Fighting Israel’s detractors — from campus to consulateby Samuel Rothmann
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Near the end of this past school year, the issue of divestment from Israel came to U.C. Davis, where I am a student.
For much of my life I have spent time learning about the Arab-Israel conflict, hearing from speakers, debating with friends, reading articles, attending rallies (both for and against Israel to learn from both sides) and doing whatever I could to know about the Jewish state. I have heard stories about Israel Apartheid Week and divestment resolutions on different college campuses, but this was my first experience debating and making the case for Israel in a student government setting.
The proposed boycott, divestment and sanctions resolution at U.C. Davis was a very creatively worded document that did not call for divestment from Israel per se, but rather from four corporations involved with the security barrier, the checkpoints and the settlements. Obviously, divestment from companies means in effect divesting from the State of Israel. The disingenuous text of the resolution became clear during the debates.
After sleepless nights and hours of debate in front of four student government commissions, thanks to the diligent efforts of the pro-Israel community, the resolution failed in committee. I am proud to have been a part of efforts to counter anti-Israel actions on my campus.
Just a few weeks later, I made an interesting transition to a summer internship at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco. On campus, when debating the resolution everything was in your face and it was all so real. At the consulate, where I worked primarily at a desk, everything seemed more distant, but it was nonetheless just as important. While the tactics of the pro-Israel movement on campus and at the Israeli Consulate are vastly different, the goal remains the same: to expose this deceitful and malicious movement for what it truly is and defeat it.
With the divestment battle on campus still fresh in my mind, I could not wait to begin my internship. On my first day, I went through the standard security check and met with my supervisor and the deputy consul general. We discussed the projects, expectations and obligations of my position. The tasks seemed enjoyable and stimulating, and I was eager to begin.
Sitting at a desk that first day, I was surrounded by unfamiliar faces, but by my last day I felt like part of the family and was sad to say goodbye. All of them — Israelis, Jews and non-Jews — choose to work at the consulate because they love and want to help Israel. They could have taken more lucrative jobs in the private sector, but they have opted to work at the consulate because of their passion for the State of Israel, the Jewish people and the Zionist dream.
While much of my work was in the academic affairs department, doing research and preparing for the school year, I also had the opportunity to work with other departments. From government affairs to cultural affairs to public affairs, I got hands-on experience with the inner workings of Israeli diplomacy. Coming from a Zionist, Jewish household, the Israeli Consulate did not feel like a foreign country’s diplomatic mission. Israel is not a foreign country to me; as a Jew, the Jewish state is also my country and my home.
After spending hours debating on campus and hours at a desk at the consulate, I now see Israel and its detractors from many perspectives. I have gained insight into different techniques of defending and advocating on behalf of Israel, and I concluded my internship with more vigor and determination than ever before.
When divestment returns to campus, I will be ready.
Samuel Rothmann is in his third year at U.C. Davis studying political science and religious studies. He grew up in San Francisco.
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