How does one small country generate so much controversy and news? It is amazing that as a country smaller than the size of New Jersey, Israel makes front-page headlines almost every day and is seemingly always a point of serious contention on this campus. This week marks the 68th anniversary of the independence and creation of the State of Israel. While the celebration of this event may invoke anger and hostility in some, it will provide joy and a sense of pride in others.
This piece is therefore apolitical, striving not to create controversy, but rather a plea for respect and appreciation for this celebration. Israel in itself is a triumph of the human will against all odds. The Jewish people, after enduring the worst genocide in modern human history, regrouped and fought to re-establish a homeland in their biblical land. This is a group of people that three years prior to independence was being systematically murdered and displaced by the Nazis. Israel is also a place where innovation and progress are encouraged and constantly achieved. This is a country that has more high-tech start-ups and a larger venture capital industry per capita than any other country in the world. It is a country which houses the biggest pride parade in continental Asia, drawing more than 100,000 people each year.
Israel, however, is not a country without problems and issues. This is a country in which the poverty rate is 21 percent higher than countries such as Mexico, Turkey and Chile. Israel also faces daily existential questions in regards to the Palestinians and its identity as a progressive, democratic state. While Israel attempts to maintain its democratic ideals, it is also faced with its current position as an occupying force in Gaza and the West Bank. This occupation creates more questions than it answers, yet must be looked at objectively from both sides to understand its benefits and drawbacks.
Bruins for Israel’s Israel Independence Week is not a celebration of the current Israeli government or its policies. Rather, it is a celebration of a true man-made miracle; the miracle of a battered and beaten group of people with no place to go, building a nation in the face of an existential crisis. It is a celebration which is meant to showcase Israeli pride and achievement, rather than political questions which cause division and controversy, even in the Jewish community.
Israel is not absolved from any blame nor is it a perfect utopia. However, neither is the United States. And yet, every July Fourth we all celebrate the independence of this great nation. I know many liberals who vehemently oppose our prison and torture tactics in Guantanamo Bay, but still profess to love America. I also know many conservatives who vehemently oppose Obama’s tactics, but still profess to love America. So, why is it impossible to love and celebrate Israel, and not agree with everything its government does? The pro-Israel and Jewish community are the same way: Israel is not perfect, yet it is a source of pride for us as an impossible idea, where ultimately, blood, sweat and tears became a nation, our homeland.
Therefore this is a plea, an apolitical plea, for appreciation and respect of those celebrating this Israel Independence Week. Israel, just like UCLA, America or each and every one of us, is not without its flaws. But, it is also beautiful. It is a miracle, just like how we all got into UCLA, how we get out of bed for an 8 a.m. class, or like humankind in itself. The celebration is not meant to support one political ideology, nor is it strictly Jewish or pro-Israel.
I encourage all those who love Israel, and those who want to learn more to join Bruins for Israel in Bruin Plaza on Monday. There will be a celebration, not to influence anyone politically, but to portray the man-made miracle that we are proud to call Israel.
Neuman is a second-year political science student and public relations director for Bruins for Israel.