No doubt that 30-40 years from now, most of the college-age, Jewish anti-Israel activists will smack themselves on the forehead, wondering what they were thinking.

Today is my 70th birthday (pause to wait for applause to die down). I think when you turn 70, that’s the day when you can no longer maintain the pretense of being merely middle-aged, so I promise to accept the passing of this milestone with my usual good humor and quiet grace (pause for laughter from friends and family members to die down).

So what have I learned in my 25,000-plus days on this planet? Not so much, as it turns out, because life is too complicated and too enigmatic to allow for simplistic and easily obtained answers to what are enormously challenging questions. But I have also learned that in order to plausibly claim to know ‘the truth’ about anything, one requires a significant amount of real-life experience and an education (not necessarily academic) that exposes one to differing points of view.

These life lessons hit me hard the other day when I was talking to a 20-something and the issue of politics came up. He proceeded to harangue me for 10 minutes about the evils of Donald Trump and the militaristic Israelis who were illegally occupying Palestinian land.

When I started to object, he gave me a withering stare and suggested that whatever I knew or thought must have been gleaned from ‘wacky web sites’ (his words). I didn’t bother engaging further because this was a youngster (and yes, a 70-year-old has the right to refer to someone in their 20s as a youngster) who could not have had any meaningful experience in the matters which he was discussing other than viewing ‘non-wacky’ websites and whose education was unquestionably delivered by the anti-American and anti-Israel progressives who dominate post-secondary academia.

So instead of subjecting him to a re-education session, I walked away feeling nothing but pity for this ill-informed, arrogant pup.

I had a similar sensation last week when I saw a picture of a smiling Bernie Sanders surrounded by members of If-Not-Now holding up a sign saying ‘Jews Against the Occupation’.  Bernie is a Misguided Jews Hall-of-Famer so no surprise seeing him endorse this shameful trope, but how to explain the delusional behavior of those six or seven young Jews (none looks to be more than 21 years old) holding the sign and gazing rapturously at the socialist sage?

I would guess that all of them are recent college graduates or currently enrolled (safe bet that none are history majors), and I would further surmise that if any of them have spent any time in the Middle East, it was at most a couple of weeks on a Birthright freebie. So couple minimal or non-existent experience with historical ‘knowledge’ disseminated by teachers telling them that the West is evil and that if you’re not a member of an approved victim group, your opinions are not worthy of consideration, and this is what you get.

Can any intelligent person arrive at the conclusion that Israel is involved in an illegal and oppressive occupation through an objective, fact-based weighing of the evidence? Not a chance, unless you stretch the meaning of the foundational concepts of legality, occupation and oppression beyond recognition.

And if they had spent some time in school studying history, and not just the anti-Zionist revisionist version, they might understand the legitimacy of Israel’s existence and border adjustments. They might also begin to understand that if the Palestinians are lacking sovereignty or economic self-sufficiency or unencumbered mobility, it is their own history of Jew-hatred and terrorism that has led them to the depths in which they reside. This is what an objective education would have taught them.

Facts on the Ground

Now, let’s consider experience or the facts on the ground. If they had spent any time in the Middle East visiting those areas captured by Israel in defensive wars, they would have quickly grasped the extent of Israel’s vulnerability if it were to surrender any of those territories. If they had visited Sderot and found themselves rushing to a bomb shelter in the face of rocket barrages from Gaza (which the Israelis no longer ‘occupy’), they might begun to understand Israel’s reluctance to cede any more land to the Palestinians. If they were living in Israel and had lost a family member to a rock-throwing or knife-wielding terrorist, they would fully support the government making it more difficult for potential perpetrators to act out their murderous intentions. If they were to observe the guttural and pervasive anti-Semitism to be found throughout the Arab world, they might hesitate to criticize Israel’s determination to maintain an overwhelming military superiority.

The Bernie Sanders of the world should be seen for what they are: craven, dogma-addled politicians who prioritize their progressive credentials and re-election prospects over the interests of the Jewish people.

But the Jewish members of If-Not-Now and Jewish Voices for Peace must also be understood in context: They are mostly children, lacking even a basic understanding about the thousand-year struggle to re-establish a Jewish homeland, ignorant of the Palestinians’ and their enablers’ attempts to finish what Hitler started, brainwashed by their educators to equate color with virtue and self-defense with colonization, terrified to be out-of-lockstep with their peers lest they be shamed on Facebook, and raised by oh-so-progressive parents who couldn’t be bothered to teach them the beauty of Jewish history, traditions and values.

I have no doubt that 30 or 40 years from now, most of those members of these anti-Israel groups will be smacking themselves on their foreheads, wondering what they were thinking when they marched and argued and demonstrated against Israel. Pity they are unprepared to learn from their elders, but I suppose we were just as hard-headed and confused when we were their age.

Well, what the heck. It’s my birthday and I won’t waste any more of it ruminating on what likely can’t be changed. So please think good thoughts about me as you toast me with a glass of Manischewitz’s finest.

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Article by Henry Roth

Henry Roth was born in Haifa and immigrated to Canada in the early 1950s. The son of Romanian Holocaust survivors, he has been married to Brenda for 43 years, is the father of two sons, Marc and David, the happy grandfather of Nicolas and a proud and loud Zionist.