Israel Advocacy News May 16, 2012: A Look Back: 2011-2012 in Campus Israel Advocacy

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A Look Back: 2011-2012 in Campus Israel Advocacy

Source: Israel Campus Beat, The Jewish Press, 5-16-12

israel+in+the+mirror
Photo Credit: Israel Campus Beat

UN vote reactions. BDS efforts. Anti-Israel Conferences. Gilad Shalit’s release. Social media advocacy. Failed and successful collaborations.

It’s been an eventful year on campus, and through it all, Israel Campus Beat has been reporting on the Israel-on-campus reality. Here’s a look at the 2011-2012 academic year through the keen eyes of ICB.

In the Beginning

The year began with the debate over Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly (GA) in September. In preparation for the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) bid for statehood at the GA, Hillel’s Center for Israel Engagement led an initiative, Tents for Israel, to educate students about Israel and enable them to ask questions about Israel in a secure space.

Even prior to Hillel’s initiative, however, the Israel on Campus Coalition and partners launched the Real Partners. Real Peace (RPRP) campaign in July to prepare students on campus to deal with questions about the Palestinian statehood bid. The RPRP campaign promoted the need for direct negotiations between responsible partners to end the conflict by encouraging students to write op-eds on campus, circulate petitions, and undertake other efforts to raise awareness in the campus community. At the launch, students gathered from across the nation, sharing ideas for effective campus advocacy, and used ideas from their discussions not only for the RPRP campaign but also for larger Israel advocacy efforts. To help spread the campaign and keep students connected, RPRP relied heavily on social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Social Media Advocacy

Social media was a major tool for Hasbara Fellowships, who created the “Friend Request Pending” campaign (as part of RPRP). Using Facebook as their theme, Hasbara created a YouTube video to spread the message that Israel wants to become “friends” with Jordan, Egypt, Palestine and others, but the friendship requests are rejected.

Activists on other campuses, such as Brandeis University, have also used video to promote pro-Israel messages. Other students attended the David Project’s Video Production Seminar back in November to learn more about promoting Israel through video; one video, created by a David Project video intern, has been viewed more than 20,000 times.

Social media is quickly becoming a top tool for Israel advocacy. When IDF soldier Gilad Shalit’s release (after more than five years in captivity) was announced in October, Israel supporters turned to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to spread the good news and share their support. Campus Israel groups use Facebook and Twitter to keep students informed of upcoming meetings and events on campus. Students are taking advantage of the technology of the 21st century and using it for Israel advocacy.

Reaching Out

As important as social media is, it does not replace the fundamental need for building relationships. In the past year, pro-Israel students have sought to establish relationships with pro-Palestinian student groups, though the efforts are fraught with challenges. Early in the school year, ICB reported on a coalition between Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Noles for Israel (NFI) at Florida State University (FSU). Such efforts are so rare that they can seem too good to be true, and in this case, it was. A mere month after the start of this new, hopeful coalition, FSU’s SJP invited Norman Finkelstein, a notoriously anti-Israel speaker, to campus and the partnership ended bitterly.

A successful partnership, however, blossomed this year at a different Florida university. At the University of Miami, an MZ-Grinspoon Intern started a new pro-Israel organization on campus, the I-Team, that includes Jewish, Palestinian and Christian members who work together harmoniously.

Countering anti-Israel Sentiment

In response to a conference at the University of Pennsylvania that sought to advance the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) effort, Israel supporters galvanized to offer a broad range of activities designed to counter the anti-Israel activity. Student activists from all over traveled to Penn to engage students in discussions about Israel. With Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz as the keynote speaker and over 800 students attending Friday night dinners devoted to discussing the conflict, the effort succeeded in creating a positive view of Israel on campus and yielded an Ivy League joint leadership statement condemning the BDS movement.

Later in the year, Dershowitz shared his views with ICB about the Harvard University student conference in March, entitled “Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution.” Student activists and the professionals who support them have learned a lot from the encounters with anti-Israel activity on and off the campus over the past year. But the most prominent lessons to be learned may be the importance of building and maintaining coalitions and partnerships with diverse groups.

The Collaboration Key

Israel groups are learning that their events are most successful and best received when they utilize cross-cultural programming that engages a wide cross-section of the campus community. Long gone are the days when Jewish students are seen as the only Israel advocates; nowadays, Israel advocates span a broad spectrum of diverse backgrounds, whether they are Christians who are trained on a summer tour or students who attend advocacy leadership training in Texas, Jewish and Latino students in a coalition at the University of Texas, or non-Jewish fraternity brothers keen on helping their Jewish fraternity brothers advocate for Israel on campus.

The 2011-2012 academic year has been filled with ideas, challenges, and successes for the campus Israel community. Israel advocates have strengthened their resolve to build partnerships and share information, and they have become increasingly aware of the many organizations and networks that are available to assist them.

Israel advocates can reflect on a successful year of activity, but are not wasting time to plan for the future. Summer offers many opportunities to gain insights and build skills that will serve Israel on the nation’s campuses next fall, when the cycle begins again.

Israel Advocacy News March 6, 2012: One-state conference at Harvard signifies possible new front in campus Israel wars

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One-state conference at Harvard signifies possible new front in campus Israel wars

Source: JTA, 3-6-12

To critics, the one-state conference held at Harvard University was a thinly veiled assault on the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

To organizers, the condemnations and calls on Harvard to cancel the conference amounted to thinly veiled attempts to silence any criticism of Israel.

In the end, “Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution” — arranged by a group of graduate students at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and held at the university — held few surprises.

Activists and academics came together over the weekend to talk about how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a colonizer-settler relationship. A handful of pro-Israel activists stood outside the Kennedy School bearing signs that read “Shame on Harvard, Haven for Jewish Hatred.” Organizers declared the conference a success, while critics denounced it as a sham.

“The reality is, no matter what the conversation, if it’s critical of Israel, the response is the same,” Israel-born Elisha Baskin, one of the conference organizers, said of criticism of the event. Baskin is a research fellow at the Kennedy School and a graduate student at Brandeis University.

The fact that the conference took place at all — and at Harvard, of all places — may have signified a possible new front developing in the campus wars over Israel.

Until now, most of the campus agitation over Israel has centered on the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel known as BDS. But the Harvard conference, and the intensity with which opponents fought to derail it, suggests a great anxiety among pro-Israel groups about the one-state solution turning into a new anti-Israel rallying cry on U.S. campuses.

“To the extent that the idea of a one-state solution is gaining currency, it is important to fight this line of thinking,” said Rob Leikind, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Boston office.

In the weeks leading up the event, pro-Israel groups sought to discredit the conference as an exercise in delegitimizing Israel, and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) called on Harvard to cancel the forum….READ MORE

Israel Advocacy News March 2, 2012: Harvard Kennedy School of Government “One-State Conference” on Israeli-Palestinian conflict draws fire

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Harvard conference draws fire

Source: Boston Globe, 3-2-12

An upcoming conference at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government on the “one-state solution’’ to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is drawing ire from organizations who believe it promotes the elimination of Israel.

The “One-State Conference,’’ which will take place this weekend at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, is meant to investigate the feasibility of a creating a unified Israeli-Palestinian political state as a potential solution to war in the region.

But the event has caused some to criticize the Kennedy School for failing to adequately distance itself from the conference’s controversial subject matter….

Officials from the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights organization, have lambasted the event, saying that it has dangerous implications for the Middle East’s lone Jewish state.

Kenneth Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he fears that attaching Harvard’s name to the conference will legitimize the one-state solution movement, which he called “a euphemism for eliminating the state of Israel.’’

“When something so egregious takes place at Harvard, it really merits our attention,’’ Jacobson said….

Last week, Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote a letter to Harvard president Drew Faust, asking the university to denounce the conference’s subject matter.

“There can never be any legitimate discussion of a concept which, by its very nature, will result in the end of the Jewish character of Israel,’’ Foxman wrote.

Jacobson said the organization does not want Harvard administrators to censor the event, but instead wants the school to renounce its theme….READ MORE

Israel Advocacy News March 1, 2012: ‘Israel Apartheid’ Week Reaches Brandeis University

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‘Israel Apartheid’ Week Comes to Brandeis

Fiery Pro-Palestinian Speaker Promotes ‘One-State’ Solution

One-State Speech: Last month, Boycott Israel protesters held a conference at the University of Pennsylvania. On Wednesday, ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ came to Brandeis for the first time.

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One-State Speech: Last month, Boycott Israel protesters held a conference at the University of Pennsylvania. On Wednesday, ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ came to Brandeis for the first time.

Source: The Forward, 3-1-12

The protest movement known as Israeli Apartheid Week is well underway at campuses across the U.S. And this year, there’s a new college on the roster: Brandeis University.

Heated discussion over Israel is not new to the predominantly Jewish school, but this is the first time that the campus’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter has organized a series with the controversial moniker.

“In the past, we were worried about using the word ‘apartheid,’” said Noam Lekach, a Brandeis sophomore who helped plan the event. “We decided we wanted to tell the truth.”

Ali Abunimah, a rising pro-Palestinian speaker and activist, delivered the keynote speech at Israeli Apartheid Week, speaking Wednesday night to about 80 students and faculty members in a room on the Brandeis campus that was two-thirds full.

Abunimah is a proponent of the one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which calls for Jews and Palestinians to live with equal rights in a single, secular state encompassing the borders of present-day Israel and the occupied territories.

He called the two-state solution, calling for independent Israeli and Palestinian states side by side, a “political science fiction” that is proving increasingly unworkable by the day.

“The reality of a single state is one that is inexorably going to dawn on more and more people,” said Abunimah. “The only questions will be how to resolve it. Will it end in catastrophe? Or will we move toward a democratic outcome in which the status of Israeli Jews is changed from that of settlers to citizens and Palestinians from native colonized people to equal citizens as well?”

The one-state solution, which Israel advocates say will spell the end of the Jewish state, will also be discussed at the Harvard Kennedy School this weekend at a conference featuring Palestinian academics and activists. The “One State Conference” has raised the hackles of mainstream Jewish groups, with the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman writing in a letter to Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust: “This conference links Harvard and the Kennedy School with a discredited concept having a singular outcome: the elimination of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.”…READ MORE

Israel Advocacy Op-ed February 29, 2012: Dan Diker: Laundering anti-Semitism at Harvard — The “One-State Conference: Israel/Palestine and the One- State Solution”

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Dan Diker: Laundering anti-Semitism at Harvard

The implications of the “One-State Conference: Israel/Palestine and the One- State Solution” at Harvard are far reaching.

Source: JPost, 2-29-12

US Treasury secretary Larry Summers
By REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang
Perhaps the single most important lesson I took from a Harvard education in the early 1980s came at the end of a course entitled, “A Literature of Social Observation and Moral Reflection” taught by renowned child psychiatrist and Pulitzer Prize winner Dr Robert Coles, beloved by students and admired by faculty for almost half a century. Recalling the Harvard graduation speech by the great American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1838, Coles urged us always to understand the difference between our character and our intellect, particularly in the “everydayness” of our personal and academic conduct.

It seems that these moral lessons that Coles, Emerson and other people of letters urged us to recall may have been lost at Harvard recently, hopefully only temporarily.

The upcoming symposium, “The One- State Conference: Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution,” due to convene at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government on March 3 and 4 2012, transforms Harvard’s longstanding tradition of free and fair academic debate into anti- Semitic theater. Under the guise of free academic expression, the One-State Conference advances the notion that Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people should be dismantled and replaced by a state that would be flooded with and governed by Palestinian Arabs and in which Jews would once again live as an insecure minority in their own land.

The conference’s cast of nearly 20 prominent speakers underscores the point. It brings together a “dream team” of well-initialed academics who share an antipathy to the existence of the Jewish state.

Keynote presenters include Ali Abunimah, author of the Israel-bashing online “Electronic Intifada” and an enthusiastic Hamas supporter who, as some may remember, publicly branded former prime minister Ehud Olmert as a murderer guilty of war crimes and prevented him from speaking at a 2009 University of Chicago forum.

Other speakers include the virulently anti-Israel academic Ilan Pappé, an Israeli and a long-time public apologist for Palestinian terror, who somehow was underwritten as a guest professor of Middle East history at Harvard.

The conference also features Dianna Buttu, former legal advisor for the PLO and another Hamas supporter who, as Middle East scholar Richard Cravatts noted recently, “denied that thousands of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza into Israel actually had warheads on them, unlike Israeli weaponry.”

The “good” news is that there may be at least one advocate of a two-state solution. Keynote speaker Steven Walt, Harvard professor and co-author of the now infamous tome The Israel Lobby, which accused American Jews of dual loyalty and branded them with the sinister “Israel firsters” label, is slated to be the conference’s primary advocate of the two-state solution….READ MORE

Israel Advocacy Op-ed February 28, 2012: Ruth Wisse: Harvard’s Latest Assault on Israel

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Harvard’s Latest Assault on Israel

Promoting the Jewish State’s destruction at a school dedicated to ‘democratic governance.’

Source: WSJ, 2-28-12

In 1948, when the Arab League declared war on Israel, no one imagined that six decades later American universities would become its overseas agency. Yet campus incitement against Israel has been growing from California to the New York Island. A conference at Harvard next week called “Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution” is but the latest aggression in an escalating campaign against the Jewish state.

The sequence is by now familiar: Arab student groups and self-styled progressives organize a conference or event like “Israeli Apartheid Week,” targeting Israel as the main problem of the Middle East. They frame the goals of these events in buzzwords of “expanding the range of academic debate.” But since the roster of speakers and subjects makes their hostile agenda indisputable, university spokespersons scramble to dissociate their institutions from the events they are sponsoring. Jewish students and alums debate whether to ignore or protest the aggression, and newspapers fueling the story give equal credence to Israel’s attackers and defenders.

A featured speaker at Harvard’s conference is Ali Abunimah, creator of the website Electronic Intifada, who opposes the existence of a “Jewish State” as racist by virtue of being Jewish. A regular on this circuit, he also keynoted a recent University of Pennsylvania conference urging “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) of, from and against Israel. Ostensibly dedicated to protecting Palestinian Arabs from Israeli oppression, BDS has by now achieved the status of an international “movement,” some of whose branches exclude Israeli academics from their journals and conferences….READ MORE