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

ISRAEL ADVOCACY 101

ISRAEL & ZIONIST EDUCATION

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 February 29, 2012: University of Cincinnati students observe Israel Peace Week

ISRAEL ADVOCACY 101

ISRAEL & ZIONIST EDUCATION

Promised land peace: University of Cincinnati students observe Israel Peace Week

Source: The News Record, 2-29-12

For more information…

On Thursday, the group is presenting a viewing of “Israel Inside” at 7 p.m. in McMicken Hall, Room 26.

Israeli Foreign Minister Uri Palti will be present throughout Thursday’s Bearcats for Israel
activities.

University of Cincinnati students scribbled what peace means to them on small sheets of white paper. According to them, peace means “no war with Iran”, “accepting others despite our differences”, “compromising and giving a little to achieve something bigger”, “no nuclear bombs” and “coexistence and good relationships with everyone.”

With the intent of promoting and spreading the idea of a peaceful Israel, colleges across the United States launched Israel Peace Week from Feb. 27 through March 1. Israel Peace Week is a grassroots campaign to counter anti-Israel propaganda with the simplistic and positive idea that Israel wants peace and is willing to make sacrifices for the ideal.

In 2010, a group of four pro-Israel students developed the campaign to educate their campus peers about Israel’s efforts for peace.
“To be pro-Israel is to be pro-peace,” said Bearcats for Israel President Judith Wertheim.

Throughout the week, the Bearcats for Israel group organized a table of information in the Tangeman University Center to educate students about the cause.

“We think it’s important to provide easy access to education about Israel Peace Week,” Wertheim said. “We have the Hasbara Fellowship Israel Peace Week handouts to explain a little bit more about what we’re about.”

Hasbara Fellowship is a leading pro-Israel campus activism organization working with approximately 120 campuses in North America.

“It’s a program where leaders, like myself, go to Israel for about 10 days to meet with foreign ministers and reporters,” Wertheim said. “We’re taught the basics of everything that has to do with Israel and how to advocate for Israel on campus.”…READ MORE

Israel Advocacy 101: UN vote prompts educational campaign on campus

ISRAEL ADVOCACY 101

ISRAEL & ZIONIST EDUCATION

UN vote prompts educational campaign on campus

Source: Canadian Jewish News, 10-6-11

The Palestinian Authority’s plan to seek membership in the United Nations for an independent state has prompted Hasbara Fellowships groups on North American campuses to educate students about the road to peace in the Middle East.

A large part of Hasbara’s educational campaign is a new, tongue-in-cheek video called “Friend Request Pending” that emphasizes Israel’s efforts for peace, which have been largely rejected by Israel’s Arab neighbours.

The video, which has already been viewed close to 60,000 times, begins when Israel creates a Facebook page and is “looking for friends!”

Israel sends a “friend request” to Egypt, to which Egypt replies, “You are no friend!”

Israel then sends a gift of “milk and honey” as a gesture, but Egypt responds with “bombs.”

But Israel, unrelenting, writes, “Come on, look what friendship can do for us,” and sends another gift, the Sinai Peninsula, in exchange for peace and its recognition of Israel.

Israel goes through a similar process with Jordan, and it, too, accepts Israel’s gesture.

But when Israel sends a friend request to the Palestinians, offering them land and other concessions, the gestures are rejected time after time.

The video ends with a simple request from Israel to the Palestinians: “Let’s talk!”

According to a Hasbara press release, the video “communicates that Israelis want peace and have proven it. The obstacle to Middle East peace is the lack of a responsible peace partner in the Palestinian leadership. Bypassing direct talks with Israel and defying the United States, the PA is turning its back on previous commitments to co-operation, in an effort to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish State.”

Currently, the UN General Assembly vote on the declaration of an independent Palestinian state, as well as the UN Security Council vote on full Palestinian membership, has been postponed indefinitely.

McGill Friends of Israel president and Hasbara fellow Eliana Schwartz is one of the Canadian students who are promoting the Friends Request Pending campaign.

The 20-year-old, second-year McGill University political science and Jewish studies student said that in addition to spreading the video throughout social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, students have set up tabling sessions to field questions and promote a message of peace.

Schwartz said they presented a poster that said, “You don’t get to real peace without talking to your neighbours,” – a parody of the tagline for the film The Social Network, which was “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”

She said they also presented a map of the Middle East, using Facebook idioms, images and phrases to illustrate the kinds of relationships Israel has with its neighbours.

“We chose to do it this week, with everything that’s happening [with the upcoming UN vote] while it’s still relevant,” said Schwartz, adding that information cards with facts about Israel and the Middle East conflict were distributed to passing students.

“This was a bit of a controversial campaign, so not every reaction was positive. I also think that sometimes Jewish students are scared to approach tables that seem overly politicized, but we tried to make it fun…”

Schwartz said that although the subject matter is heavy, they tried to keep a positive tone.

“At the McGill Friends of Israel, we try to stress that Israel wants peace, rather than stress that our neighbours have refused.”