By IEC Staff
Article contribution by Alex Amchislavsky, JUF's Israel Education Center Intern
Anti-Israel groups are again on the offensive developing new ways to besmirch Israel in the eyes of the public. Many of these tactics to dirty Israel's reputation are tested on campuses. Over the years we've seen displays, events, cultural activities, protests and even "apartheid weeks." The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is another route used to demonize Israel, and when it comes down to it anything related to Israel, is fair game: companies that do business in Israel, hummus made in Israel, Israeli academics, Israeli-made products, U.S. sister-city partnerships, faculty pension funds invested in companies that do business in Israel, etc.
Most recently the conversation has taken a bizarre turn towards laundry. "Pinkwashing" and "greenwashing" are new terms being trumpeted by anti-Israel groups and paraded around as concepts activists should use to target Israel. The argument goes something like this: Israel is attempting to brand itself as a champion of LGBT rights and environmental achievements while perpetrating human rights abuses in addition to colonizing, demolishing and destroying Palestinian land. Thus the term "washing" is used to symbolize Israel's attempt to cover up some "hideous stains."
It's important to remember that the tactics employed to vilify Israel, add up to a larger endgame: the delegitimization of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state within safe and secure borders. In Illinois, a few campuses are beginning to encounter anti-Israel programming centered around the concepts of pinkwashing and greenwashing, with a few LGBT and environmentalist groups taking part in this effort. At Loyola University, Jewish students recently celebrated Tu B'Shvat on campus by featuring Israel's environmental achievements in the Middle East, Israel's stewardship of the land and ultimately her contributions to the world in this area.
In response, Students for Justice in Palestine launched their new spin-cycle tactic by posting an article accusing pro-Israel and Hillel students of "greenwashing" human rights abuses, and next week the group will host a session on campus pushing this argument even further. Alex Amchislavsky, an IEC intern along with other student leaders were able to step up immediately and submit multiple articles to the campus paper and will continue to offer a continuum of positive programming to Loyola's student body.
Our response to the laundry argument is to continue to elevate the conversation and offer students educational opportunities to learn about Israel, while unmasking the motivations of those who ultimately desire to see her demise. It is not our goal to portray Israel as infallible but rather to highlight Israel's accomplishments and positive contributions to global society. All democracies face real challenges, including Israel. But those challenges are not held against any other country in order to delegitimize their mere existence. Let's steer clear of the spin (cycle).
Loyola's Hillel tables at CFSU
by Alex Amshislavskiy
Tu B'Shvat is an ancient Jewish holiday also known as the "New Year of Trees." The holiday is a time when Jews celebrate the connection between human life and the natural world. It is traditional to plant trees on this day in celebration of the beginning of spring in Israel. This is because the Torah teaches us to revere the land, all creatures and all that grows. The Torah's ecological concerns are reflected in the laws that govern the intricacies of agriculture and the sanctity of all of G-d's creations. This is a holiday when we can reflect on the cycle of life and celebrate the innumerable gifts from nature.
For more than 20 years, Loyola's Hillel has tabled in the CFSU in celebration of Tu B'Shvat to share our culture and the fruits of Israel with the larger community at Loyola. This year, members of the Loyola community had the option to plant a tree in Israel, and, in turn, they all received their own tree to bring home. This was done in collaboration with Loyola's Growers Guild to show how communities can come together to improve our local and international environments. The project also demonstrates the tradition of Jews living outside the state of Israel to support the world's only Jewish state.
Israel is the only country in the world that entered this century with a net gain in its number of trees, all of which were planted in less than a century. The Jewish National Fund (JNF), founded in 1901 to establish the groundwork for the birth of the Jewish state, has "planted more than 240 million trees throughout the state of Israel, which today covers more than 250,000 acres." One of Israel's biggest accomplishments has been the development of sustainable ecology in its largest desert.
Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, is famous for saying "The Negev will be the test of the creative ability and pioneering valor of Israel." The Negev is part of southern Israel which was always included in the British Mandate territory allocated towards a "national home for the Jewish people" (Balfour Declaration, 1917). It is precisely the Negev where the JNF has focused a 10-year, $600 million campaign to reinvigorate this desert that makes up 60 percent of Israel's territory. This project, dubbed "Blueprint Negev." will continue Israel's legacy of improving humanity's impact on the environment.
There are those who claim Israel's advancements in environmental technology and that JNF's work are purposefully aimed at harming the Palestinian population. These claims are fabricated as part of a larger endgame to delegitimize the Jewish state. Israel is not perfect, but the innovative environmental work and accomplishments over the past 65 years are contributing to a global effort to protect the world in which we all live.