Greetings from Middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania!
However, Israellycool and I have decided to take our relationship to the next level, and the time has come that we make it official.
Well, this is awkward.
I can hear my brother’s voice at the back of my head telling me what he always tells me: “Nothing’s awkward until someone says it’s awkward.”
Okay, fine Corey, you’re right, it’s not awkward.
My name is Lex and I hail from the beautiful yet pothole-ridden Montréal Quebec. And to answer your question, oui, this means I speak French.
I didn’t find Israel advocacy. Israel advocacy found me, 7 years ago as a CÉGEP student. I was a young idealist, passionate about making the world a better place. As was in vogue at my school, I decided to take on a Third World Studies (TWS) certificate at Marianopolis College to add credentials to my current degree. The program seemed innocuous at first – social justice-related, for people who want to help the poor and the suffering in third-world countries. What I would later discover is that the program was not what I thought – it was geared to pushing students in one ideological direction, the radical left. Essentially, you would need a certain number of points to get the certificate, all of which are obtained by attending leftist indoctrination workshops – protests, lectures, and even a trip to Cuba where communism is portrayed as an ideal way of life. I was registered to go on the Cuba trip, and we were told to go door to door to faculty to ask for donations. I knocked on the door of a professor who had substituted for one of my professors a few times when he was sick. This professor looked at me incredulously: “Do you realize what you’re supporting?” he asked me, “I refuse to give money to this organization.” He told me about how both his parents survived the holocaust, he was born in a displaced persons camp, and saw Israel as an essential part of his Jewish identity. I told him I was Jewish as well, and he alerted me to some of the more sinister aspects of the TWS program. I was shocked.
A few weeks later, he was vindicated when I received a listserv email from the director of the Third World Studies Certificate, Prof. Dolores Chew, informing us about the upcoming Israel Apartheid Week, and that we would be awarded points toward our certificate for attending IAW events, including a “pro-Palestinian” antizionist “Al Quds” rally. As a Jew who feels Israel is an important part of who I am as someone who is indigenous to that land, I suddenly felt deeply offended and unsafe. I immediately threw away my “passport” (the book where our points are “stamped” and recorded by the program coordinators after we provide proof of attendance) and proceeded to the Professor’s office (the one who warned me, whose name I’m not disclosing for obvious reasons). I told him he was totally right and talked about how I felt unsafe as a Jew in that environment where antisemitic ideology is promoted. He introduced me to the wonderful world of Zionism and has taken me under his wing ever since.
In university, it was worse, as the Professor had warned me. The McGill Daily, which he jokingly called “The Mongrel Daily,” the largest student publication at McGill, was openly anti-Israel. What’s more, an organization called QPIRG was given special status as a club, including its own four-storey house right in the middle of downtown and an allotment of 3$ per semester per student, raised to 4$ by popular vote during my time as a student. The organization ran Israel Apartheid Week, sponsored pretty much every anti-Israel event on campus, pushed BDS on students, and funded a slew of virulent anti-Israel organizations such as Tadamon! Unfortunately because QPIRG was also the main organization behind all the environmental and most of the charity initiatives on campus, the vast majority of students thought they were saints, and believed that because they supported such noble causes and claimed to know way more than us mere mortals about social justice, clearly they must be right about Israel too. I realized that pro-Israel advocacy was sorely lacking, and desperately needed, because students were only exposed to one side of the story in their classes, their readings, and their student organizations.
I remembered the quote by Rabbi Hillel: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?
I wrote an article in support of Israel for McGill’s Conservative paper, The Prince Arthur Herald, whose founding editors spearheaded the now-defunct QPIRG Opt-Out Campaign. It received a lot of criticism from self-righteous radical leftists who told me I was a bad person and should feel ashamed of myself for speaking out against a deeply oppressed people. Slowly I fell down the leftie rabbit hole, but in the end it was my Zionism, which refused to go away despite arguments to the contrary being shoved down my throat by my leftie friends on a regular basis, that saved me. The more I researched the other point of view, the more I saw problems with it, hypocrisies inherent in it, and the ulterior antisemitic motives behind it its promotion. I was made to feel like I wasn’t a “true progressive” by my leftie friends, since I supported a “colonialist apartheid regime that deliberately kills children, sterilizes black people and commits genocide” (all nonsensical claims, in case you were wondering). As I began to slip out of the leftist bubble, I began to find more and more problems with other radical leftist ideologies, as they were too idealistic and didn’t reflect anything feasible in the real world. I realized how closed-minded the radicals were, as no matter how much evidence I had to support my view, they refused to consider its validity because they supported the underdog no matter what. I realized that leftism and liberalism were different, often antithetical, and that the left didn’t always mean progressive, especially when they defended radical Islamist doctrines because they “came from a place of desperation and marginalization.”
I spent a year working with the Israel on Campus Coalition, during which I discovered that McGill not alone in facing this scourge. BDS-mania exists on every campus, and at schools like York and Concordia, it was way worse than at McGill. During Protective Edge, my passion reignited, and since I was recovering from a serious injury I had nothing better to do than pro-Israel advocacy and went into it at full speed. I met some pretty amazing people, and even managed to publish a few guest posts for this excellent blog. Among them are how I managed to reconcile being a progressive with being pro-Israel (hint: it doesn’t require any reconciliation), a humorous allegorical thought experiment where we imagine that the real world is girl world, because Mean Girls analogies are obviously applicable to international relations, and a collaboration with my friend, the popular columnist Ryan Bellerose, about the bond between American Indians and Jews.
Another important thing about me before we go: I’m a comedy actor with 7 years of training at a professional acting school followed by 2 years of teaching improv and sketch comedy at a community center. I even wrote a musical comedy that kind of took off five years ago.
Writing for this blog means I sort of found my niche, mixing my two loves of comedy writing and Israel advocacy together. And yes, I know, that’s what she said.