Israel Advocacy News February 4, 2013: Petition aims to have Facebook pull anti-Israel page

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Petition aims to have Facebook pull anti-Israel page

Source: JTA, 2-4-13

A Facebook petition to remove an anti-Israel page that uses an expletive in its name has 75,000 likes, the removal campaign’s creator says….READ MORE

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 April 11, 2012: Global Frontier Justice Center Calls to Prosecute University of California Davis anti-Israel campus protesters

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Rights group: Prosecute anti-Israel campus protesters

A US civil rights legal group called on Tuesday for pro-Palestinian student protesters who interrupted a pro-Israel event at University of California Davis last month to be prosecuted.The Global Frontier Justice Center in Brooklyn, New York, have sent a letter to Jeff Reisig, the district attorney for Yolo County, California, asking him to open criminal proceedings against the protesters, whom the rights group say violated California law.

In their letter to Reisig, the GFJC cite article 403 of the California Penal Code, which prohibits protesters from  deliberately disturbing a lawful assembly or meeting.

Two Israelis – an IDF reservist and a Druze woman whose father and brother served in the IDF – were due to speak at the UC Davis event, organized by StandWithUs, Chabad of Davis and the Chai-Life Club….READ MORE

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 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

 

Israel Advocacy News February 27, 2012: Israel Apartheid Week in Great Britain What has it achieved?

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Israel Apartheid Week: What has it achieved?

Source: The Jewish Chronicle, 2-27-12

Israel Apartheid week. The one week in the year when the rules of genuine engagement, constructive dialogue and all forms of moderation, are dispensed with.

It is the one week where it is acceptable to stop and harass students on a British university campus in fancy dress as Israeli soldiers; where speaker events, which are often an orgy of self-congratulation and hysteria, are packed to capacity with people who have turned up to hear people bashing the Jewish state, where fist-raising replaces applause as a sign of support for speakers in a way that not even Orwell could have imagined would become a reality. It is the one week where the word “Apartheid” is thrown around mercilessly as merely another adjective in the inventory of vulgarities with which to describe Israel.

Devastatingly, this week is the time when Palestinian societies around the country waste rare opportunities to raise awareness and engage a wider body of students with the harsh realities that exist within the Palestinian territories and Israel. Instead they seek to erode any kind of legitimate debate. My wish for Palestinian societies is that their efforts and energies will be focused instead on creating tangible ways to improve the lives of Palestinians on the ground.

Our Jewish values dictate the necessity of protecting human rights and, Jewish students, despite being called “Nazis”, “racists” and “occupiers”, still continue to work to better the lives of those living in the region. Last week, Birmingham Jewish Society raised money for a Palestinian child in Gaza to receive life-changing heart treatment; this week members of the Jewish community are on a UK Taskforce trip, attempting to find ways to proactively challenge discrimination within Israel. I seriously question the credibility of anyone that suggests that we are blind to the suffering of others within the Middle-East.

The frustration felt by many Jewish students about this week is that repeatedly JSocs are doing their best to promote both the dialogue of peace and tangible action to secure this goal. Fake walls, mock-checkpoints and flotillas (glorified cruises) in a handful of the roughly 280 higher education institutions are merely theatrical stunts which do nothing to help bring about an end to the conflict. So, at the end of this week, I can’t help but ask myself what has been achieved?

The answer: the continued condemnation of the state of Israel. They say we don’t get it – it is because we do get it that we continue our efforts on campuses to ensure there is fair and constructive debate. It is because many of us have family in the region, many of us have invested time speaking to people that are affected daily and because it is our homeland that we have such a vested interest in obtaining peace. We know the price at stake and we are not prepared to let that slip away to make room for extremism, theatrics and destruction – both in the region and on campus.

No doubt the planning for the next Israel Apartheid Week has already started. It promises to be bigger and better than this year’s festivities – more checkpoints, more walls and more mocktillas. These will be staged irrespective of the political situation and irrespective of the difference these will make to the Palestinian people. They just don’t get it.

Alex Green is a law student at Birmingham University, a former campus relations officer for Birmingham JSoc and the UJS president-elect. Follow him on Twitter here.

Want to write for Campus Comment? It’s your chance to see your words published. Whether you’re a budding journalist, a political thinker or simply have an idea you want to share, send in opinion pieces of up to 600 words on topics of interest to Jewish students and young people. Email jenniferlipman@thejc.com for more details.

Israel Advocacy News February 26, 2012: Israeli Apartheid Week marked in US campuses

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Israeli Apartheid Week marked in US campuses

Pro-Palestinian campaign, marked in European universities last week, arrives in US. CEO of pro-Israeli organization says there is hostile environment toward Israel in 60-80 out of 4000 American universities

Source: YNet News, 2-26-12

The Israel Apartheid Week, a pro-Palestinian international campaign which includes films, lectures, demonstrations and calls for a boycott of Israel, commenced in US campuses on Sunday. The anti-Israel event was initiated in Europe eight years ago. This year’s event will last six days in the US and then move to Canada.

Related Stories:

Contrary to alarming headlines in local media, US students are not as troubled by Apartheid Week events as it would seem. A survey among American students reveals that 80% are in fact not interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The survey also indicates that 15% students are pro-Israeli compared with only 5% of students who are pro-Palestinian.

In fact, many students regard Apartheid Week with its rallies and “checkpoints” as mainly annoying. Out of roughly 4,000 campuses in the US, almost all do not have an anti-Israel atmosphere. Only a few dozen campuses hold a prominent debate on the issue.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry assists some 10 Jewish and non-Jewish organizations in their efforts to promote a pro-Israel discourse in these campuses. One of them is the the David Project, which was founded in Boston in 2002 during the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The organization aims to promote the idea that Israel plays the part of “David,” of the David and Goliath story, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"80% לא מתעניינים בסכסוך". הפגנה פרו-ישראלית בלונדון (צילום: רועי גולדמן)

 Pro-Israeli demonstrations in England (Photo: Roi Goldman)

In a new report on the state of anti-Israel sentiment in the campuses, the David Project determines there is anti-Israel hostility in 60-80 US campuses, mainly in art programs. These colleges don’t necessarily have a hostile environment for Jewish students, but there is a spillover effect of anti-Israeli opinions, especially among student leadership that are dangerous in the long-run.

“The main challenge is not to stop de-legitimization, but to prevent it from rising in the first place”, said Executive Director David Bernstein….READ MORE

Israel Advocacy 101: JUF’s Israel Education Center Tackling the Delegitimization of Israel on Campus with Programs & “The Playbook” Manual

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Tackling the Delegitimization of Israel on Campus

Over the last ten years the battle for support of Israel has been fought on college campuses across the country.  During that time, Israel’s detractors have become more nuanced, coordinated and hateful.  “Occupy” style protests, boycott divestment and sanctions movements, cultural activities and Israel Apartheid Week (scheduled for the last week of February) are tactics used to achieve one goal: to delegitimize the existence of a Jewish state.

For that reason, JUF’s Israel Education Center has crafted a comprehensive manual entitled “The Playbook” JUF’s Israel Education Center to tackle the delegitimization effort head-on.  The goal of  The Playbook, is not only to provide students with a resource they can turn to when different forms of anti-Israel activity flare up, but ultimately to serve as a comprehensive tool that will motivate students to take back the conversation about Israel with tenacity, perseverance, and professionalism. If student advocates throughout the nation are equipped with a game plan that addresses the movement as a whole, they will be empowered to stand up and speak out for Israel. The Israel on Campus Coalition and the Israel Action Network have signed on as co-sponsors.

JUF’s Israel Education Center (IEC) supports year-round programming for initiatives which promote the positive aspects of Israel and is on the front-lines with students when anti-Israel activity occurs.  It is because of the positive, constant stream of pro-Israel activities that we are not losing hearts and minds on campus.  In the next two weeks DePaul University, Columbia College, School of the Art Institute, Bradley University, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and University of Chicago will be holding Israel Peace Weeks.  The programming is a grassroots initiative, in concert with Hasbara Fellowships, to counter anti-Israel propaganda with a simple, positive message: Israel wants peace and has demonstrated its willingness to make painful sacrifices for peace.

Activities including movie screenings, tabling with educational materials, social media campaigns, lectures, and petitions are scheduled to occur across the state.  The majority of these programs are co-sponsored by multiple non-Jewish student groups, an effective tool for gaining wide-reaching support for Israel.  The efforts of Israel Peace Week are designed not only to educate students, faculty and staff but to off-set any negative messaging presented during Israel Apartheid Week.

The Israel Education Center is an arm of JUF’s Department of Campus Affairs and Student Engagement

Israel Advocacy News February 22, 2012: The David Project: Anti-Israel attitudes spreading at U.S. universities, report says

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Anti-Israel attitudes spreading at U.S. universities, report says

The David Report says that while anti-Semitism is less of an issue for U.S. Jewish college students, negativity about Israel threatens to erode bipartisan support.

Source: Haaretz, Forward, 2-22-12

A report released February 8 by The David Project, one of a handful of Jewish groups devoted to campus activism on Israel, paints a nuanced picture of the challenges Israel faces on U.S. university campuses. Called “A Burning Campus? Rethinking Israel Advocacy at America’s Universities and Colleges,” the paper claims that universities are host to the worst anti-Israel behavior in America, even as the American public, more broadly, is supportive of the Jewish state.

But veering from the Israel advocacy world’s frequent position, the report makes a strong distinction between “anti-Israelism” and anti-Semitism on campus. Conflating the two does not “jive” with the experience of Jewish students who feel largely comfortable in American universities, the report warns. The problem, it stresses, is not anti-Semitism; it’s a “drip-drip negativity” about Israel that, according to the David Project’s Executive Director David Bernstein, threatens to erode support over the long term.

U.S. university students. University students in the U.S.
Photo by: Courtesy of the David Project / Forward

“The chief concern, therefore, is not the welfare of Jewish students,” the report states, “but that a pervasively negative atmosphere will affect the long-term thinking of current college students, negatively affecting strong bipartisan support for Israel.”

The way the new David Project sees it, a subtle problem deserves a subtle response. Its new agenda focuses on selling Israel rather than on reaming out its critics. Rather than counter anti-Israel speech on campus with flashy events featuring big-name speakers, the group proposes a kind of pro-Israel diplomacy in which students “map” their campuses to find and influence thought leaders — namely, other students and faculty members….Read more at the Forward.