Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
Misinformation and hate are spreading thick at American colleges. We’d like to think that it’s not the type of thing that’s happening on our very own campuses, but it’s certainly occurring.
Here are some recent highlights: At UC Irvine Malik Ali screamed, “You Jews y’all the new Nazis!” At UC San Diego an active member of the Muslim Student Association, at its annual Hitler Youth Week, publicly declared his unashamed support of a genocidal statement by Hizbullah’s leader. At Brooklyn College Norman Finkelstein was invited by the Palestinian Club, who organized an Israeli Apartheid Week for the first time ever last semester.
Remember, it seems to be in vogue in academic circles to be unjustifiably critical of Israel. If not Jewish students, who will respond to the professor who repeatedly trashes Israel while dismissing its struggles against terrorism – while shaping the opinion of impressionable future professionals and leaders? If not Jewish students, who will arrange counter-events when Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Student Union, Muslim Student Association, and the assorted Palestinian clubs stage their propaganda, influencing unsuspecting college students?
Engaged and vocal students comprise a mere 10 percent of general student bodies. So in terms of pro-Israel active students, it’s disheartening to think that 90 percent are less than helpful. But in terms of the broader student body, it presents a prime opportunity. These figures mean that the enormous majority of students do not yet have strong opinions on issues concerning Israel (or they’d be rallying for or against Israel already), and that they can still be educated about Israel’s positions.
Who can most effectively educate them? Jewish students need to start passionately teaching and leading. They need to join hands, get inspired, share ideas, and take action to inform the 90 percent, who are the future public opinion shapers and decision makers.
It starts with individual, grassroots efforts. If you are the student, it isn’t enough to be an emotional supporter of Israel. Rather, step up your activism. If you’re the friend, parent or relative, do your part by encouraging students to get involved by offering support and guiding them to the right resources so they can be more vigorous in the face of increasing hostility.
Here are some worthwhile resources: JerusalemOnlineUniversity.com offers a stimulating, comprehensive online course titled, “Israel Inside/Out.” You can learn the facts and are equipped to counter the misinformation and hate. Participating students may be eligible for college credits or a stipend upon completion. StandWithUs.com and standwithusCampus.com provide a plethora of material already researched, event support to promote pro-Israel activism, and professional brochures and flyers to pass out to fellow classmates. Hasbara Fellowships, launched in coordination with Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, brings students to Israel for an exclusive opportunity to master pro-Israel advocacy. The DavidProject.org is another excellent avenue for advocacy material, featured seminars, and workshops.
We must stand up to anti-Israel and closely linked anti-Semitic attitudes on campuses. How are you going to help? You can begin to raise awareness by passing on this column to a Jewish student.
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By now, many are aware of the tough anti-Israel situations on college campuses. Colleges and universities in California and Canada have earned themselves especially notorious reputations. But what is happening along the East Coast? I’ve been speaking to far too many people who are comfortably numb because they “just don’t feel or see it.” Reality check: The wind is blowing the wrong way on the eastern front, too.
I stood on the dusty road leading to one of the innumerable resting places of the pious people of Israel. Having said my prayers, though never enough, I waited somberly for a taxi to appear. I leaned against the palm tree to escape the sun’s enthusiasm. It was a Jewish palm tree, planted by Jewish hands in the Jewish land. I was on the left side of the sturdy bark. On the right, rested an elderly woman topped by a colorful kerchief. She was like many others I have walked beside in the Machaneh Yehudah marketplace, like many others I sat beside in the white plastic chairs before the Western Wall, like many others who minded their own humble business and worked hard for their share in life.
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