About Me

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Seat at the Table

Last week I attended the the Annual Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem.

Established by Foreign Ministry, the Forum has developed into a widely influential annual event, and represents the largest international Jewish body that focuses on coordinated efforts to combat antisemitism.

The two-day meeting was attended by members of Parliament, diplomats, journalists, legal experts, NGO representatives, and leading academic figures, and senior leaders of Jewish communities and organizations from around the world - participants representing more than 50 different countries.

In addition to the wonderful opportunity to network with colleagues in the field, the Forumincluded ten in-depth working group sessions focused on a wide variety of issues related to antisemitism, including: nationalist trends in Central and Eastern Europe; Rising antisemitism in Latin America and the Iranian Influence; Delegitimization of Israel through Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions; and Online antisemitism.

My invite (and my participation in the breakout group focusing on online antisemitism) can be attributed to the relationship I've developed with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs - specifically the essay I recently had published on the JCPA website concerning antisemitism and anti-Zionism on progressive American political blogs.

While I certainly have tried to maintain a degree of humility concerning my participation at theevent, its hard for me not to appreciate the long and, at times, arduous road which led me here - here in the literal sense of my Aliyah, as well as in the broader professional sense.

This professional journey actually began many years ago, as a college student during the first Intifada - as a witness to quite extreme and hateful eruptions of anti-Israel activity on campus at Temple University -but didn't come fully to fruition until the second Intifada was at its peak in 2002, as a witness to the horrifying outbreak of antisemitism around the world as a result of Israel's efforts to defend herself from an unrelenting terrorist onslaught.

This latter phenomenon - and my realization that, despite my early optimism in the mid to late 90's around hopes pinned to the Oslo process, the prospect of a gradual end to the historic enmity faced by Jews around the world (as well as Israel, in so far as it continued to represent the collective Jew) would continue to be merely a chimera.

Indeed, it was this somber realization which inspired me, at the age of 35, to become an unpaid intern at the Philly Regional office of Anti-Defamation League. This internship would eventually lead - after quite a few professional ups and downs over the course of 6 years - to my decision to make Aliyah, my relationship with the JCPA, the essay, and subsequent invite to the Conference.

During my interview with the Philly ADL Regional Director, prior to becoming an intern, I recall telling him that - though I lacked any real professional experience - I felt strongly that I had something to contribute to this cause, something unique to say. My years in the professional wilderness had provided me time to read and think, to ruminate and ponder the big picture - to perceive the subtext beneath surface of the debate. I said that I wanted to use this understanding to become a foot soldier in the battles the Jewish community would, sadly, have to continue to fight. In short, I wanted a seat at the table.

While there is no silver bullet in which to defeat this persistent antisemitism and anti-Zionism, we must continue in our efforts to expose and fight - aggressively, and with a dogged determination, using everything in our rhetorical, political, and intellectual arsenal - those who continue threaten both Jews as individuals, as well as the state of Israel, which represents the historic Jewish longing to be, as Herzl stated, ''a free people in our land''.

But, we also must continue to remember, as individuals who often possess the vanity and egos which naturally accompany the dogged pursuit of great accomplishments, what Sen. John McCain wrote in his memoir, Faith of My Fathers. Referring to his Vietnam prisoner-of-war experience, he said that he had never felt freer because, “Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.”

Words to remember, as we continue to fight the good fight

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