larger community. We cannot achieve broad-based Jewish student support of Israel when adult communal leaders disenfranchise one another’s vision of a just Jewish state with name calling and insults.
Your words should be a wake-up call that unless we find new ways to relate to Israel, we should not be surprised if our children say, “That’s not for me, that’s your story, I’ve got other priorities…. I’m out of here.”
Corey Salka