Progressive, Pro-Israel, and Proud: Navigating My Identity As An Israel Loving College Student

Growing up, Israel was always mentioned with a sense of reverence. Although my family has no Jewish ancestry or cultural affiliation with the Holy Land, often it was intertwined with evangelical Christian beliefs, as members of my church pinched pennies to visit the places where Jesus once roamed. To me, Israel was a place of great wonder - a place where the major religions of the world developed, where innovation was constantly bursting out the seams, and a place of hope and happiness. I love Israel with every fiber of my being, and it was never called into question as a problematic part of my character until I entered my university. As I got older, I began researching and understanding the political dynamics behind Israel, but I never had a doubt in my mind that a Jewish state like Israel was absolutely necessary.

Flash forward to my first year of college, when I became introduced to the word 'divestment' for the first time. I saw Israel become singled out as the alleged biggest violator of human rights - isolated, marginalized, and ostracized solely because its status as a Jewish majority state. My political science courses taught me that multiple countries faced human rights violations and corrupt violations, but for whatever reason, Israel was constantly the only one mentioned to weaken through divestment, boycotting, and sanctioning. Throughout the year, I never saw a state so heavily scrutinized, threatened, and hated against, for reasons not unique of several other countries. People wanted the state of Israel to collapse and fail, to no longer be in existence and to no longer be a shining light for the Jewish people

Yet in the midst of understanding the dynamics between BDS's influence on college campuses, the most confusing part was the automatic political assumptions that were given to me as soon as I vocalized support for Israel. I've always been politically progressive, interested in bettering social circumstances for all communities disproportionally affected by structural violence, yet immediately my love for Israel became automatically equated with being 'conservative' or 'not progressive enough.' As soon as my love for Israel was professed, I was immediately made into an image of being a rich, privileged, conservative white girl, which is something not exactly accurate with who I am today as a hungry, housing insecure, privileged, progressive, queer, and non-gender conforming individual. My desire to uphold the one democracy in the Middle East became interpreted as uncompromising, traditional, and backward. Progressive spaces quickly became difficult to navigate, as I would silently beg and plead that the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not be mentioned. I wasn't scared to speak about it and to hold collaborative, productive and insightful conversations - but often these conversations became a battleground for namecalling, belittlement, and no exchange of innovative ideas to progress peace forward.

On my campus, it became such a politically polarizing issue that students were afraid to speak out about it, especially students who were in support of the creation of Israel. Across the University of California, students that participated in film screenings about the Israel Defense Fund (IDF) were interrupted by protestors that quickly became violent, to the point where they were following students. Students come to events like film screenings to become educated and to meet other diverse-minded individuals interested in the same topic, not to have their safety jeopardized. Student governments all across the state have voted to divest completely from Israeli companies or even musicians wanting to perform in Tel Aviv. I admire the social consciousness of student governments and organizations, but as a member of the student government, I firmly believe it is our duty to focus on issues that will unite the student body, not issues that have historically torn the campus apart.

I am proud of a country that has every odd against them, yet they continue to rise and succeed. I am proud of the people who historically, have been oppressed for thousands of years yet are still known for their charity and goodwill toward all people. I am progressive, I am pro-Israel, and I am proud.