Israel on Canadian College Campuses - An Up-hill Battle

Published: February 4th 2010

Noam Bedein

 “If Sderot is a settlement and two miles northeast of Sderot lies the ruins of the Arab village called Najd, which the Palestinians say had a population of 30 families, who now live in the United Nations refugee camps in Gaza, what’s the justification for Jews to live in Sderot or anywhere else in Israel?”


The challenge today is to first actually ask these basic questions, before throwing around answers or solutions for the modern Arab-Israeli conflict.


 “What is our right, as Jews and as Israelis, to this country in our homeland? Do we have any rights to this land at all?”


This is the way I was able to get across and present Israel’s perspective to Muslims, to pro-Palestinians, Israel critics and to the international press.  By asking this basic question, we ask everyone to realize that Israel is the only independent country in the world whose legitimacy as a state is being questioned.  


The leadership and governing bodies of the Palestinian side do not recognize Sderot's establishment in the first years of the creation of the Jewish state, while most Israelis/Jews have accepted a two- state solution.


As another Canadian-Palestinian student expressed himself during my presentation at Carleton University in Ottawa, quite matter of fact:


 ”You Jews dreamt to go back to your home land after 2,000 years… Why do you think we will stop teaching our children to dream to return to our homes in Al-Majdal (Ashkelon) only after 60 years?”


In other words, educated Canadian born Palestinian students living comfortably abroad, view Sderot quite simply as an illegal settlement and do not recognize the Jewish State of Israel. They do not accept my existence as an Israeli. So does the opposite apply to a Palestinian raised in a United Nations refugee camp, who has not been given any solution or hope for the past 60 years (even though the UN has resettled more than 50 million refugees worldwide since World War II), will that Palestinian recognize my existence as an Israeli?

Instead, Palestinian education focuses on the preparation of the Palestinian people for the ‘right of return’ to homes and villages from 1948 in Israel which no longer exist. Homes and villages for example in and around cities like Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, and more which have all been under terrorist missile fire.


 “So, what’s your solution to this reality?” asked students on each of the Canadian campuses that I visited. In the hundreds of presentations I have given in the past three years I always answer, “I’m not here to present you a solution; I’m here to present the problem.”


The answer to that logical question is that there may not be any instant “solution”. Yet that should not exempt students from knowing the reality of what people in Israel have to cope with – and, in the case of Sderot, that their unique miraculous rocket reality is like no other in the world right now. Rockets have become a daily routine of life in Israel, where one civilian population is being targeted by rockets, rocket-launchers take cover under another civilian population on the other side of the border.  

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