We were immensely fortunate to hear Professor Jacobson last Friday night, hosted by Chabad of Ithaca. The place was absolutely packed, late arrivals literally did have to stand!
I had read Professor Jacobson’s writing on the LegalInsurrection website and listened to his interviews so I knew he had very interesting points to make about this important topic and I was intensely curious as to if and how he would be able to tame this vast issue into a short talk suitable for young people. Wow, what a phenomenal talk, superlatives escape me. His talk was clear and logical, it was concise, it was incredibly engaging and the audience, a lively group of students on a Friday night, was wrapt and attentive. His talk covered some of the development behind the BDS movement setting it in a global historical context; he included some of his personal experience in combating the various manifestations of these ideas and ran through some practical tips and advice for ordinary citizens.
I had imagined that a talk on this subject would by necessity contain a little hand-wringing and bemoaning. But Professor Jacobson completely rewrote the rules on that with an approach that was so sensible and level-headed, and so comprehensive that he swept up the audience with an overall message that was empowering and positive; as he put it, there is no need for “doom and gloom”. While the BDS movement and it supporters have been hoping to destroy Israel, they have been forgoing the opportunity to build the Palestinian economy. In contrast, Israel has focused on the positive, creating a strong, diverse and vibrant society and economy.
This got me thinking about extrapolating the topic to a personal level. We’ve all been “boycotted” at some point in our lives. When you’re a kid, you’re devastated when you get irrationally “boycotted” by a peer. When you experience this as an adult, you know intellectually that it’s the person refusing to speak to you or engage with you that has the problem, not you. But it’s painful all the same. Be like the Israelis. Keep on offering that olive branch and hope that one day it’s gonna get accepted. But in the meantime, don’t get discouraged. If you put your effort into constructive and productive projects you’ll be creating a tangibly improved world and not is this just the best response, it is the only option because the target of irrational hatred alone, in the absence of other factors, cannot change the hater. So I found the talk inspirational and motivating in a whole other dimension which I think is a testament to the effectiveness of the speaker in teasing out general themes from the thicket of the daily political realities.
Judging from the questions, this talk hit a nerve with young people who hear anti-Israel lies and find it difficult to have a ready response. My teenager, who hasn’t dealt with these issues directly, found it interesting to hear about the background and history of the subject. From my perspective I would also add that it is also powerfully morale boosting to listen to somebody who calmly states the facts, pursues the arguments all the way to their logical conclusions, for reminding us that making the argument that “Israel is a state like any other state, doesn’t need to be one of the top five responses”.
We are so incredibly fortunate to have a person of this stature in our community and it is very generous of him to take the time to share his perspectives. Professor Jacobson is a first-rate thinker and and an inspiring speaker. If you get a chance to hear him talk I strongly recommend you do so.
Thank you very much Professor Jacobson and thank you very much to Rabbi Eli and Chana Silberstein and Rabbi Dovid and Miri Birk for the opportunity to hear this speaker who is doing so much to support rationality (and Israel) and whose leadership is energizing.
Being of course Shabbat, I couldn’t get a photo of the speaker in action so I am including this cartoon on the topic which is taken from the LegalInsurrection website.
A. F. Branco
Image from LegalInsurrection.com