Camp Solomon Schechter, one of the Pacific Northwest’s longest-serving and best-loved Jewish summer camps, caused a bit of a stir this weekend after it hosted a group of 14 children, including Christian and Muslim Palestinians, and flew the Palestinian flag in their honor. This upset some campers, parents, and alumni, who wailed that the black-white-green-and-red had no place among the blue-and-white, and that a camp committed to Zionism and Israel shouldn’t kowtow to the enemy.
Those outraged—and I say this as an uncompromising supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism and incitement—are missing the point. The problem here isn’t that the camp chose to welcome its Palestinian guests by flying their colors; that alone is a sweet gesture, especially when the Palestinians in question are prepubescents, not armed members of the Tanzim. The problem is that the camp chose to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a mindless, morally preening way, treating it not as something concrete but as a collection of grand symbolic gestures.
Here, for example, is the email the camp sent out in the aftermath of the controversy:
“For the sake of a teachable moment, we did raise the Palestinian flag as a sign of friendship and acceptance. It was met with uncertainty by some campers and staff, especially the Israeli’s [sic], but all understood that the message of hope for peace by flying the Israeli flag alongside helped develop empathy. Still we plan to take down all the flags for Shabbat since there is no peace and also to relieve the sadness and anger that some feel by the site of the flag. It was so fun to watch the kids from Jerusalem play soccer with our chanichim and madrichim!”The problem here is that the camp chose to welcome its Palestinian guests by flying their colors.
Would the camp have displayed the Hamas flag?
The Nazi flag?
Why is the Arafat/Abbas flag any different?