There are many different views of Israel. Some are positive and designate Israel as being one of the only stable democracies in the Middle East. Others are negative and focus on the controversial policies regarding interactions with the Palestinians.
In recent weeks at NYU, various speakers have been brought to campus to explain their sides of the Israel story. NYU TorchPAC, a student branch of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, hosted a debate between Peter Beinart, a professor at CUNY and a liberal Zionist, and Noah Pollak, the executive director for the Emergency Committee for Israel and a conservative Zionist. Students for Justice in Palestine invited Steven Salaita, a professor whose offer to teach at the University of Illinois was rescinded following anti-Israel tweets during Operation Protective Edge over the summer. The Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU, in conjunction with the Israel on Campus Coalition, brought in David Makovsky, a former member of the State Department’s Middle East Peace Team, to speak about his experiences dealing with the Israelis and the Palestinians during peace negotiations. With these high-profile speakers, many students might associate Israel with conflict. There is much more to Israel than just the fighting one hears about in the media, however.
Israel is a country that has made significant advances in technology (the thumb drive), LGBTQ rights and medicine (the PillCam). The popular American TV show “Homeland” is based on the Israeli TV show “Hatufim,” or “Prisoners of War.” Next time someone is lost, he or she can use the Israeli-developed Waze app.
Jewish student groups at NYU are bringing more of these nonpolitical elements to the Washington Square campus. In late October, Shmutz, the Jewish theater troupe on campus, brought in Israeli Stage, who performed Anat Gov’s “Oh God,” a play detailing God’s relationship with humanity. On Dec. 7, Gesher: Israel at NYU, NYU’s cultural Israel club, will be hosting its Get Back to Israel Fair for students to explore summer internship and volunteer options in Israel. These two events are not aimed at creating political discourse. They are geared toward showing the other sides of Israel that are rarely seen globally.
One can be critical of Israel, just as one can be critical of any other developed country, but Israel should not be defined by its conflicts. Instead, it should be recognized for its positive contributions to the international community. The fighting taking place between the Israelis and the Palestinians is terrible on both sides. But if the fighting stopped and the two sides could collaborate, imagine all the accomplishments that the Middle East could achieve.
A previous version of this article utilized the word ‘countries’ in reference to territories not internationally recognized as such. WSN regrets this error.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Dec. 3 print edition. Email Joshua Z. Lavine at [email protected]