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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Israel Campus Beat’

Israel Not High Voting Priority for Pro-Israel Student Activists

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

As college students prepare to hit the polls on November 6 – many for the first time – they will be considering a broad array of policy issues and party platforms. What drives young people to vote? How do they consider various issues? Does Israel play a role in the choices they make on election day?

Israel Campus Beat interviewed pro-Israel students on campuses across the country to gauge the impact their support for Israel has on how they are preparing for Election Day.

In RockTheVote’s latest poll of 18-29 year olds, jobs and the economy were the primary issues young people wanted politicians to address, with education and the cost of college taking second place on the priority list. The first issue of foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan, came in fifth. Based on ICB’s interviews with multiple campuses, it seems that these patterns hold true among pro-Israel young adults.

In the 2012 election, many pro-Israel American college students do not feel that their commitment to Israel must override their other passions. When pro-Israel college students were asked which candidate’s positions make them feel more secure regarding Israel, many were ambivalent.

George Washington University senior John Bennet, who interns for the Romney campaign, said he believes that Gov. Mitt Romney understands the vital importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. In light of continued unrest in Libya and Egypt, Bennet said this understanding will be crucial in the next four years.

“But regardless of who is elected, United States foreign policy really hasn’t changed drastically in the immediate past and I don’t anticipate that it will,” Bennet said.

Many students echoed Bennet’s confidence that America will remain committed to Israel’s security regardless of who is elected.

Professor Gil Troy, who teaches American history at McGill University, stated that although some people may feel that President Barack Obama’s stance on Israel seems less enthusiastic than some of his predecessors, it would be wrong to call him anti–Israel.

Troy noted that each time the President has said or done something that caused some Israel supporters to question his commitment to the Jewish state, he has responded with a reassuring move to strengthen the US-Israel bond.

For example, Troy noted, “When there is a power struggle between Obama and Netanyahu, Obama ensures stronger military cooperation soon afterward.” But Troy had a different rationale for college students prioritizing domestic issues over foreign policy related to Israel.

“In general, college students tend to be a mix of interventionist and isolationist,” he said. “They are anti-war, anti entanglements in foreign lands and interventionist in humanitarian causes like Darfur.”

With so many Americans deeming Israel a peripheral issue, should supporters of the Jewish state be concerned that the pro-Israel base is becoming less passionate about Israel?

Professor Jonathan Sarna, who teaches American Jewish history at Brandeis University, said that this is not the case.

“Were the President to come out against Israel, then American Jews might in significant numbers vote for the opposing candidate,” he said. However, he continued, because pro-Israel voters do not feel that there is a significant threat to Israel when choosing between Romney and Obama, they do not feel they need to consider Israel’s security more than other policy issues that concern them.

Among Jewish voters, a key bastion of support for Israel, the candidates’ policies on Israel may not have as large a role in determining voting preferences as some people think.

According to David Harris, the president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), support for Israel comes 6th, 7th, and 8th on Jewish voters’ priority lists. He termed this statistic a success story, noting that both candidates value Israel as an important ally and view protecting Israel against Iran’s nuclear threat as a priority. For this reason, he posited, American Jews do not feel they need to prioritize Israel as they decide which candidate to support.

“Only a handful [of American Jews] vote on Israel alone,” Harris said, adding that other issues that figure in Jews’ voting choices include social issues and the economy.

Harris noted that many American Jews put their concerns about social policies and the economy ahead of their concerns about Israel.

Harris called this a “litmus test issue: It would be a top priority if the presidential candidate came out against Israel poll after poll.”

To Protect Jewish Students, California University Committee Recommends Ban on Hate Speech

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Each year at many California universities, pro-Israel students dread the inevitable arrival of “The Wall,”—the centerpiece of Israel Apartheid Week. These programs, sometimes known as Justice in Palestine Week or Palestinian Awareness Week, usually take place sometime between late-winter and spring and focus on charges that Israel is an Apartheid state that illegally occupies Palestinian territories.

But what if the wall wasn’t allowed to go up?

Speculation on the future of anti-Israel demonstrations on University of California (UC) campuses has increased in recent weeks after a mid-July report compiled by the UC President’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate recommended that UC consider banning all hate speech from its nine campuses.

Between October 2011 and May 2012, a group of professionals handpicked by UC President Mark Yudof travelled to six UC campuses (Santa Cruz, Davis, Irvine, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego) to assess the social conditions of Jewish students as well as Arab and Muslim students.

Jewish student leaders on the campuses were interviewed by the council, which evaluated the students’ biggest concerns as Jews on campus.

A separate report, providing background and recommendations on behalf of Arab and Muslim students was also released in mid-July.

Ultimately, the council recommended that hate speech, particularly anti-Israel demonstrations, be banned because of the unsafe and uncomfortable environment that can ensue on campus.

“UC does not have a hate-free policy that allows the campus to prevent well-known bigoted and hate organizations from speaking on campus such as the KKK,” the council wrote in the report. “UC should push its current harassment and nondiscrimination provisions further, clearly define hate speech in its guidelines, and seek opportunities to prohibit hate speech on campus.”

The council recognized that such a ban, if put in place, almost certainly would lead to legal action challenging it. Already, a petition asking Yudof to table the recommendations has gathered over 2,300 signatures.

Opponents of the recommendation claim that the report, released July 9, does not consider all viewpoints of Jewish students on campuses—particularly those of Jews who are critical of Israel.

In response, StandWithUs started a counter-petition urging the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to accept and implement the recommendations outlined in the report. While the first petition targets the hate speech ban proposal, the StandWithUs petition focuses on implementation of the entire report’s recommendations which include ensuring that kosher food options be available on UC campuses and that anti-Semitism be clearly defined and banned.

The advisory council also recommended that UC staff members receive cultural competency training and that accurate data be kept on Jewish students to better evaluate their needs.

There has been mixed reaction to the report in the pro-Israel community. Sharona Asraf, a StandWithUs Emerson Fellow and board member of Tritons for Israel at UC San Diego, created a Facebook event promoting the petition and said she supports the Council’s recommendation to ban hate speech.

“This will verbalize protocol and will elaborate what the consequences are for hate speech,” Asraf said.

However, Daniel Narvy, President of Movement for Peace in the Middle East at UC Irvine, said that while he thinks hate speech should not exist, banning it on UC campuses could actually make life more difficult for pro-Israel students.

“I can promise that SJP will claim the university is Islamaphobic and complain until they get their way,” Narvy said. “Do I think the hate speech, which it clearly is, should be there? No, but the university cannot use prior restraint and just censor a club just because [some members of the club] are obnoxious .” Richard Barton, who is the national education chair for the Anti-Defamation League, co-wrote the report with Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP. Barton defended the report in an Aug. 23 op-ed in the San Francisco Gate.

“By including an examination of the climate for Jewish students, the Campus Climate Council has truly advanced the notion of honest and critical examination that lie at the heart of the UC’s core values,” Barton wrote.

Though UCOP is not expected to finish evaluating both the Jewish and the Arab and Muslim reports until late October, Yudof noted that ensuring a right to free speech would remain a priority.

“The Council will continue to address issues for a broad range of campus community members,” Yudof said in an August 8 open letter to the UC system. “None of this is designed to stifle free speech, but rather to ensure that our campuses are welcoming to a broad diversity of students, faculty and staff.”

Rethink Everything

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

I’m spending this week with 11 students who will work this summer as members of the staff at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. They’ve all just completed their first year of college at a range of public and private universities. They spent much of our first day together sharing impressions of how Israel is perceived at their respective schools.

Their stories ranged from a sense of wonder at the positive impressions many students have of Israel (or the lack of negative impressions) to frustration at what some perceive to be the link that has developed between “liberal” and anti-Israel. All of them had stories of encounters with students who either knew little about the country or depicted Israel in ways that its supporters would never recognize. One sounded proud as she announced that she had corrected a professor in class when he wrongly stated that Israel gained independence in 1947. Another was disappointed that his dialogue with a Saudi exchange student led only to frustration.

All of these students could have been spending their summer — or at least the days before they leave for camp — sleeping late, hanging out, and disengaging from everything that occupied them all year long. And who could blame them? After a year devoted to studying, researching, writing, speaking, organizing, responding, refuting, experimenting and doing everything else that 21st-century students do, they could surely be excused for thinking they deserve a break.

These 11 students, and many others, understand things differently—that summer break is more about shifting gears, and less about shutting down for the season. If all you do all summer is unwind, you’ll miss some of the opportunities presented by three months outside the classroom and away from your campus. Summer is the ideal time to recharge your batteries, to earn some money and tally new adventures, but it also presents a chance to deepen your understanding of things that matter to you and causes that occupy your attention when you’re at school.

If campus Israel activists spend much of the school year planning activities, building coalitions and spreading information, summer offers the chance to step back from the tactical realities of daily activism and take a longer, more strategic view of the situation. Reflect on what you did in the past year: What might you have done differently? What can you plan for next year? How can you ensure that you return to campus better informed and better prepared for greater success? And what can you do to ensure that new leaders are prepared to take over for the old-timers? (After all, nobody will be around forever, especially not on campus!)

Whether you’re spending the summer at camp, in Israel, backpacking, at the beach, working or doing anything else, make the effort to challenge yourself, to learn something new, to read a book or to learn from someone whose opinions and experiences you respect. Set a goal of returning to campus better prepared to impact the campus Israel environment, even if it means rethinking every detail of what you’ve done in the past.

Summer break is a great privilege — one that gets shortened dramatically after you enter the working world — and great privileges should not be squandered. Find the balance between leisure and focus, and cherish every experience.

One more note: After closing our recruitment season, ICB is screening an excellent set of applications for our 2012-2013 reporting internships. Soon we hope to introduce our newest reporter interns to you, our readers. Through the summer, please continue to send us comments, suggestions and story ideas! Email me at editor@israelcampusbeat.org.

 

Summer of Endless Opportunities

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Summer break brings countless ways to become a more skilled advocate for Israel. Many organizations, including The David Project, StandWithUs, Hasbara Fellowships, the Israel on Campus Coalition and others offer students opportunities to learn how to strengthen their skills on campus. Offerings include digital media and social media awareness, trips to Israel and seminars in North America.

Hasbara Fellowships brings students to Israel on a three-week trip that provides them with the background, knowledge and tools to become campus advocates. Since 2001, 2,000 students from 250 campuses have participated in the program. The first groups of summer 2012 are leaving later this month, and applications are still being accepted.

Participants in the Hasbara trips become Hasbara Fellows who take an active role in planning Israel-related activity on campus. Current fellow Sam Strasser, from the University of Western Ontario, is featured in a Hasbara video saying, “Seeing firsthand the Jewish connection to the land was a really big motivating factor when I went back [to campus] because I knew that what I was standing up for was right.”

For those who want to stay closer to home, opportunities are available across the country.

The David Project offers a variety of workshops and training seminars over the summer including Israel On Demand and their Israel Video Advocacy Seminar. Each focuses on a different set of skills for campus advocates. Past Israel On Demand seminars have incorporated tips on using comedy as a means for heightened communication and listening skills as well as hearing from major journalist and policy makers.

AEPi, the Israel on Campus Coalition, the David Project, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Jewish National Fund and Hasbara Fellowships are joining forces to offer Israel Amplified a unique seminar for students involved in Greek life. Between August 6 and 8, Greek students from across the country will gather in Arizona to network and learn how to build support for Israel on their campuses.

ICC’s MZ-Grinspoon Internship program kicks off with a training seminar in August that prepares students to take leadership roles on their campuses. Past interns have organized programs, mounted information campaigns, published campus Israel magazines and more.

While many summer programs already are full, there always are opportunities for students who want to learn more and do more on campus. Be sure to check with your campus Hillel, as well as CAMERA, the World Zionist Organization, and other groups to see what they have to offer.

Many more opportunities are available on the ICC website, including travel/study to Israel, programs, conferences, and jobs & internships are available to students and professionals.

Do you know of other summer training and travel opportunities? Are you participating in a workshop or skills-building session? Send us a note at comments@israelcampusbeat.org and we’ll check it out and spread the word!

Amb. Michael Oren to Pro-Israel Student Advocates: No Substitute for Knowledge and Experience

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Ambassador Michael Oren has been on the move lately, visiting college campuses and communities in California, Michigan, Chicago, and Boston.

Israel Campus Beat caught up with him last week at the George Washington University in Washington, DC, after he addressed a crowd of students and community members.

The New Jersey native, who earned degrees from Princeton and Columbia and has served in faculty positions at Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, the Hebrew University, and Tel Aviv University, has served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States in May 2009. As the author of two best-selling books and a former contributing editor of The New Republic and the Shalem Center’s quarterly journal, Azure, Oren has a long history in academics and prose, and a profound ability to connect with his audience.

During a private reception last week at GW’s Elliot School of International Affairs, he offered advice to pro-Israel student activists and advocates.

“You need to know your subject, back and forth,” he said. “There is no substitute for knowing the history and knowing the current affairs.”

There is no substitute for experience, he added, even those that are difficult.

“Getting the stuffing knocked out of you sometimes is a very educational experience and I’ve been through it all,” he said. “Today, I get to a point where it is very, very rare where I will get a question, even a very difficult question that I haven’t received many times before. Being able to have the information at your fingertips is indispensable.”

He stressed the importance of treating every question with respect, noting that there is only one question that he refuses to respect.

“I won’t respect any question that draws a comparison between Israel and the Nazis,” he said. “I won’t respond to that, at least not respectfully.”

Oren demonstrated his knack for staying calm when a dozen George Washington University students left his event, minutes in, carrying signs that said “Oren Supports Colonialism.” Oren stood at the podium and urged those leaving to stay and hear what he had to say.

“I’ve been through that a lot,” he said. “You don’t have to lose your cool.”

The title of Oren’s presentation at GW was “Ultimate Allies: Israel and the United States,” and he discussed the strong connection between the two countries.

“We agree on the end game. We agree on the strategy. Strategy is creation of two states for two peoples, the nation state of the Jewish people called Israel, the nation state of the Palestinian people called Palestine living side by side in mutual security and mutual recognition and peace. Those are our common goals,” he said, explaining that although Israel and the U.S. sometimes disagree on certain tactical subjects, both countries are determined to prevent a nuclear capable Iran.

“Historically, because of the deep roots, because of the democratic connection, because of our great military alliance and growing commercial relationship, I say that Israel is not just an ally of America, not even a great ally of America,” he said. “Israel is America’s ultimate ally.”

Visit http://israelcampusbeat.org for the latest Israel trends and events on campus.

In Honor of Israel’s Big Day, One Movie on 64 Campuses

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Visit http://israelcampusbeat.org for the latest Israel trends and events on campus.

As Israel turns 64, campuses across the country are throwing major birthday bashes in honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Whether opening hookah bars on campus, giving out free falafel, renting camels or creating a Tel Aviv beach party on the quad, Yom Ha’atzmaut on campus is something not to be missed. But Jerusalem Online University (JOU) has spearheaded a new sort of birthday celebration that is educational as well as fun. JOU is throwing a movie party to celebrate Israel’s birthday.

In honor of Israel’s 64th birthday, JOU is premiering the movie ‘Israel Inside’ in 64 locations. The screenings began on Wednesday night and continue through the day on Thursday.

Rather than the typical movie about Israel that discusses politics, conflict and violence, ‘Israel Inside’ tells the story of the Israeli people whose resilience has propelled Israel to the forefront of world innovation and progress.

“There seems to be no limit to the amount of bashing Israel receives, be it on television, in the newspapers or online,” ‘Israel Inside’ Associate Producer and Director of Film Distribution David Coleman told Israel Campus Beat. “On top of that, Jewish students on campuses across the country have to face often overt hostility to anything related to Israel from their professors, from student groups and at campus demonstrations.

“Realizing how difficult it was for anyone to present Israel and its people in a positive light was exactly the inspiration for ‘Israel Inside,’ Coleman stated.

The 55-minute film, hosted by former Harvard lecturer Dr. Tal Ben Shahar, explores the core strength of Israelis that has enabled them to succeed against incredible odds.

“Each year as Yom Ha’atzmaut approaches, many communities and individuals around the world look for ways to appropriately celebrate Israel from afar,” Coleman said. “This film, which makes no mention of politics, provides a perfect platform to celebrate the miracles and splendor of Israel and its people. We felt it would have been a waste not to share this message with others on a day dedicated to celebrating Israel’s individuality.”

Film screenings are taking place throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Jerusalem, South Africa, Romania, China, India, U.K., Chile, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Ethiopia.

The film will also be shown in the coming months as part of a college screening campaign in partnership with StandWithUs and Hasbara Fellowships.

“In a time when Israel is increasingly viewed solely in terms of the negative connotations of the Israeli-Arab conflict,” Coleman concluded, “this film gives today’s Jewish Americans plenty to be proud of the State of Israel and its vast accomplishments on such a special day.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/on-campus/in-honor-of-israels-big-day-one-movie-on-64-campuses/2012/04/27/

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