That’s why these radical anti-Israel groups target the campuses. The young want to be idealistic. So they poison them: tell them Israel is evil and to be good you must fight the evil.
Varda: What do you think can be done to counter the smear campaign against Israel?
Mike: I don’t think there’s one answer. I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy. I stood up because there’s a vacuum. Hishtadel l’hiyot ish [“Strive to be a man,” Ethics of the Fathers (2:5)]. People have to stand up. No one else is going to do it.
Everyone brings something to the table, whether it’s getting more involved in the community or going to an anti-Israel event or anti-Semitic event and exposing what they’re doing: educating. You can’t stand by when your people are being attacked. You should not present the people who are trying to harm you with an empty playing field. Don’t leave them with an empty playing field. By doing nothing you are leaving an empty playing field. If they are going to try to undermine the one Jewish state don’t make it easy for them.
Varda: How do you see the future of the Seattle Jewish community? Will this city remain a place in which you would feel comfortable to raise a Jewish family?
Mike: It can be a difficult place to raise Jewish kids, but there are wonderful things about Seattle and about our Jewish community as well. You could cloister yourself and never see the politics. Don’t get the JTNews, don’t read the activist media and you’d never see it.
In terms of the anti-Israel forces in Seattle, I don’t know what the outcome will be and I’m not optimistic. But I do think that the communal leadership is finally taking seriously, the poisonous anti-Israel sentiment. They are realizing there’s an ugly underbelly and that it is both anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. I think what is new is that they’re waking up to it.
Varda: There is much debate about whether anti-Israel sentiment is a cover for Jew-hatred. What is your perspective on this issue?
Mike: I went to St. Marks for the Parent’s Circle family forum event. One older woman held up a picture of an Israeli coin and claimed its design represented the goal of a “greater Israel”. “Isn’t it true,” she asserted, “that Israel’s intentions are to seize all of the land from the Nile to the Euphrates? Isn’t it also true that Jews believe in messianic times that all the gentiles will serve them?”
At a Seattle screening of the documentary, “Five Broken Cameras” sponsored by JVP and SUPER-UW, the few Jews who challenged the film’s accuracy were peppered with obscenities and slurs and chased out of the room under threat of violence. Seattle’s Jewish community newspaper, the JTNews, then provided free unedited space for the sponsors of that event to whitewash what happened and toss out a few more anti-Israel calumnies onto the pile.
There’s no question that anti-Israel sentiment is mostly just a cover for anti-Semitism.
Varda: Are you aware of any Seattle Jews who’ve made Aliyah as a response to anti-Israel sentiment?
Mike: I don’t think so. But Aliyah has accelerated and just about everyone at least in the observant community knows several families who have made Aliyah. I think this proves there’s a much stronger connection between Seattle and Israel than there ever was.