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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Estrich: Antisemitism on rise makes case for Israel support

By Susan Estrich
Published: April 30, 2023, 6:01am

This is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. The chattering class is using it as yet another occasion to focus on just how divided Israel is at this milestone anniversary. And it is. That’s true. But what gets lost, and forgotten, is that Israel remains a modern miracle, that its divisions are divisions in a democracy, that it is our staunch ally and friend and that we walk a very fine line in our constructive criticism and our unconditional support.

So instead of being an occasion to celebrate Zionism, this becomes another occasion to turn that into a negative trope. Nowhere is this problem more troubling than on college campuses, where there have been growing numbers of anti-Israel incidents, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Activists use “Zionism” and “Zionist” as terms of disparagement, and students have been expelled from activities over their support for Israel.

There were hundreds of anti-Israel events and protests. There were also 19 cases of targeted harassment, 11 incidents of vandalism, one physical assault and 20 resolutions in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

“The antisemitic vitriol directed at pro-Israel students is deeply unsettling and makes our colleges and universities feel less safe and secure for Jewish students,” the chief executive and national director of the ADL, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement.

What is happening on college campuses mirrors what is happening in society as a whole, where the ADL found that last year set the record for the highest number of antisemitic incidents in the United States since 1979.

Most of the incidents were categorized as harassment, but the report also included 111 assaults and more than 1,200 occasions of vandalism.

“We’ve seen antisemitism normalized in ways that would have been unimaginable a few years ago,” Greenblatt told the press. “If people see conspiracies behind every misfortune, it doesn’t take long for them to look at the Jews and say they’re the problem.”

Among the incidents included in the report were one of a white supremacist group using laser projectors to cast antisemitic messages on buildings in Florida, another of an individual yelling antisemitic obscenities at a synagogue’s preschool in Michigan and a another of a gunman taking multiple hostages at a synagogue in Texas.

The report highlights sharp rises in incidents targeting schools and college campuses, attacks on Orthodox Jews and bomb threats to Jewish institutions.

The report includes as well the attack in which an Arizona professor, Thomas Meixner, was killed by a former student who believed incorrectly that he was Jewish.

The report noted some 59 incidents last year in which perpetrators directly referenced Ye after his antisemitic outbursts in October.

Against this background of growing antisemitism and sharp internal divisions, what are we to make of Israel’s 75th birthday?

It sounds trite to say, but at some point, there must be a moment to remember what brings us together and holds us together, and what this precious nation state means to each of us, and what we will do to continue to build and make it strong.

To support the state of Israel and its right to exist is the fundamental commitment that unites us and gives force to our bond. It’s where reasonable people can no longer agree to disagree.

The fact that antisemitism is on the increase, on campus and in society, makes the case for supporting Israel stronger still.

Israel must be its best, for its own sake, and for ours.