"I’d rather not live in a world full of lies and distortions about Israel, but indeed we do. And I happen to have some tools to respond to it”
Photos: Eli Cobin
On any given day, you can find the State of Israel coming in for some rough treatment in the media.
Detractors accuse it of being either an apartheid state, an occupying colonialist power, or both. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has gone so far as to initiate a probe into what it says are possible war crimes stemming from IDF actions in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria.
For Professor Eugene Kontorovich, whenever the Jewish state’s legal standing or international legitimacy as a sovereign nation is impugned, it is grist for his legal mill and fodder for his laser-focused analysis. His forceful and well-reasoned arguments often appear in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Fox News and other channels frequently tap his expertise in international and constitutional law.
Professor Kontorovich wears many professional hats. He heads the international law department at Jerusalem’s Kohelet Forum, a think tank that many Knesset members draw on for policy ideas. Eugene spends one semester a year in Arlington, Virginia, teaching at the George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, where he established the Center for the Middle East and International Law to train young scholars to take a deeper dive into the intricacies of the Middle East.
Kontorovich is highly regarded in the halls of Congress. He has testified frequently on issues of foreign affairs and national security, defending Israel’s claims of sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and shielding Israel from the economic warfare movement known as BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions). Pundits have dubbed Kontorovich the “intellectual architect” of anti-BDS laws passed in some 32 states.
Eugene is also no stranger to Mishpacha readers. He’s been one of my go-to sources since I first interviewed him in 2015, after the Palestinian Authority applied for membership in the International Criminal Court. I have described Eugene to my colleagues as a younger version of Alan Dershowitz, based on his media savvy and gift for formulating legally sound and persuasive approaches. For a journalist, one of Eugene’s endearing qualities is his knack for delivering a colorful “pull quote” — a one-line zinger that drives his point across without sounding hackneyed.
In this, our longest and most comprehensive interview to date, we sit across from each other over a desk at the Kohelet Forum on a steamy-hot Jerusalem afternoon. Eugene looks cool, calm, and collected, as usual. This day, he has ceded his own larger office to colleagues who need extra space for a meeting, to abide by Covid distancing requirements. So we are sitting in a smaller office, on the south side of the building, far from the panoramic view of northern Jerusalem that Kohelet’s office affords.
Eugene elaborates on how he found the niche that he fills so fervently.
“I’d really rather not be doing it,” Kontorovich says. “When I started out as a law professor, I focused on economics and constitutional law, which I still write about. Even eight years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed that I’d be involved in any kind of policy work in this area.”
When I ask him where his passion comes from, he shifts back in his seat and contemplates his response.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a passion,” he continues. “Definitely not. I’ll tell you why it’s not a passion. A passion is something you enjoy doing for its own sake. Stamp collecting could be a passion. My writing about Israel is done out of necessity. I’d rather not live in a world full of lies and distortions about Israel, but indeed we do. And I happen to have some tools to respond to it.”
It Comes Naturally
His writing ability is one such tool. Eugene began writing professionally as a teenager, and he kept at it as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. From 1996 to 2000, he wrote for the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Forward. He never considered the idea that he might be too young or too inexperienced for major publications.
“I was completely oblivious as to what a young whippersnapper I must have been and how arrogant I might have been perceived,” Kontorovich says. “But I was not self-conscious at all, and that’s what made it possible.”
When editor Seth Lipsky reconstituted the old Yiddish-language Forward into an English-language paper, Eugene was one of his first hires.
Eugene’s cerebral disposition is genetic. His family is academically inclined and highly accomplished. His father, Vladimir, is a professor of economics at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. His brother Alex is a well-known math professor at Rutgers, his brother Aryeh is a computer science professor at Ben-Gurion University, and his sister Luba Safran is an executive at Inbev, a multinational beverage company.
The Kontoroviches obtained exit visas from the Soviet Union, immigrating from Kiev to the United States in 1977 when Eugene was three. Eugene says their exit was not uncommon for those days, facilitated by Jewish organizations such as HIAS and the Joint. His parents now live in Teaneck, but upon their arrival in the US, they settled first in Brooklyn and Washington Heights before crossing the Hudson River to the Garden State.
While practicing Judaism was almost impossible under the iron vise of the Soviets, the Kontorovich family were knowledgeable of Jewish history and possessed a strong sense of Jewish identity. Israel’s miraculous victory in the 1967 Six Day War strengthened their commitment.
As a “cub reporter,” Eugene wrote about Jewish issues, but says he was never particularly focused on Israel.
That changed when the IDF entered Lebanon in July 1993 in what was dubbed Operation Accountability, a seven-day mission to avenge the terrorist murders of five IDF soldiers. The Forward sent Eugene, in his summer after high school, to provide on-scene coverage from Israel.
Eugene used his time wisely, professionally and personally. His first visit to Jerusalem provided him with his first chance ever to don tefillin.
“I had three hours between buses, and there was nothing to do in the Tachanah Merkazit [central bus station] in Jerusalem then,” he says. “There was a Lubavitcher putting on tefillin on people, so I put on tefillin too.”
Eugene today is fully Torah-observant. He made aliyah in 2016 and is raising four daughters, ages 14, 13, and nine-year old twins, in a religious community near Jerusalem. There was no one main event that spurred him on a path to Torah observance, but he remembers being impressed by that first visit to Israel and the way religion seemed to come naturally to the populace.
“I really saw Judaism being observed as a national practice — an ordinary part of life,” he says. “I found it very interesting. Often people might think that they wouldn’t mind following the Torah and observing the mitzvos, but to them it’s a very different lifestyle. They think it’s somebody else’s lifestyle and can’t cross that sociological barrier. Meeting so many normal frum people was very helpful for me in crossing the sociological barrier.”
Eugene came armed with letters of introduction from his publisher to both Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon, then a member of the opposition. Rabin was too busy to meet, but Eugene did gain a brief audience with Sharon.
“I remember that he was gruff and insistent on his return to power,” Eugene recalls. He made several subsequent trips to Israel, on Birthright, and with his parents. “Each time made a deep impression on me,” he says.
After a few years in journalism, he enrolled in the University of Chicago Law School. He saw law as an interdisciplinary field that would provide him with the tools to combine various academic disciplines that he enjoys.
He graduated law school with high honors in 2001, clerked for Judge Richard Posner at the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and subsequently spent 13 years as a professor, both at his alma mater, and later at the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.
The Need Was There
Since universities expect their professors to get published and increase their “impact factor,” Eugene understood that he needed a niche to call his own.
“No one is celebrated academically for having a classroom presence,” Kontorovich says. “You need to be a reasonably good instructor, but you also need to be constantly publishing. I needed to come up with new things to write about all the time. It’s challenging.”
He put it all together: his accumulated knowledge of international law and economics, his newfound discovery of Orthodox Judaism, and his love for Israel. Add to the mix a large dose of skepticism over the conventional academic dogma that condemns Israel, and Professor Kontorovich had found his niche.
One of his early research projects was to tackle the conventional wisdom that Israel is an occupying power in the West Bank following its conquest of the territory from Jordan in the Six Day War. Kontorovich researched the arguments for this position and found them to be unsound and imbalanced.
He then began to scour the legal literature for scholars who had found those same weaknesses, and then summarized their arguments.
“What I did find was precious little critical examination of the consensus, which was mainly based on untested premises or assumptions that might not have been fully thought through at the beginning,” Kontorovich says.
“Normally, the path of academic or scientific inquiry is that the conventional wisdom is constantly challenged, tested, and refined. But sometimes the process doesn’t work so well, perhaps for ideological reasons.
“So I saw this as an open area for academic insight where I could come up with useful new ideas and observations,” Eugene says. “The need was there.”
Fighting Cancel Culture
Kontorovich used basic tools of international law to refute the charges against Israel.
“You don’t decide a case in law by looking at the case itself,” he begins. “You decide a case by saying, let’s stipulate the facts. Let’s look around the world to see where else this situation exists. And does it get called an occupation there? Does the movement of people get called a war crime? That’s one of the tools I used when looking at Israel’s situation — to look at analogous or comparable situations elsewhere. What are the precedents? So many academic discussions of Israel lack empirical depth, because they are only interested in the case they are trying to decide, which is Israel.”
That’s one major reason that Kontorovich set up his Center for the Middle East and International Law at George Mason University. The center holds conferences to broaden the academic discussion about Israel and encourages scholarship in this field.
“In particular I feel that lots of young scholars are intimidated about writing on these issues,” Kontorovich says. “There is a real fear of ‘cancellation’ of anyone who questions the conventional wisdom on the Israeli occupation, and probably, pretty soon, the conventional wisdom on Israeli apartheid. So I’m trying to create an academic hub for more objective debate about it.”
There is more than one way to delegitimize Israel, and as a result, one of Kontorovich’s ongoing battles is over BDS laws.
He remembers standing in his backyard in 2015 when the phone rang. It was Alan Clemmons, a longstanding member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. A Mormon missionary who was one of the first to address the Knesset Caucus against Anti-Semitism after its formation, Clemmons sought Kontorovich’s legal expertise in crafting a state law that would bar companies who participated in BDS boycotts against Israel from competing for state contracts.
Kontorovich agreed to help, saying he was actually inspired by a wave of executive orders, including some issued by President Obama, which barred governments from contracting with companies who discriminated against the LGBTQ community.
The South Carolina legislature passed the Clemmons bill. Illinois soon passed a similar measure requiring state pension funds to divest from companies that boycotted Israel.
“I helped advise lawmakers who prepared the bills in other states,” Kontorovich says, calling it “a new model, that many states adopted, like cut and paste.”
He might be humble about it, but the Jerusalem Post bestowed on him the moniker of “intellectual architect” behind the anti-BDS laws.
However, the battle is far from over. It’s now moved from the legislature to the courtroom. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have embarked on a systematic campaign, filing lawsuits in multiple states against the anti-BDS measures. They cite Supreme Court rulings to support their contention that the First Amendment protects boycotts as one form of freedom of speech.
Kontorovich has written amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court briefs) in support of the state laws. While some challenges to the laws are still working their way through the system, and some states have modified clauses in their laws as a result of the legal challenges, the anti-BDS laws in most states remain largely intact.
Kontorovich contends the First Amendment does not protect commercial conduct, such as the right to refuse to do business with someone based on who that someone is. He considers the ACLU hypocritical, because on one hand, they support laws against boycotts aimed at the LGBTQ community, but they do not support laws banning boycotts if they are aimed at Israel.
“The stakes are very high,” Kontorovich says. “It’s very dangerous, because they want to establish the refusal to deal with people because of their Israeli connection as the one constitutionally protected form of discrimination. That would be a terrible precedent. That is the ultimate delegitimization. But it also goes to shows you what an obsession Israel has become for progressives.”
Kontorovich is also focusing great effort now on legal arguments to block a Biden administration proposal to place a US consulate to the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem. Kontorovich says that US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is one of the most positive developments of the past several years. He contends the Biden administration is working quietly but resolutely to reverse that, in the hopes of intimidating a weak Israeli government into capitulating.
Our discussion continued along those lines, and progressed into a variety of major issues that he is following that will impact on Israel’s international standing in the years to come.
Is the Biden administration pressuring a compliant Israeli government to declare the Palestinians have a rightful stake in Jerusalem?
Why would placement of a US consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem be so harmful to Israel’s interests?
“Because if the Palestinians don’t have a claim to Jerusalem, why put their consulate there? Why not put it in Ramallah? That’s where their government is. The US cites security problems for not doing it in Ramallah, which is absurd. European countries and many others have diplomatic missions in Ramallah. There are American missions in much more dangerous places.
“It’s quite clear from statements made by prominent Democrats who support this that the goal is to recognize Palestinian claims to Jerusalem. They are not going to say that out loud. They’re trying to get Israel to do it. If Israel agrees to it, how can anyone object? So by bullying Israel into going along with this, the Americans are doing something even worse than trying to divide Jerusalem. They are essentially trying to do it with Israel’s approval, so that the hands are Eisav’s, but the voice will be Yaakov’s.
“The current Israeli government is very afraid of bad relations with the administration. What they don’t understand is that this is not going to be a ‘one off’ deal. It for sure will be the beginning of making the case that America agrees, Israel agrees, so the Palestinians have a rightful stake in Jerusalem.”
What are some of the fault lines in the arguments offered by the international community who consider Judea and Samaria occupied territory?
“You can’t occupy your own territory or a territory to which you have a sovereign claim. And here’s another universal legal rule: When a new country is created, its borders are the borders of the last top-level administrative unit that was in that territory. What unit was here before Israel? The British Mandate for Palestine. Israel was created as a successor to the Mandate. By international law, Israel’s borders would be the borders of Mandatory Palestine, which of course includes Gaza, Yehuda, and Shomron and all of Jerusalem.”
How about the UN partition plan of 1947, which divided the mandate’s territory?
“It has nothing to do with what the United Nations suggested in 1947 in their Partition Plan. That’s not the way that borders of countries get decided. There are other UN resolutions on borders of countries that are not in effect. The rule that I just stated is what establishes the borders of a new country. That’s why Jordan has its borders. That’s why Syria has its borders. That is why there is no Kurdish state. This rule determines the borders of the entire Middle East, and yet in the singular context of Israel, this rule is not applied.
How does all this apply to Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank, as the world calls it?
“You have a country [Israel] created from a previous imperial territory [British Mandate]. Within those sovereign borders is an administrative unit [the West Bank] that it [Israel] never secured in its war of independence that comes under control of a hostile army [Jordan] that invades it in a war [1948 War of Independence]. The hostile army expels all the people of that ethnicity [the Jews] from the territory. But Israel still has a legal claim to it, again, based on what is called the previous top-level administrative sovereign borders.
“Then, about 20 years later, in a war [1967 Six Day War], [Israel] has an amazing reversal and retakes most of this territory, and people start moving back into this territory from which they’d been ethnically cleansed. How many countries would describe that as an occupation? How many countries describe this movement of people into territory taken by war as settlement transfer? Zero. Not a single one.
“The facts that I have just described to you, while they also happen to match Israel and Jordan to a tee in Judea and Samaria, also happen to match to a tee the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Last year, Azerbaijan captured territory in a war that it had never controlled since its independence, but nonetheless had a claim to. Yet not a single country calls this an occupation.”
Israel is getting singled out again. Is that pure anti-Semitism, or just ignorance of international law?
“I’m not a social psychologist to know why people make the mistakes they make. I also think anti-Semitism is a term we need to retire. It suggests that anti-Semitism is somehow different from other types of bigotry. It also suggests that those who act anti-Semitically are motivated by conscious hatred, and that’s just not true. People reject that. They say, ‘You can’t call me an anti-Semite. Some of my best friends are Jews. I’m a nice person who supports human rights.’
“My point is anti-Semitism is not a state of open dislike of Jews. I would say one of the core aspects of anti-Semitism always has been pathologically blaming for Jews for the worst things in the world, or whatever the world sees as the worst at the time.
“When monotheism was seen as the worst thing in the world, anti-Semites didn’t like Jews because they were monotheistic. Then when Christianity developed into a major religion, they didn’t like Jews because they weren’t Christian. When economic conflicts or class conflicts in the 19th century were seen as the most important social issues, Jews were blamed for communism and capitalism. And today, when racial or ethnic issues are perceived as the most sensitive, Jews are naturally blamed for some kind of violation of racial or ethnic norms, because those are seen as the most sacrosanct.”
Can you give me a legal definition of apartheid, why opponents apply it to Israel, and why they are wrong?
“There is a reason for the apartheid accusation. It’s really a blood libel. What is a blood libel? A blood libel was the opposite of the truth. Accusing Jews of using Christian babies’ blood for matzah was so outrageous, in particular. They picked the things about which Jews are the most cautious, blood and Pesach, and they put them together to create an entirely false accusation.
“Israel is one of the only countries where there is equality between citizens and where there is no distinction made on ethnic basis. Only one country has been consistently identified as an apartheid state — South Africa. That’s why it’s called apartheid — an Afrikaans word — rather than just discriminatory practices. Apartheid is a system of persecution on ethnic or racial grounds designed to subjugate one group and ensure the supremacy of another.”
Israel critics say that’s exactly what’s happing to the Palestinians. That they’re being subjugated inside Gaza and the West Bank. How do you fight back?
“Actually, there are some practices that might — in their totality — resemble apartheid. There is a situation where there is a disfavored group that has no property rights, where the government sponsors extrajudicial execution killing of those people, and perpetrates a system of bigotry and religious, racial, and ethnic incitement. Those policies that I described are the policies of the Palestinian Authority government in relation to Jews. The death penalty for selling land to Jews. Pay for slay. Incitement in textbooks.
“Apartheid is a big lie when it comes to Israel. Refuting it point by point is as worthless as trying to refute blood libels by doing a chemical analysis of matzah. Precisely because the claim is so outrageous. The claim is made for a purpose. To incite.
“If you wanted to criticize Israel, reasonably, you would say Israel engages in policies that we disagree with. And we can talk about particular policies, but to say it’s an apartheid state, when there is no place in Israel in which there is segregation between people based on ethnicity? It’s about inciting the base.
“People who don’t know or aren’t going to pursue the issue in depth just hear this association between the words. It’s about a creating a meme, an idea. If people hear Israel is an apartheid state often enough, the idea is going to rub off. It’s an effort to build an air of legitimacy for essentially calling for the end of Israel. Because that’s what you do to an apartheid state. You end it.”
The question then becomes, is Israel dealing with this in the right way?
“No, don’t blame the victim. There is no right way to do all this. There are certain particular failings that Israel has in public relations, but there is no right way to deny a completely baseless claim. That is the point of the great lie. Perhaps Israel spends too much energy trying to refute it. Even engaging with it is a problem, because that then suggests that it’s a matter of debate.
You can’t just stay silent. Don’t you have to say something?
“It needs to be called out for what it is. A great lie.”
Doesn’t that come across as defensive? Why not debate the issue if we are so sure we are right?
“It’s important to explain why you’re not debating. I have often urged students, when an Apartheid Week comes up on campus, not to explain that Israel is not an apartheid state. It’s not going to work well anyway, because again, most people are not interested in the details. It’s about creating word association.
“So the real argument that needs to be made is shift the focus to Palestinian apartheid, because that is something real. The problem is that campus Jewish groups are often squeamish about seeking direct confrontations, whereas their opponents are not. Jewish groups won’t make a Palestinian Apartheid Week, because that might be seen as rude or confrontational. They leave it to their opponents to make Israel Apartheid Week. You know who is going to win that fight.”
The International Criminal Court in the Hague is investigating Israel for war crimes following years of military conflicts with Hamas. What is the probable outcome?
“I believe the ICC is almost certain to bring charges against Israel. The ICC believes many strange things. They believe there is a state called Palestine. They believe that the Oslo Accords don’t transfer full jurisdiction of Jewish communities to Israel, which they do. The ICC was supposed to be an independent court, but on every possible occasion, they have taken their legal guidance about Israel from the UN General Assembly, which is a political body.
“So they regard every single Jew living in Yehudah and Shomron, and every mirpesset in Gilo that gets enclosed, as a war crime. There is no way that they will not bring charges for that ‘crime.’
“It’s notable that there are other occupied territories within the ICC’s jurisdiction — Northern Cyprus, where Turkey has settled citizens, and Crimea, where hundreds of thousands of Russians have moved. In those cases, the court does have jurisdiction, because those countries joined [the Rome Statute that established the court]. Israel never did. [Nor did the US.] I like to say the ICC proceeding on Israel is the court’s only investigation of a non-member state at the behest of a member [the Palestinian Authority] that is not a state.
“So the whole discussion of ‘will they or won’t they’ is pointless. It needs to be understood as a body with a political agenda. They will do what is consistent with that agenda, and that agenda is to bring charges against Israelis.”
So how do Israelis who get charged defend themselves, or how does Israel as a country push this off?
“I’m not afraid of the Hague. The bigger a deal we make of it, the worse it will be when it happens. The ICC is a lot like voodoo. The more you believe in it, the more it works. Part of the power they have is from their perceived legitimacy and from the hopes of cooperation from targeted countries.
“Israel needs to take a clear policy of noncooperation and even hostility. For example, legislation has previously been introduced in the Knesset, which I support, that would mirror the United States Armed Services Members Protection Act and allow the Israeli government to take any necessary means to free Israelis held on behalf of the ICC. That would include economic sanctions and everything up to and including the use of military force. That’s how it needs to be treated.”
Military force against the ICC?
“The ICC doesn’t have any police. The ICC has member states. There are a small number of Israelis whose life will be complicated by indictments, especially when it comes to foreign travel to whichever member states decide to enforce the ICC arrest warrants. Israel, and Israelis, should make it clear that they will be very supportive of the people that expose themselves to personal risk when taking actions on behalf of the state. Israeli politicians should be running on this platform, and voters should be prepared to reward them for not letting the desire to go skiing in France outweigh the good of the citizens of Israel.”
We discussed BDS earlier, but the big story this year was Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Judea and Samaria. It doesn’t seem like anything can be done to change their minds. Doesn’t this put in to question the effectiveness of anti-BDS laws?
“For a company by itself to decide to boycott Israel is not a crime, but there are lots of bigoted and discriminatory practices that can bar that company from landing state contracts. Taxpayer money need not provide a subsidy for companies engaged in bigoted and discriminatory action.
“And here’s the thing. It’s misleading to say ‘boycotting Israel.’ Nobody’s boycotting Israel. I’ve been involved in this for a long time, I have never heard of anyone saying we’re boycotting Israel. What is Israel? Israel is the government of the State of Israel. When you hear about boycotts of Israel, Ben & Jerrys isn’t saying, ‘We’re not selling to the government of Israel.’ Airbnb didn’t say, ‘We’re not going to rent vacation properties to the government of the State of Israel.’ They are boycotting people, regardless of their conduct, simply because of their connection to Israel. Not because of what they’ve done, but because of who they are. They are boycotting people because they are Jewish. That is a classic example of bigotry and stereotyping because of the category you fall into, rather than because of anything that you have done.
“What do you call it when someone says, ‘I’m not going to do business with someone because they’re black’? Would you say they’re boycotting them? They could, it would be accurate — but they are discriminating against them. There is no fundamental difference. Calling it a boycott is a way of disguising a discriminatory refusal to deal. No one is going to get off the hook by saying, ‘I’m not discriminating against black people by not hiring them, I’m only boycotting them.’ ”
The BDS movement, and those defending them in court, contend BDS is merely an expression of free speech, and not a boycott movement, and that BDS supporters should also be allowed to demonstrate.
“They should be completely allowed to demonstrate. They should be able to say whatever they want. None of these laws [against BDS] restricts their speech. They could have a big Palestinian flag hanging above their corporate headquarters and say ‘death to Israel’ and still be completely eligible for government contracts. It’s the action of refusing to do business with someone because of who they are that is illegal.
“It’s the same with any kind of discrimination. You are allowed to say you don’t like someone, but you are not allowed to say that you are refusing to do be business with them, which is commercial conduct rather than speech. It doesn’t matter what you say. What you say is protected. Your commercial dealings are in a separate category — they are not speech. And that has been clearly upheld by the courts over and over.”
So based on that, what should Israel be doing in the case of Ben & Jerry’s or its parent company, Unilever? What about consumer boycotts?
“Consumers need to place continued pressure on Unilever, but consumer boycotts are very difficult to maintain. The government of Israel doesn’t always necessarily have a role in matters involving private companies. The government of Israel should deal with discriminatory practices, boycotts, and anti-Semitism coming from governmental and official actors.
“Private organizations should be primarily dealing with this issue. For example, what if the Kaf K, which provides the hashgachah for Ben and Jerry’s, were to decide not to continue that relationship? Now, I do think it would be a mistake to cancel the contract, because it’s not a kashrus issue, but they would be completely within their rights to say ‘we don’t want to renew our contract with you in the future.’ I think then the frum consumer should be extremely supportive of such a decision, and it would be something that would really get Unilever’s attention.
“It’s a problem that really needs to be solved. It’s important that they feel constant pressure. There are things that shareholders of Unilever can do, which can be explained to them. And possibilities for legal action.”
In the final analysis, is there any overall advice you can give to American Jews in terms of how to fight back, either legally or public-relations wise?
“I don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because I have a hammer, everything is a nail. People are very worried about their children facing anti-Semitic and anti-Israel messages on campus, and there, I don’t think the primary tool is legal. The primary tool is providing a solid Jewish education and identity, beforehand.
“I’m also not a supporter of trying to use tools like campus speech codes and campus enforcement mechanisms to create safe spaces for Jews. Safe spaces are a mistake, and we should not copy everyone else’s mistake by asking for our own little corner. Of course, aliyah is an option. I’m a supporter. But again, the main tools are educational.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 878)
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