It's been awhile since I wrote about Israel-Palestine issues, so I'm glad TIME asked me to do a piece on how younger American Jews are thinking and talking about the conflict as the United Nations considers Palestine's statehood bid.
This is a personal and difficult topic for me, as I explain in the article. The thrust is that American Jews in their teens, 20s, and 30s are far likelier than their parents to have met Palestinians, been exposed to the Palestinian narrative of the conflict, and even to have visited the Palestinian territories or Arab nations.
One UC Berkeley student I interviewed, Eliana Lauter, grew up in an actively Zionist family and attended Jewish day schools. She has lived in Israel on several occasions, and told me, "I love Israel so much. I miss Israel when I’m not there and I get really upset about it. I can cry myself to sleep at night knowing I’m not there."
But Lauter, who is president of Berkeley's Jewish Student Union, has a nuanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a high school student, she was assigned a "dual narrative" history, in which the Israeli and Palestinian narratives were presented on the same page, side by side. (Ex; Many Arabs refer to the founding of Israel and the resulting Palestinian refugee crisis as the "Nakba," or "catastrophe.")
Last summer, Lauter worked in Israel as the assistant to a Jewish professor researching Arab Israeli civil rights issues. "That sparked my interest," she said. "I didn’t necessarily agree with everything I read, but it was a start of envisioning an Israel that also fits non-Jews and non-Israelis."
What I didn't have space to explain in the piece is that even organizations that have traditionally promoted an uncritical view of Israel are now accepting that the terms of the debate have changed. Hillel, for example, the most prominent Jewish organization on college campuses, last week launched "Talk Israel Tents" on 21 campuses, in which students were encouraged to openly debate Palestinian statehood and other issues.
Tor Tsuk, Israel fellow at the Columbia Barnard Hillel, wrote to me that the tent was "a tremendous program that gathered for the first time students from Hillel and the Students for Justice in Palestine group in a discussion."
It's also important to note that among the more progressive Israel advocacy groups, there is significant divergence on tactics. Jewish Voice for Peace, for example, which last year organized a protest in which young people heckled Benjamin Netanyahu, supports divestment campaigns targeted at corporations that profit from the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. J Street and its campus organization, J Street U, on the other hand, oppose divestment, which they say deligitimizes Israel's existence. Instead, J Street U has promoted a campaign called "Invest, Don't Divest," which supports microfinance efforts in the Palestinian terroritories and Arab-Israeli economic cooperation.
On the statehood resolution, J Street, after internal debate, decided to support President Obama's decision to veto. Jewish Voice for Peace opposes the veto. Yet everyone I interviewed said the resolution is an incredibly complex topic; no one was willing to say a "yes" vote for statehood was the absolute right thing at this point in time, given the delicacy of potential negotiations and the opposition of even some Palestinian activists to pursuing statehood in this manner.
I hope you'll go over to TIME and read the piece.