On Monday, the Knesset passed a law denying entry to any person “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel” or any territory “under Israeli control,” which includes settlements in the West Bank. I’m one of those people.
By Peter Beinart / The Forward
March 8, 2017
Now, it seems, the Knesset wants me to choose. Either stop visiting Israel or stop opposing the occupation. In a variety of ways, that’s the deal Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been offering American Jews for close to a decade now. Embrace Israel at the cost of your principles or embrace your principles at the cost of Israel.
I have a theory about American Jewish kids and Israel. I’m trying it out on my own children.
My theory boils down to “Love first, truth later.” When my kids near adulthood, I’ll encourage them to visit the West Bank. I’ll encourage them to see for themselves what it means to hold millions of people as noncitizens, under military law, without free movement or due process. I’ll encourage them to read real histories of Israel’s war of independence, histories that explode the myth that most Palestinian refugees left their homes willingly. I’ll encourage them to consume as much Palestinian poetry, literature, journalism and film as possible. I want them to see how Israel looks from the other side.
But not too early. My fear is that if they encounter harsh truths at too young an age, it will drive them away. They’ll grow to hate Israel, or wash their hands of it. I’ve seen that happen a lot.
My plan, while they’re young, is to immerse them in positive Jewish and Israel-related experiences. My hope is that the chaotic reunion of Jews from every corner of the globe in the land where Jewish history began will fill them with wonder. Who knows if my plan will work? Parenting has already taught me a lot about humility. But I try. When we were preparing for our first family trip to Israel, I told my son — who was 6 — that we would visit Jaffa. “The place where Jonah escaped from!” he exclaimed. That’s what I’m aiming for.
I’m aiming for it because I believe that if my kids first learn to love Jewish history, Jewish tradition and the Jewish people — close to half of whom live in the Jewish state — that will shape their response to the harsh truths they encounter later. They won’t turn away in disgust; they’ll struggle. They’ll be like the young people in organizations like J Street U and IfNotNow. They’ll face ugly realities with both outrage and love. They’ll challenge the American Jewish community while remaining part of the American Jewish community.
Why am I writing this now? Because the Knesset has just thrown a wrench in my plan. On Monday, it passed a law denying entry to any person “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel” or any territory “under Israeli control,” which includes settlements in the West Bank.
I’m one of those people.