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



A Look Back: 2011-2012 in Campus Israel Advocacy

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

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 1, 2012: Pro-Israel Student activists preempt Israel Apartheid Week



Pro-Israel Student activists preempt Israel Apartheid Week

Campuses around the nation, including in Illinois, are confronting the 8th annual Israel Apartheid Week, arranged by anti-Israel organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine. Apartheid weeks have included mock check-points meant to hassle students, apartheid walls erected to misrepresent Israel’s anti-terror barrier, and speakers touring campus calling for boycotts, divestments, and international sanctions of the Jewish State.  This week of activities is yet another tactic created by Israel’s detractors to demonize the State and delegitimize the very existence of Israel.  Other tactics including “occupy” style protests and cultural activities occur regularly throughout the academic year….

In an effort to preempt Israel Apartheid Week, pro-Israel activists on campuses across Illinois decided on a different approach. Instead of responding, reacting, or countering the rhetoric of Israel Apartheid Week, students produced their own series of events to highlight the Israel they know, love, and defend entitled Israel Peace Week.READ MORE

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



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

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 Op-ed February 16, 2012: Maintaining the message of Israel Peace Week



Maintaining the message of Israel Peace Week

Source: Natalie Menaged, JWeekly, 2-16-12

Next week, Israel haters again will launch the misinformed and misinforming movement known as Israel Apartheid Week at universities and in communities throughout the world. The good news is that while Israel Apartheid Week claims to be growing, its execution on North American campuses is limited to a handful, and even on those campuses the organizers do not reach many undecided students.

Meanwhile, another student-led movement about Israel will include participants on 75 campuses across North America, and is poised to impact a far larger and more diverse audience. The movement is Israel Peace Week, a student-conceived, grass-roots educational campaign now in its third year.

Created as a pre-emptive response to Israel Apartheid Week, Israel Peace Week has developed into a proactive and engaging campaign that is effective regardless of whether there is anti-Israel activity on a specific campus.

Israel Peace Week revolves around a simple, yet often understated message: Israel wants peace and has demonstrated its willingness to make painful sacrifices for peace. The campaign also outlines options for peace, existential threats to the Jewish state, and the values and accomplishments of a thriving Israeli democracy in an otherwise despotic region.

Organizers of Israel Peace Week employ methods such as interactive displays in the center of campus, cultivating relationships with non-Jewish groups on campus, writing in the campus newspaper, and innovative social media campaigns in order to educate as many of their peers as possible.

In stark contrast, the main thrust of Israel Apartheid Week is to generate support for the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, a campaign that calls on universities and individuals to divest from companies that do business in Israel, boycott the sale of goods produced in West Bank settlements, and boycott Israeli universities and professors.

By singling Israel out for censure and advocating for a one-state solution, BDS is not simply a movement to criticize Israeli policy but an effort to delegitimize the state itself….READ MORE

Israel Advocacy News February 16, 2012: US Jews battle apartheid charges made against Israel during Israel Peace Week



U.S. Jews battle apartheid charges made against Israel

Campus activists across America are staging Israel Peace Week in an effort to combat the annual festival of anti-Israel vitriol.

Source: Haaretz, 2-16-12

This is a busy time in the calendar of an Israeli journalist in the United States. AIPAC and J Street are holding their annual conferences, Washington think tanks are discussing the Arab Spring, Iran and Syria. And then there is the 8th annual Israel Apartheid Week coming up (February 26 – March 3) with the usual discussions, films and photo exhibitions, flashmobs and an apartheid poster contest offering a $400 dollar prize. For the most part, the pro-Israeli community hasn’t yet figured out the best way to deal with this event, and so they opt to ignore it.

But there are a few exceptions. Among those who have chosen to confront the apartheid events are 75 universities across North America (up from 50 last year) that are holding “the Israel peace week,” where they will try to convey the message that “Israel wants peace and has demonstrated its willingness to make painful sacrifices for peace.”

Apartheid Week - February 2012 A poster for this year’s Israel Apartheid Week.

“You refer to ‘pro-Palestinian activists’ but most of those aggressive people are anti-Israel, not pro-Palestinian,” says Natalie Menaged, education director of the independent NPO, the Hasbara Fellowships, which trained the Jewish student organizers of the “Israeli peace week.”

“I have yet to see them organize a national campaign to teach about Palestinian culture or plans for peace. They are only interested in propagating hatred of Israel. Our campaign, Peace Week, is more pro-Palestinian than anything the anti-Israel organizers are doing because we are actually discussing solutions.”

Menaged says the idea of “Israel peace week” – which will run from February 20 to March 9 – is “to engage the people in the middle, not the anti-Israel movement.” The campus organizers vary, and in many instances, are a combination of Jewish and non-Jewish students, who developed the concepts of the event on their own. The organization, however, provided them with print materials, films and speakers, if requested. This year’s materials include quotes of each Republican candidate, as well as President Obama, regarding their positions on Israel.

Menaged believes that this approach has proved successful. “At places like Berkeley or Rutgers University or Carleton University (Ottawa ), which have a history of anti-Israel activity, supporters of Israel have been able to change the conversation to one about what needs to be done for peace. And at the majority of schools, which don’t have a lot of anti-Israel activity – schools like Boston University, University of Illinois, Ohio State University, Johns Hopkins University – it is an excellent way to start the conversation”, she says….READ MORE

Israel Advocacy News February 14, 2012: David Bernstein Interview: The New Israel Campus Strategy



The New Israel Campus Strategy

Source: The NY Jewish Week, 2-14-12
David Bernstein.
David Bernstein.
Are American college campuses incubators for anti-Zionism or nurturing environments where Jews feel more accepted than ever?

Both, concludes the David Project, a 10-year-old nonprofit that seeks to “positively shape campus opinion on Israel” in a just-released “white paper” on “Rethinking Israel Advocacy at America’s Universities and College.”

While extreme incidents like “Apartheid Weeks” and attempts to silence Israeli speakers on campus or intimidate pro-Israel students in Middle Eastern studies classes grab headlines, the real problem that Israel’s advocates face on campus is more subtle: a pervasive, but often not deeply rooted “negativity toward Israel” that, if it continues “is likely to erode long-term bipartisan support for the Jewish state.”

The paper urges Israel activists to avoid the usual shouting matches, sound bites and large “one-off” events and instead to focus on outreach to and partnerships with influential students and campus groups that are open to learning about Israel. It also emphasizes that activists need not embrace all of Israel’s policies, but rather promote acceptance for the following ideas: that “Jews are a people with a right to self-determination in their historic, ancestral homeland” and “Israel is a legitimate member of the international community and, while not perfect, is a free and peace-loving country that has and will in the long run be willing to make hard sacrifices for peace.”

David Project Executive Director David Bernstein spoke with The Jewish Week about the group’s recommendations and strategy.

Q: Your paper came out just days after the national Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions conference at University of Pennsylvania. Was that intentional?

A: That was a coincidence. … But the conference goes to show why a proactive, positive approach is much more effective than responding to what Israel’s detractors say. I thought the Hillel [at Penn] did a very good job, but the larger pro-Israel community, including some individuals no one had control over [some major Penn donors threatened to withhold contributions if the university allowed the conference to take place], contributed to a publicity windfall for the conference.

Given the constant population turnover on campus, is it actually possible for student activists to implement long-range strategies?

We find that once students are trained in strategic thinking, they are receptive and do act quite strategically. It’s a challenge: one student likened it to starting a business over every four years. That’s why groups like the David Project need to be working with the student leaders as they come through.

Do you think there is a similar “white paper” for the other side, and if so, what do you think it says?

I don’t know if there’s a specific paper, but we certainly see a strategy in place. Their strategy is to bring delegitimization of Israel into the American campus and into the larger American society. If they can succeed on campus, they feel they’ll be able to spread anti-Israelism in other circles as well.

What do you think about the growing visibility of Jewish Voice for Peace, and to what extent does that group, which the Anti-Defamation League last year included on its list of top 10 anti-Israel groups, pose a challenge on campus?

I don’t see them as being a major factor. … The vast majority of Jewish students that we encounter — and polls reflect this — are supportive of Israel. That doesn’t mean they don’t have any doubts or concerns, but on the whole they are supportive of Israel.

American Jews tend to be clustered in a minority of elite four-year universities. Is it possible to promote Israel on campuses that don’t have large Jewish populations?

It may be that some of the places with the fewest Jewish students are the places we need to spend the most resources to sway opinion … Our goal is not to bolster Jewish students; it’s to shape campus discourse, whether Jewish students are on campus or not.

What campuses do you see as priorities?

We’re going to be very active at a number of small liberal arts schools in the coming months and years, such as the cluster of colleges (University of Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Amherst, Hampshire) in western Massachusetts and the Claremont Colleges in Southern California. We’re also working very closely with Rutgers, University of Pittsburgh and Boston University. Our new approach is to develop very in-depth ties to a set of schools where we can make the maximum difference. We will be in 12 by this fall and 25 by the following year.

What did you find most surprising about the research David Project conducted [including interviews with a variety of students and faculty members] before formulating this paper?

When I came into this job [a year and a half ago], I thought many more campuses were hostile to Israel than actually was the case. But I learned that many elite schools were trending negative. What that told me was that the right response was not to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitism on campus, but to adopt a positive approach to developing relationships and promoting a complex, but positive view of Israel among a diverse student body.

Israel Advocacy News February 13, 2012: US & Canada University Campuses to Launch Pro-Israel ‘Peace Week’



US Campuses to Launch Pro-Israel ‘Peace Week’

Pro-Israel students at 75 universities across the US and Canada will launch “Israel peace Week” from next Sunday until March 9.
“Israel Peace Week” (Feb. 20-March 9) : (

Pro-Israel students at 75 universities across the US and Canada will launch “Israel peace Week” from next Sunday until March 9 in an effort to counter widespread campus anti-Zionism and “Israel Apartheid Week,” which pictures Israel as an enemy to peace.

The grassroots initiative has “a simple, positive message: Israel wants peace and has demonstrated its willingness to make painful sacrifices for peace,” according to organizers.

The number of universities participating in this year’s advocacy effort is 50 percent higher than last year, when the student-run Israel Peace Week was organized at 50 universities.

Events will include screening the “Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference” film about the country’s achievements, and a “Faces of Israel” panel of Israelis will discuss their stories about life in Israel.

The documentary avoids politics and focuses on stories of how Israelis resilience has propelled Israel to the forefront of world innovation and progress in the fields of science, environment, medicine and technology.

Other activities on campuses will include Israel’s options for peace in view of existential threats to the Jewish state, and participants will explore the values and accomplishments of a thriving Israeli democracy in the volatile Middle East that is dominated by autocrats.

Participating campuses include the University of California at Berkeley, a hotbed of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement, the universities of Chicago, Texas, and Virginia, UCLA, DePaul University, Brooklyn College, Florida International University, Carleton University in Ottawa and Rutgers University.