CAMERA Launches New New York Times Billboard!

December 19, 2014

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Near 10th Ave. and West 36th St. in Manhattan, a new CAMERA billboard criticizing the Israel coverage of The New York Times. Credit: JNS.com

Today, CAMERA launches another in a series of billboards that put the spotlight on the New York Times for their biased coverage of Israel!  Check our our press release, published in JNS.com, and reproduced in full below!

A series of new billboards in New York City calls out The New York Times for what a media watchdog group says is persistent anti-Israel bias in the newspaper’s reporting.

Five new billboards from the Committee for Accuraccamera new nyt billboardy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) will join an existing CAMERA billboard opposite the headquarters of The New York Times in midtown Manhattan. The midtown billboard reads, “The New York Times Against Israel—All Rant, All Slant, All The Time. Stop The Bias!” The other billboards can be found near the intersection of 10th Ave. and 36th St., at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, and on expressways.

“We are expanding our effort to let the public know, beginning with the newspaper-reading public in New York City, that The Times persists—[and] has even doubled-down—in its long-standing pattern of prejudiced reporting and editorializing when it comes to Israel,” said Andrea Levin, CAMERA’s executive director.

In November, CAMERA called out the “passive language” in an initial New York Times headline on the Palestinian terror attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem. The headline stated, “Four Killed in Jerusalem Synagogue Complex,” without any mention of terrorism. CAMERA also noted that the newspaper, when reporting on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s condemnation of the synagogue attack, omitted any reference of Abbas’s repeated incitement to violence—such as a condolence letter Abbas wrote to the family of the late Palestinian terrorist who attempted to murder Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick.

On Dec. 10, The Times’s choice of columnist to analyze the controversy surrounding an Israeli bill to formalize the country’s status as a “Jewish state” was pro-Hamas activist Max Blumenthal, the creator of a Twitter hashtag (#JSIL) equating Israel with the Islamic state terror group.

Over the summer, CAMERA used its midtown Manhattan billboard to call out biased reporting on the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, stating, “Hamas attacks Israel: Not surprising. The New York Times attacks Israel: Also not surprising.”  nyt.billboard2

Levin noted that the billboards are a quick and high-impact way of reminding viewers of “journalistic malpractice” concerning Israel and that CAMERA’s focus on the New York Times’s coverage enjoys “enthusiastic support from the organization’s members and supporters.”

“If The Times imagines it can escape scrutiny, it’s quite mistaken. As long as The Times keeps lying about Israel, we’ll keep telling the truth about them,” she said.

The Quest to Alienate Zionists on Campus

December 18, 2014

star-swastika-fbEver seen or heard Zionist students admit that they no longer feel safe on campus? Wonder how big of a problem anti-Israel intimidation really is? Have censorship and boycott of Jews really appeared in Western academic institutions? Read on to find out…

Today, the folks over at Spiked published a piece on their affiliate website, FreeSpeechNOW!, identifying the problem across the pond, in England. Students at Kings College, London report that they no longer feel safe enough on campus to proudly wear Jewish symbols, and events featuring pro-Israel speakers are stifled, silenced, or shut-down for making anti-Israel students feel “unsafe.”

Yet, shouldn’t college campuses encourage spirited debate between different points of view? Why are only pro-Israel speakers targeted with this kind of opprobrium?  Find out below.

The rage against pro-Israel students exposes the farce that student politics descends into when intolerance seeps in. While keffiyeh-waving campus politicos may feel they’re helping the Palestinian cause by shouting down the other side, actually such intolerant behaviour devalues their position. By refusing to argue, to pit their ideas against those of the opposition, they display weakness, not strength. Elliot Miller, president of University College London’s Jewish Society, tells me of his ceaseless attempts to get his pro-Palestinian peers to share a platform. In the end, his society posted an open letter to UCL’s Friends of Palestine Society, pleading for a chance ‘for students at UCL to hear both sides of the debate on an equal and civil platform, from which they can form their own opinions’. As yet, they’ve had no response.

These students’ experiences of being shouted down or shut up are repeated on campuses across Britain, and increasingly in other Western countries, too. Zionist speakers are no-platformed or booed off campus, while both students and academics agitate for their universities to have nothing to do with Israeli universities or thinkers. The end result is a climate of intolerance around the issue of Israel, making students who are pro-Israel, or who are in Jewish societies sympathetic to Israel, feel that it is a risk to express themselves and hold public debates.

One of the most pernicious ways in which pro-Israel sentiment is shut down is through the branding of it as ‘offensive’ or ‘distressing’ to the student body. SUs and others are now obsessed with keeping students ‘safe’ – by which they mean safe from certain ideas. Safe Space policies, now on statute at students’ unions across the UK, mandate, to quote one example, that the university should be ‘free from intimidation or judgement’; students, it says, should ‘feel comfortable, safe and able to get involved in all aspects of the organisation’. The message here is clear: debate is dangerous, and students shouldn’t be challenged.

Check out the rest of the piece, published here.

Witnesses of History: Marta

December 17, 2014

This piece was submitted by CAMERA 2014 Israel Trip participant, Marta Slobodyanyuk, as part of our Witnesses of History campaign.  Marta is a student activist with CAMERA’s CCAP group at the University of Minnesota, Students Supporting Israel.welcome home

The plane readied itself for arrival. I remember that feeling in my stomach. It was the feeling you get when you are nervous, because you don’t know what to expect, but it is also that feeling you get when you can no longer hold in your excitement. I knew that I was about to land into the place that I already love, but I’ve yet to explore. This would be my first experience here and the only thing that I could think to myself is that I already don’t want to leave. As I got off of the plane I immediately saw the 15 letters written in bright blue, right below the ceiling, “Welcome to Israel.” Suddenly, a blanket of goose bumps covered my whole body, and I felt that I’m home.

This was my highest point in Israel, because I finally experienced the true feeling of what it means to be at home.  Throughout the following six weeks of my stay in Israel, I truly experienced an adventure of a lifetime. Once my first trip had completed, my heart was full of love and happiness. I had never felt such emotions before and never knew that I had the ability to, but Israel just does that to you.

Like any other of my days in Israel, I woke up, had some coffee, and turned on the news, but this day was different. All of a sudden there was breaking news that the night before three boys had been kidnapped and that the acts were most likely done by Hamas. This was the third time I had experienced a full body goose bumps effect and they weren’t the good kind. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I immediately thought to myself that this cannot be true, that this isn’t true, and that if this is true, are the boys going to be okay. Instantly, the campaign of “Bring Back Our Boys” had launched, and the search was on. The only thing I could really feel during all of this, was that if felt as if they were my family. Every day I would have the same morning routine to check if the boys had been found. Eventually, the CAMERA Israel trip had begun. We were learning, exploring, having fun, and most importantly, getting the Israel experience. On the second to last night, we were on our way to an extravagant meal when all of a sudden breaking news had filled the bus speakers and in Hebrew a reporter had said, “New reports about the boys and their whereabouts in thirty minutes.” Our whole bus had gotten quiet. We didn’t know whether to be optimistic or begin to mourn. As we entered the restaurant, somber silence occupied the room as the news was on a television right next to our tables. Although I couldn’t exactly read what was on the screen, I had understood that the boys have been found, and that they were not alive.

Instantly, a breath taking emotion filled my heart and mind. Not the kind of breath taking when you are standing at the top of Masada, but the kind that literally makes it hard for you to breathe. Tears were filling my eyes and nausea was overtaking my body. I felt as if I had just lost three brothers that I never knew. I went outside of the restaurant and couldn’t help but see the huge Israeli flag waving in the brisk wind through the silent country. I could feel the country go into mourning right in that moment, but the flag kept strong and wouldn’t let down.  I don’t know if this was a sign or just a coincidence, but to this day I almost felt as if Eyal, Naftali, and Gil-ad were there, looking over us and letting us know that everything will be okay.

On our last day of the CAMERA trip, we were to visit Tzfat, Herziliya, and then to the Ben Gurion Airport. The mood was dull all day, and I was occupied with anxiety.  It was as if you could almost feel the tension in the country, and at that point, I understood that there is no turning back and Israel will send a message to Hamas.

Getting back to America was very tough. My plane ride back was filled of nothing but loneliness and sadness. I felt as if I had left a part of myself back in Israel and that I will never get it back because that is where it is meant to be. Once I got back to America, already on the news were reports about rockets flying into southern Israel from Gaza, and speculations of what the strong, indestructible; nation of Israel will do in reaction. From past experiences, I already knew what would happen, but I didn’t imagine for ‘Operation Defensive Edge’ to be so long and exhausting for the people of Israel and the supporters of Israel. Not only did we end up losing three young boys, but we also had to suffer the loss of young and heroic IDF soldiers.

To experience so much emotion while in Israel, I fell in love with the nation and its people. I feel like I was not only a witness of history, but I really witnessed what it was like to be part of a community that truly cares about one another. I strongly believe that you cannot experience that connection in any other country in the world. People care for, love, and treat one another like family. People don’t take life for granted in Israel, and I think that is a lesson to be learned for all people throughout the world. I witnessed a nation that puts others before themselves and it truly gives me hope that one day the whole nation of Israel will have harmony or as they say in Hebrew, ‘Tikkun Olam.’

Please check our page for more posts from our Witnesses of History. If you have an experience you want to share, please contact CAMERA on Campus and submit your story!

Spirit of Hanukkah

December 16, 2014

channukah

Neither Greek nor Roman nor Spanish nor Persian
Not Assyrian, nor German, or fierce Babylonian
Not Egypt with Pharaohs and laws so draconian
could stop our forward march.

Not ‘Students for Justice in Palestine,’
Not here, not now, not at any time,
Not Judith Butler, or Hatem Bazian
could stop our forward march.

Not petitions or protests or false propaganda
not intifadas nor fake double standards
Not berating Israel incessantly at random
could stop our forward march.

Not biased professors or BDS resolutions
Not persistent years of ceaseless persecution
Not even the worst of your ‘Final solution’
could stop our forward march.

Our forward march: its the song of our people
it is art by liberators, dance moves by freedom
fighters forsaken, yet never defeated
lighting their candles for all to see them

Great Maccabean, spirit of Warsaw
echo of Esther and fire of Judah
struggle till struggling we discover Mount Zion
Cower no more, no cowards but lions

Roar with the thunder of heaven and earth
cry and sing out of our rebirth
rediscover our strength once unknown, now unearth
and onward, till victory, March.

This piece was contributed by CAMERA consultant, Chloé Simone Valdary. Chloe is the founder of Allies of Israel, CAMERA’s CCAP group at the University of New Orleans.

Commemorating the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD, this was constructed in 82 AD in Rome. The south panel depicts the spoils taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. The Golden Candelabra or Menorah is the main focus and is carved in deep relief. Other sacred objects being carried in the triumphal procession are the Gold Trumpets and the Table of Shew bread

Commemorating the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD, this was constructed in 82 AD in Rome. The south panel depicts the spoils taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. The Golden Candelabra or Menorah is the main focus and is carved in deep relief. Other sacred objects being carried in the triumphal procession are the Gold Trumpets and the Table of Shew bread

A Misleading Representation

December 15, 2014

This piece was written by CAMERA’s 2014-2015 Fellow at the University of Michigan, Lindsay Hurwitz.  It was originally published in the Michigan Daily, and is reproduced in full below.

Oct. 8, 2014, was a beautiful, sunny day in Michigan, one of those rare days where even the weather seems to be telling you that nothing can go wrong. After my last class I walked from the MLB to the UGLi to finish up some work. However, upon walking through the Diag I was faced by a mock checkpoint supposed to be representing the walls between the Israeli and Gaza borders.

The author, middle, is a CAMERA Fellow at the University of Michigan

I peacefully approached the makeshift desk and simply asked someone to explain what was being demonstrated. I soon found myself surrounded by pro-Palestinian students, each quickly throwing out arguments one after another to explain why the wall is unfair and a disgrace to human rights. They concluded by claiming that Israel is an “apartheid state,” which was my cue to step in.

The walls stationed in the Diag created the illusion that there is a humongous, thick, impenetrable wall between Israel and Gaza. But, this barrier is actually mostly fence. In fact, less than 5 percent of the barrier is actually concrete wall — the rest being a fence. The less than 5 percent that is concrete was instituted in order to protect civilians from sniper fire, leaving the rest of the barrier to be composed of chain link or barbed wire.

Simply claiming that this security fence is unjust is a blatant disregard of the correlation between the end of suicide bombings and this barrier. As I iterated to the pro-Palestinian students that day, I am not making a blanket statement that all Gazans are dangers to the Israeli society. However, observing the connection between the decrease in suicide bombings and the creation of the barrier is critical. Since the barrier was constructed, suicide bombings in Israel have become incredibly infrequent.

Still, this demonstration in the Diag alludes to the idea that only Israel is so harsh as to implement a barrier on its border. Yet, many borders have barriers, including the very country we live in. The border fence between the United States and Mexico is not nearly as closely scrutinized by the international community, as maintaining a checkpoint where people cross from one country to another is considered a standard practice. The Ceuta border fence between Spain and Morocco exists in order to stop illegal immigration and smuggling. In fact, this fence is composed of barbed wire and watchmen as well. So too, the security fences between Israel and Gaza have helped limit terrorism, drug smuggling and other crimes within Israel. The implementation of the security barrier has directly impacted the decrease in suicide bombings, smuggling and terrorism, which cannot be ignored.

The aspect of my conversation with these students that sticks out the most in my mind is the lie that Israel is an apartheid state. All Israeli citizens are granted equal rights under Israeli law. Actually, there are numerous Palestinians residing in Israel who work there and are properly paid. Israel causes no harm to these Palestinians, and to the contrary, helps them sustain proper lives in Israel. Palestinians are denied many rights in places like Lebanon, and women are denied basic human rights in countries like Saudi Arabia. In fact, 24 percent of Israeli citizens are considered to be Arab, and many of these Arabs serve in the country’s legislature. Arabs are cared for by Israeli hospitals and learn in Arab-Israeli schools because Arabic is considered an official Israeli language. Israeli citizens include whites, Blacks, Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists and more. Each of these people maintain the right to vote and is equally permitted in all public places. To the contrary, since 1997 the Palestinian Authority has declared that selling any amount of Gazan property to an Israeli is considered treason — punishable by death. But, these facts are blatantly ignored in the pro-Palestinian checkpoint demonstration, making Israel seem an unlawful and shameful country.

Additionally, Operations Solomon, Moses and Joshua airlifted approximately 35,000 Ethiopian Jews who were impoverished in other lands to start anew in Israel. The state of Israel maintains a law granting Muslim power Waqf control over Arab holy sites — along with the Jewish Temple Mount, the holiest site for the Jews. Israel is a progressive and liberal democracy, one that allows free press, complete religious freedoms, full rights for women and minorities, recognizes gay marriage and holds free elections.

While I fully support the right of the pro-Palestinian students on this campus to present their side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I felt that these students blurred the lines between Palestine awareness and anti-Israel sentiments. I recognize that this debate is heated and incredibly complex, yet I find it an injustice to a country that I love to enable these falsehoods to be spread effortlessly on my campus.

Lindsay Hurwitz is an LSA sophomore and a CAMERA Fellow.

David Sheen, Lying Machine

December 12, 2014

This piece was contributed by 2014-2015 Florida State University CAMERA Fellow, Stephanie Jablon

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David Sheen, Lying Machine

Shouldn’t student organizations bring in guest speakers who promote a positive, educational experience? Shouldn’t these speakers spread knowledge that is both truthful and helpful? As college students, we have the opportunity not only to pick from a long list of classes that interest us, but e are also able to pick and choose who we invite and host as guest speakers to educate us. However, it’s up to us to not take advantage of this freedom. As college students seeking knowledge and truth, it is in our best interest to see that these speakers do not have an agenda to lie or skew the truth, so that we and our peers may be more well informed. Maybe this is something Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) do not understand. A few weeks ago, SJP hosted David Sheen as their featured guest speaker; someone who goes out of his way to spew hateful propaganda and skew the truth.

Formerly from Toronto and now a resident of Dimona, Israel, Sheen devotes his life to spreading false ideas on and what it is like to be an immigrant in that nation who is not white or Jewish. Although he himself is both of those things, he claims to be a sympathizer with those who are not at a face valuable. It seems like a noble action.

However, the picture Sheen paints is not an accurate one. This event was advertised as a presentation on African, non-Jewish refugees. Instead, for the first half of this two-hour diatribe, he rails against Israeli treatment of Arabs. The lecture then turns into complaints about women’s rights in the religious community. Rather than presenting concrete, credible cases of racism and discrimination, Sheen preaches hate and exaggerates events that have taken place in the Jewish state.

According to Sheen, the Arabs in Israel have very few rights and lead harsh lives. He says they are discriminated against and neglected, and Israel does not give them much aid or resources.

If Israel neglects the Arab Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, how is it that in 2012 Israel was listed as the number one humanitarian aid supplier to these regions and still remains one of their main sources of aid and resources? If they have so little, how have Gaza and the West Bank managed to maintain the 8th highest obesity rate in the world? If this discrimination is so rampant, then why are there Israeli Supreme Court Judges and members of Israel’s Knesset who are Arabs?

After an hour of venom and patronizer of Israel, SJP’s guest speaker reached the “main point” of his presentation: that African non-Jewish immigrants and refugees are either discriminated against or deported.

In Israel, as in most countries with an immigration policy, those who are caught living in the territory illegally, especially if they are caught in criminal acts, are deported. Sheen, however, stated that Israeli officials roam the streets looking for African refugees to beat, arrest, or transport to refugee camps; there, he says, they will either “gain citizenship status after years of being detained,” or be deported. According to him, Israel is anything but a refuge for these immigrants.

However, this is completely contradictory to someone who has truly experienced this lifestyle. According to Simon Deng, a refugee from Sudan who was sold into slavery as a boy and has experienced refugee life first-hand, Sheen’s statements are simply untrue.   At the New York Durban Watch Conference in 2011, Simon protested and spoke up against hatred, lies, and bigotry regarding Israel’s immigration policies.

“…friends, I come here today with a radical idea. I come to tell you that there are peoples who suffer from the UN’s anti-Israelism even more than the Israelis. I belong to one of those people.” He states that Sudanese refugees seek safety in Egypt, but even there they are still subjected to racism and abuse. Some are even slaughtered in their attempts to find freedom there. According to him, refugees run from Egypt to Israel.

It is there, in Israel, Deng says, where the Sudanese were finally treated and respected as human beings.   Deng says that protesting Israeli policy on immigrants will not help racism. “It will only help isolate and target the Jewish state.”

Simon Deng, Sudanese refugee and former slave

Simon Deng, Sudanese refugee and former slave

That is exactly what David Sheen intends to do every time he publishes an article, posts on social media, or makes a speech about Israel.

For the last few minutes, to get in a few more jabs, Sheen suggests that Israeli women are so deprived of rights that they are not even allowed to sing out loud or dance at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest sight of the Jewish people to pray, while men are. Funny, because I have been to the Western Wall and sang aloud and danced with these allegedly “rights deprived” women, and there was no penalty for it.

If a woman in the religious community does not hold the same status as a man, it is by choice. It is because that is religious custom, to hold men to higher standards in the ultra orthodox community. It is not because Israel prohibits them from having a prestigious career or denies a decent salary. Otherwise, Golda Meir could never have been Prime Minister of the state.

In just two hours, David Sheen proved himself to be a crowd pleasing bigot, and is incredibly talented at distorting the larger picture. Unfortunately, he is not the first speaker to fit those criteria that SJP has hosted on campus.

As do most Americans, I support free speech. But I do not support those at Florida State who incite hate and potential violence against Jews and Israel supporters. Inviting speakers to this campus whose main goals are to spread hate and lies, and promote ill feelings towards the only democratic ally we have in the Middle East, should be challenged and exposed.

Cornell Daily Sun Sets the Record Straight, with CAMERA’s Help

December 11, 2014

Last month, Cornell University’s CAMERA Fellow, Reut Baer, was falsely accused of vandalizing fliers made by Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine.  In an interview with the student paper, the Cornell Daily Sun, Reut cleared her own name and explained why the fliers were problematic in the first place.

SJP signs posted at Cornell University

SJP signs posted at Cornell University

Read below for an excerpt of the piece, and see the full article here.

Baer said that while she does not support the fact that the signs were dismantled, she said she thinks the messages on them were “problematic.”

“It’s concerning to me personally that SJP can have signs up and claim they’re there for justice in Palestine, but it was all just anti-Israel sentiment,” Baer said. “I’m personally an Israeli student and that’s just not a nice thing to see at all.”

Baer also said she thought the placards were misleading.

“They had all these different figures without mentioning Hamas once, which is a little ridiculous to me,” she said. “On top of that, a lot of the things they had there … weren’t necessarily fact. They had a sign up that said ‘Palestinian land lost since 1947.’ There was no such thing as Palestinian land in 1947; it was under mandate. After that it was under Jordanian rule.”

Thankful to CAMERA

December 10, 2014

By Jemmie Tejeda, Clark University CAMERA Israel Trip 2014 participant

Jemmie Tejada

The author, in Jerusalem

Weeks before embarking on my first trip to Israel with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, family and friends came together to advise me of the perils I would encounter on my trip to the Middle East. I remember a family friend volunteering to cancel my trip to Israel herself. The general understanding that I had of Israel was solely based on the various misconceptions that many Americans held of the Middle East. In fact, I envisioned Israel as a war torn state with little to no internal security and weak infrastructure. I recall arriving at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on one of the hottest days of the summer. The CAMERA fellows that flew into Israel with me were all full of joyous chatter and excitement; thus, I pretended to be just as excited and bottled away all of my fears.

The moment I walked out of the Ben Gurion Airport, I fell in love with Israel. Our tour guide and bus driver were one of the most friendliest individuals I had ever met in my life. I remember gazing out of the windows on the bus on our way to the King Solomon Hotel in Jerusalem. While the rest of the CAMERA fellows were in deep chatter with each other, I took this time to observe every person, street corner, and landscape that passed me by. The elaborate and lavish architecture throughout Tel Aviv and Jerusalem caught me by immense surprise. The beautiful beaches, tasteful cuisine, and nightlife in both of these cities quickly made me realize how naive I was for imagining an Israel with none of these things. My trip to Israel taught me the danger of a single story. The only story I had of Israel was a story saturated with stereotypes and hate. In simpler words, one can never be satisfied with listening to one story. My CAMERA trip to Israel gave me the opportunity to hear beyond the single story I grew up listening to.

Moreover, the moment I entered the Old City, I quickly understood how privileged I was for being able to visit one of the most sacred places in the world. But most importantly, I became completely thankful for CAMERA. Not only did they free us of financial matters the entire trip, but they also introduced us to individuals who all had valuable stories and knowledge to share with each and every one of us. We met reporters, fathers, and even soldiers who trained us on ways to stand for Israel on our college campuses. The knowledge I gained on this trip about the Arab-Israeli Conflict was one of a kind. Not only was I able to visit the Middle East free of charge, but I was also able to hear important stories first hand. It became much more personal when I heard the story of a Jewish Israeli father who lost his daughter to a suicide bomber during the Intifadas. To gain this knowledge, I did not have to read a lengthy book, but rather I was able to hear the storyteller share his experience firsthand. In other words, it becomes easier to fight for a cause when the reasons for the fight are indisputable.

Although I am not of Jewish descent or have a deep connection to the land of Israel, I was able to comprehend the struggle just as much as the fight for the land of Israel and the Jewish people through my CAMERA trip. When the political becomes of greater importance to humanity, we seem to forget that we are all human beings. Indifferent of what side of the conflict we stand on, no human being should have to live a life running to and from bomb shelters or live in fear of suicide bombers while riding on a public bus. The support and thus fight for the land of Israel will only get stronger as long as organizations like CAMERA continue to exist.

CAMERA’s Israel Trip Recounted

December 9, 2014

CAMERA students HaGan HaTechnology

CAMERA students on 2014 CAMERA Israel trip

By 2014 Israel Trip participant, Alexa Lazerow, Towson University

To say it was an honor being a part of the CAMERA advocacy mission to Israel does not suffice. The trip honed in to me more than anything I have ever done before related to Israel what my duty and mission on this earth needs to be– advocating for Israel. For the Jewish homeland- my homeland where I have been traveling to since age 7 in 1999, where I have family and friends all over the country, friends and family serving in the IDF and where my family can trace back many generations to the land of Eretz Yisrael.

The CAMERA trip was the most organized, jam-packed, education packed trip to Israel – with a high emphasis on education and advocacy training. The two weeks were filled with speakers, lectures, lunches, dinners, driving on the bus and a touch of touring.

We spent the majority of the trip in Jerusalem, visited Tel Aviv, had a free weekend and spent the last few days on the trip together on a kibbutz in the Kinneret.

Our time was wisely spent going from speaker to speaker- a range of speakers including and not limited to a father, Arnold Roth, whose daughter was killed in the Sbarro Pizza terrorist attack, Sgt, Benjamin Anthony who has committed his life to the IDF and teaches advocates about his horrific and triumphant story that led him to making aliyah, an Arab journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh, who told us how working in the Arab media world is similar to a communist regimes journalism, CAMERA researchers and many other speakers who used fantastic visual aids, statistics and information which we and the whole world needs to know.

The trip gave me the ability to learn about a topic I am deeply invested and interested in. I studied journalism and electronic media and film in school but have always loved the field of political science, foreign policy and international relations.

As for the people on the trip, I can honestly say I have never been around such an intelligent, worldly, quizzical, fun group of people– all with the same passions and missions towards loving and supporting Israel. Each and every one of them inspired me and taught me something new about Israel, the world and life.

Each participant on the trip had their own story- why they were on the trip, their connections to Israel, their Jewish life and upbringing and most interestingly, their campus atmosphere regarding Israel.

The most fascinating people on the trip for me were the few non-Jews welcomed on the trip. Before this experience, I had never been on a trip with non-Jews before. Jemmie from Clark University became one of my close friends. From Boston, Catholic and from the Dominican Republic, Jemmie had a Jewish roommate her freshman year at Clark University and “realized how nice Jewish people were.” Then later in her college career, she took a conflicts class and learned about the intense, complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict– and from that point realized she wanted to go to Israel and see the land, people, culture herself. Her story touched me and I will never forget it. It was amazing to watch her eat traditional Israeli food such as hummus, falafel, pita etc. for the first time and also to see her eyes when taking in all these new things at once.

She was just one great story and part of the trip.

The biggest component to the trip was learning about Israel advocacy on campus, hearing fellow CAMERA member’s stories and experiences and learning about what everyone could do for the upcoming school year.

As for my school– I went to a very apathetic university. I went to Towson University outside of Baltimore with a high percentage of Jewish students, a Hillel and Chabad and a non-politically active campus.

I did not have to fight on campus for Israel but the majority of the students on my trip had to and will continue to do so.

The CAMERA trip more than anything else opened my eyes to how different each and every campus is in the United States and Canada and also the fight we young Jewish advocates have in store for us when standing up for Israel. The fight is not only just between state actors, its between college aged young professionals even more so.

I became a member and supporter of CAMERA to learn the accurate ways to portray Israel.

Am Yisrael Chai and todah rabah to CAMERA for this life changing, eye opening, fun and educational trip to Israel.

Israel: The Start Up Nation

December 8, 2014

By 2014 Israel Trip participant, Nikki Keister, of the College of William and Mary

wix

Quick, answer three questions for me. What country has the highest ratio of university degrees in its population? What country has the highest concentration of startups in the world? What country has more companies listed on NASDAQ than the entire European continent combined? If you answered, Israel, to any of these three questions… Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!!!! You were right, on all three counts.

In the new book, Start Up Nation, Dan Senor and Paul Singer explain how Israel, a tiny country the size of New Jersey with no natural resources, surrounded on all sides by hostile Anti-Semitic enemies, in a constant state of war is still able to produce more start-ups than any other country besides the U.S.

The emergence of Israel’s high-tech sector put the small country’s economy on track. Specializing in computer hardware, software, medical technologies and pharmaceuticals, Israel’s technology sector has become world renowned for it’s innovation: Flash drives, cardiac stents, camera-pills and instant messaging are only a few Israeli innovations that have emerged in the last few decades. So, how does this little powerhouse, admired and envied by so many around the world, do it against all odds?

Persistence and Resilience:

A very strong trait in Israeli culture behind the “startup nation’s” success is Israeli chutzpah. Chutzpah does not have an equivalent word in English, but it basically translates to “in your face, cheeky, boldness that borders on being rude”. Chutzpah is a Yiddish word from the Hebrew word “hutspa”. Israeli chutzpah is a necessity because Israel exists in a hotbed of Anti-Semitic Islamic and Arab theocracies that constantly threaten it’s people’s annihilation. That chutzpah helps Israelis keep their strong resilience, and assures them that they are good people, they are smart people, they are honest people and they do the right thing even when everyone around them are not. That chutzpah will not let Israel’s enemies get her down. That chutzpah accounts for much of the Israel’s success against all odds.

Compulsory Service in a Unique Military

Another contributing factor is that Israel has a compulsory military service for all citizens over the age of 18, three years for men and two years for women. Innovation comes from having a unique perspective. Perspective comes from knowledge. Knowledge comes from a wide variety of experiences in a lifetime. In Israel, young people get experience, knowledge, perspective, and maturity at a much younger age, because the Israeli society jams so many transformative experiences into it’s people when they’re barely out of high school. By the time they get to college, their heads are in a different place than their American counterparts.

Much of this life experience Israelis get comes from its compulsory military service, which not only provides early training in some very sophisticated technologies, it often entails very serious life-and-death situations that teach Israelis to think quickly on their feet and make tough decisions under extremely stressful conditions.

The IDF also has a very unique, anti-hierarchical structure, which results in very few levels of middle and upper management. The result of this is, very young soldiers barely out of their teens serve on the front lines of battle with minimal guidance from superiors. The IDF places a very strong emphasis on soldiers taking personal responsibility. This leads to soldiers having to solve problems on their own on the front lines of battle, under incredible pressure, in very intense real world, life-and-death situations. One Israeli soldier explains it like this:

A company commander is in charge of a specific territory. If a terrorist infiltrates that area, there’s a company commander whose name is on it. Tell me how many twenty-three-year-olds elsewhere in the world live with that kind of pressure… How many of their peers in their junior colleges have been tested in such a way? How do you train and mature a twenty-year-old to shoulder such responsibility?

IDF soldiers are also discouraged from being overly compliant and instead are taught to speak up and question authority if they have serious doubts about decisions made by senior officers. Yes, it’s that chutzpah, again that contributes to a very unconventional system to challenge senior officers who are not working up to the IDF’s high standards.

I was in Israeli army units where we threw out the officers,” Oren told us, “where people just got together and voted them out. I witnessed this twice personally. I actually liked the guy, but I was outvoted. They voted out a colonel.” When we asked Oren in disbelief how this worked, he explained, “You go and say, ‘We don’t want you. You’re not good.’ I mean, everyone’s on a first-name basis… You go to the person above him and say, ‘That guy’s got to go.’… It’s much more performance-oriented than it is about rank. “The phrase ‘It was not my fault’ does not exist in the military culture”.

There is also a cultural tolerance in Israel for what some call “constructive failure” or “intelligent failures.” Most Israelis believe that without tolerating a large number of failures, it is impossible to achieve true innovation. In the IDF, there is a tendency to treat all performance, both successful and unsuccessful, both in training simulations and in live battle, as value-neutral. So long as the risk was taken intelligently, and not recklessly, even if the performance failed, there is something to be learned.

Yosma

Israel’s economic miracle is due as much to immigration as to anything. Foreign-born citizens of Israel currently account for over one-third of Israel’s population. That is three times the ratio of immigrants to natives in the U.S.A. Israel is now home to more than 70 diverse nationalities and cultures.

The success of the Venture Capital industry in Israel grew even stronger with the creation of a program they named Yozma (Hebrew for “initiative”). A group of young bureaucrats at Israel’s Ministry of Finance came up with the idea for a program where the Israeli government would invest money to create ten new venture capital funds Each fund had to be represented by three parties: Israeli venture capitalists in training, a foreign venture capital firm, and an Israeli investment company or bank. As a result of these efforts, Israel’s annual venture-capital outlays rose nearly 60-fold, from $58 million to $3.3 billion, between 1991 and 2000. Venture capital was the match that sparked the fire.

Mashups

There’s a multitask mash-up mentality in Israel, a multitasking mentality that produces an environment in which job titles and the compartmentalization mentality that goes along with them do not apply as much in Israel. Israelis will think nothing of working in fields that combine mathematics, biology, computer science, chemistry and other specialties.   Everyone becomes a jack-of-all trades, thinking nothing of combining radically different technologies and disciplines. When an Israeli man wants to date a woman, he asks her out that night. He does not wait. When an Israeli entrepreneur has a business idea, he will start it that week. He does not wait. The notion that one should accumulate all of his credentials before launching a venture simply does not exist in Israeli culture. Too much time can only teach you what can go wrong, not what could be transformative.

Clusters with Strong Bonds

Clusters in businesses are based on “geographic concentrations” of interconnected institutions (businesses, government agencies, and universities) in a specific field. Clusters are just communities of people who live and work and even raise families closely together so everyone is connected to each other in some way or another.   This includes the same people who also serve together in the same military units fighting to defend their home turf against enemies who want to annihilate them for being Jewish, then go on to learn together at the same great universities, and go on to work at the same start-up companies, live in the same communities where they raise families where their children go to the same schools together, etc, etc… That same “social glue” that binds a cluster together also provides critical access to information, understanding and collaboration between very talented people in their fields. The cluster’s sense of shared commitment and destiny on both a personal and professional level, like that of Israel and Silicon Valley, is not easy to create, but when it is created, it results in robust economic growth.

It has been said that Israel is a country with no natural resource, that couldn’t be further from the truth, it does have a resources, one that accounts for much of it’s success, that is the ingenuity and resilience of the Israeli people.