Monthly Archives: April 2015

This Pro-Israel Student Leader lets Alan Dershowitz ‘sleep at night’

April 30, 2015

Conrtibuted by Maayan Jaffe/JNS.org

Justin Hayet (second from left) with famed attorney Alan Dershowitz (third from left). Credit: Courtesy Justin Hayet.

Jewish organizations and leaders have been racking their brains trying to address the issue of skyrocketing anti-Semitism on college campuses. But at least one prominent pro-Israel activist is reassured by the presence of a student more than five decades his junior.

“Justin Hayet lets me sleep at night,” says Alan Dershowitz, the 76-year-old former Harvard Law School professor.

The laundry list of recent anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses isn’t pretty. Swastikas were painted on the building of a Jewish fraternity house at University of California, Davis. Jewish candidates for student government at University of California, Los Angeles and Stanford University have been grilled about their religion. A Jewish professor at Connecticut College has been persecuted over false accusations that he called for the annihilation of the Palestinians.

“Right now is a time of fear,” says Gilad Skolnick, director of campus programming for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). “We continue to see an uptick in anti-Semitism on campus and it scares students from doing what they are supposed to do at university—engage in educational and open discourse.”

Enter Justin Hayet, a 21-year-old student at Binghamton University – State University of New York, who says that while many of his peers “run away and try to ignore” anti-Semitism, he is “running toward it.”

“I want to fix it,” Hayet tells JNS.org.

Justin Hayet speaks at an event of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Credit: CAMERA.

On May 3, Hayet will receive CAMERA’s David Bar-Illan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism award at the media watchdog organization’s annual gala dinner. Chloe Valdary, a pro-Israel student at the University of New Orleans, will receive a similar award. The David Bar-Illan Award is given in memory of the renowned Israeli editor, musician, and policy leader to students who are making Israel’s case on campuses that are often ideological battlegrounds.

“Who is going to replace us?” Dershowitz tells JNS.org, speculating on a day when well-known Jewish leaders like himself, Irwin Cotler, and Elie Wiesel are no longer part of the picture. “Justin Hayet—this is a guy who can really become a major leader in the pro-Israel community.”

Hayet has deep black hair, an inquisitive brow, and a personality that CAMERA’s Skolnick describes as “passionate” and “optimistic.” Originally from Pikesville, Md., Hayet served as a CAMERA Fellow for the 2013-14 academic year. He hosted a pro-Israel event that drew more than 135 students from diverse backgrounds to hear Israel Defense Forces Lt. Colonel Anat Berko discuss the motivations of suicide bombers who are women and children. He penned multiple pro-Israel letters to the editor in his college newspaper, was published in the Jerusalem Post, and was interviewed by Israel’s Channel 1 network about the pro-Israel movement on college campuses. He is featured in the Jerusalem U film “Crossing the Line 2,” which provides an in-depth look at the rise of anti-Semitism on college campuses, the vitriol of organizations such as SJP, and the steadfast determination of Jewish students in the face of such attacks.

All this, and Hayet was not even raised in a particularly Zionist family, says his mother, Cheryl Hayet. But Cheryl says she “always encouraged my son to follow his dreams.”

In 2008, Hayet decided he wanted to visit Israel. He enrolled in a leadership development opportunity through the local Jewish Community Center. In 2009, he traveled to Israel with that group.

“When he got back, the next words were, ‘How do I get back?’” Cheryl Hayet recalls.

Justin Hayet found more than one way, traveling to Israel eight times between 2009 and today. His visits included one to Baltimore’s sister city, Ashkelon, as a Diller Teen Fellow. It was that trip that charted his course.

“Standing on the beaches of Ashkelon, I said, ‘What can I do to help?’” Hayet reflects. “I was too young for the army, but I saw myself as part of Israel’s army—here in the States, to fight for Israel, to make Israel a little better, bigger, and more respected.”

Hayet looked for an organization that would give him a vehicle for his passion for Israel advocacy. CAMERA was that match, offering him the creative platform to be as expressive as possible on his campus. He later signed on as a recruiter for The Jewish Agency for Israel’s MASA (Israel Journey) program.

Amid the abundance of negative messaging about Israel on campuses, getting students interested in studying abroad in the Jewish state is no easy task, says Samantha Robins, recruitment manager for MASA. But Hayet has been among the program’s most successful recruiters. When the students don’t come to him, “he goes and finds them,” Robins tells JNS.org.

To be an Israel advocate, Dershowitz says, “You have to know everything.” He explains that pro-Israel activists are constantly bombarded with false information. A true voice for Israel needs to be on top of every news story, have the resources to respond to false allegations, and be a flexible thinker, according to Dershowitz. Moreover, there is an imperative to present the facts in a compelling way and with unbounded energy.

“For pro-Israel advocates, there is no vacation,” says Dershowitz, who met Hayet through Israel advocacy work.

Israel advocates also need a thick skin, he says.

“There will be people who attack you, hate you, demean you, try to destroy you at every point,” Dershowitz says.

CAMERA-affiliated students have indeed come under attack, Skolnick says. In 2014, CAMERA Fellow Daniel Vessal was punched in the face on his Temple University campus by a violent member of SJP.

But Hayet is not afraid.

“People look at anti-Israel activity as only ‘bad.’ Every time I see these people, my blood boils,” he says. Through that reaction, the anger Hayet feels serves as an internal reminder that he is still strongly and emotionally attached to the Jewish homeland.

This summer, Hayet will intern for Israel’s largest English-language daily newspaper, the Jerusalem Post. While working under the newspaper’s chief political correspondent and analyst, Gil Hoffman, Hayet says he hopes to gain a better understanding of how the Knesset legislature works and to deliver a message to Israeli leaders: “You have enormous support from so many young people, like me.”

Dershowitz says, “I just wish there were more Justins.”

Maayan Jaffe is former editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Jewish Times and a Kansas-based freelance writer. Reach her at jaffemaayan@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter, @MaayanJaffe.

Applications are Now Open for the CAMERA Fellowship

April 29, 2015

Each year, a select number of outstanding student activists are selected as CAMERA Fellows for its premier leadership development program and are awarded a $1000 stipend or a free activist trip to Israel and $500. Apply today!

Their fellowship year begins with an in-depth, four day training seminar that offers skill building for campus activism. This includes programs for educating fellow students about Israel. It also offers effective strategies for countering anti-Israel campaigns on campus such as Israel Apartheid Week, BDS efforts (boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel), and anti-Israel faculty who proselytize in the classroom and the campus square. The seminar provides relevant areas of content, including an examination of the roles the United Nations and politicized NGOs play in fueling anti-Israel enmity.

10514293_820873811309546_5628544437315210096_oThroughout the year, CAMERA provides the Fellows with resources for all aspects of their activity, including bringing speakers and sponsoring various events. The fellowship year culminates with an exciting Israel trip designed for interaction between CAMERA Fellows and leading media government, and military experts.

Since its launch in 2002, the CAMERA Fellows program has played a significant role in the development of future leaders in the campaign for factual, fair treatment of Israel. CAMERA Fellows have published countless Op-Eds and letters countering bias in campus, community, and national media. Their collective efforts have yielded hundreds of pro-Israel events, reaching many thousands of fellow students of all faiths, races, and backgrounds. Many CAMERA Fellows have gone on to careers in media, government, and academia.

The Future Shines Brighter: The Expanding Impact of Emet Israel at U-Miami

April 28, 2015

Contributed by CAMERA intern Chaiel Schaffel. A version of this piece was republished in the Algemeiner.

In today’s world of lightning-fast news updates, twitter stump speeches, and morose newsroom ethics, finding the truth is harder than ever. Thankfully, a new organization, Emet Israel, is dedicated to getting the truth out there. CAMERA has supported Emet Israel since its inception through the CAMERA Campus Activist Program (CCAP). Founded in 2013 by a CAMERA Fellow and based on the University of Miami campus, the group seeks to spread the word about Israel while providing a platform on which all students can participate. So far, they have garnered much success, and enjoy much support from students on all sides of the spectrum. The group’s events are well attended, and its current high popularity should be a subject of interest for new groups that are just starting out.

But how did Emet Israel get where it is today?

emet for israel

The answer lies in a key tenet of the organization: inclusivity. Emet Israel strives to include all students from all backgrounds, and this Bi-Partisan approach has fueled support from a variety of places, sometimes unexpected ones at that. Contrary to the norm of most Pro-Israel groups on campus, Emet Israel enjoys a warm relationship with many Arab and Muslim groups at the university.  In stressing alliance over mutual goals, instead of conflict over exclusive ones, the group has turned an unlikely ally into a friendly source of support. “Having such a good relationship with them confirms that we are representing Israel with integrity,” said the group’s marketing director, Caela Cohen. The inclusive nature of the group has made it strong and connected with a huge variety of groups on campus, and with each bond, the group grows stronger.

A key point for Emet Israel is bonding with disparate, seemingly unrelated groups and people over the similarities they share with Israel and in general.  By understanding what is important to other groups, Emet Israel has forged connections by exhibiting the relationship between Israel and what these groups hold dear. For example, the group recently held a “Gay Life in Israel” event, in conjunction with UPride, the LGBTQ group at U Miami.  “…Our relationship with UPride has remained strong ever since,” said Becky Taylor, the group’s Vice President of Outreach.  The bond between the two groups is not an opinion. It is a fact. Jacob Randolph, the President of UPride, said, “Without a doubt, Emet Israel has had a hugely positive influence on UPride’s membership. Through our co-programming events, we have had the opportunity to build connections among LGBTQ topics and Israeli ones… and who would have thought there would be so many! Emet Israel has been nothing but a welcoming, dedicated, and loving group of people with whom we look forward to many more special moments together.” Clearly, the actions and words of Emet Israel have made an impact on UPride, just as it has made an impact on countless other organizations as well.

A recent EMET Israel event with Simon Deng.

A recent EMET Israel event with Simon Deng.

Additionally, the group has successfully run two “Hafla” (Arabic for “get together” or “Party”) Nights, drawing groups such as the Middle Eastern Studies Society and Muslim Students UM. To say that bonding between these groups is unusual is an understatement, and yet Emet Israel has pulled it off with flying colors. The group even has a wing dedicated to outreach. “The outreach that we do at Emet is essential to maintaining a strong presence on campus and expanding our following. Talking about Israel with students who love Israel is a treat; however, showing our peers the true Israel, away from what they might see or hear on the news, is a privilege,” said Taylor.

A key factor in many students’ involvement in Emet is the Emet Israel Fellowship, a student fellowship offered to pro-Israel students that want to learn more about the Jewish state. Fellows at Emet Israel learn to successfully advocate for Israel, and are trained on the history of the country and current events, as well as leadership skills. The Fellowship has two distinct groups and areas of focus: Marketing and Outreach. Fellows are put into either group, and are schooled on that area of the Emet Israel organization. Marketing Fellows work to put the word out about Emet Israel on campus by learning about activism through social media and how to draw an audience. Outreach Fellows specialize in forming relationships with other student groups on campus, the very same area that has seen much success in the Emet Israel organization, as seen above. The Outreach side of the Emet Israel Fellowship frequently reaches out to students that know little to nothing about Israel and helps them understand the country and what it has to offer. Each of these areas of expertise have been massively beneficial to the group, which enjoys both high popularity among students and excellent relations with other student groups.

10517229_672820476146484_8082975788167333067_o

Ryan Kesselring, now the Co-Chair of the Emet Israel Fellowship, was one of the many students that benefited from the Fellowship. “I learned a lot from my time in the Emet Israel Fellowship and continue to learn a lot leading it. We cover topics ranging from the history of Israel and the Zionist movement to the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict to modern Israeli politics and US-Israeli relations… I learned a wide variety of topics that to this day make me a better and more skilled advocate for Israel,” he commented.

Kesselring added that the Fellowship helped him decide to go to Israel with CAMERA. “I had very little prior knowledge of Israel the first time I visited and wanted an opportunity to take the information I had learned in the Fellowship and revisit the country and its people to see all things we had discussed in the Fellowship,” he said. Kesselring credited CAMERA and the CAMERA trip to Israel with reviving his passion for Israel advocacy, and said that “…It allowed me to gain much more knowledge and appreciation for Israel, its people, its history and the struggle to survive in such an inhospitable neighborhood. I was inspired by the other student leaders on the trip and came back to campus with stronger convictions and a more energized approach to Israel advocacy.”

Perhaps the origin of Emet Israel’s unprecedented inclusive methodology lies in Abir Gitlin, the founder of Emet Israel and former CAMERA Fellow at U-Miami. Abir credits his time spent serving in the West Bank while in the IDF and his spokesmanship at the Israeli National Training Center as the formative experiences behind his drive for advocacy. “I got to experience first-hand the real complexities of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the one hand, and worked to advance better understanding of Israeli reality on the second hand,” he said. Gitlin, now a senior, started the group in his freshman year. CAMERA was also instrumental in the formation of Emet Israel, as Gitlin’s drive to represent Israel was, in part, fired by the CAMERA conference Gitlin attended before his first semester at UMiami. “ I attended the CAMERA conference before my first semester at UM, and I arrived to campus revved up and motivated to advocate for Israel,” he commented.

However, upon arrival at U-Miami, Abir was confronted with an enemy that makes its home in many a college campus: apathy. There simply was not much activity surrounding Israel, either pro or anti. Abir, with the help of his friends and the CAMERA on Campus division, wrought a unique pro-Israel group with his own two hands where none had existed previously.  “No existing organization or student group covered the exact niche or angle of Israel activism that I wanted to stand for,” said Abir.  And so he created one. Gitlin and many others view the group as “…the Israel voice on our campus.”

Through intense effort, peaceful inclusivity, and a passion for Israel, the Emet Israel group at U-Miami has forged a uniquely pro-Israel campus. We at CAMERA on Campus were so impressed with their efforts that we decided to rebrand all of our campus groups with the name “Emet for Israel,” in recognition of the exemplary job that Emet Israel has done in U-Miami. The sun shines bright indeed in Miami, and because of Emet Israel, the future shines a little brighter.

1450893_704170613011470_7860102956061936794_n

Declare Your Freedom

April 27, 2015

This piece was contributed by CAMERA Consultant Chloé Simone Valdary. CAMERA is a major sponsor and supporter of DYF.

April 12, 2015 was a day of transcendence.

Originally founded by myself and Maor Shapira, the third annual DYF Music Festival took place at Tulane University in collaboration with EMET for Israel groups TUSSI (Tulane University Students Supporting Israel) and the University of New Orleans’ Allies of Israel. It was a fierce celebration of Zionism in all its glory.

IMG_20150412_181300760Instead of the typical advocating that often takes the form of lecturing and pamphlet-giving, we believe that Israel is fundamentally a story which must be told to all ages and which should be celebrated. This is, to be sure, an emotional approach—one that bypasses argumentation and reaches straight for the heart. Yet the beauty in this approach is that it works almost always to perfection.

IMG_20150412_190413774 One of the ways in which we set the tone at DYF was by setting up tents which represented different aspects of the universality of the Jewish cause. For example, there was an indigenous tent which highlighted how Jews are indigenous to the land of Israel, and how the historical record is replete with artifacts and customs that testifies to the roots of the Jewish people. The custom of wrapping teffillin, which has existed since the days of the Bible, was displayed prominently and members of Chabad welcomed many to engage in the age-old custom in the tent. Thus the past was firmly connected to the present, both in the pictures in the exhibit and in the day of the festival.

Another cool tent we had was one which conveyed the totality of the history of Zionism. It celebrated the great luminaries of the cause from David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir to Yair Stern and Jabotinsky. It also demonstrated how a great deal of the Zionist fight in the days of pre-state Israel was against British occupation and imperial rule. Moreover, we championed the rights of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria, a natural right of an indigenous people enshrined in both international law and moral law.

In addition—and perhaps most importantly—DYF was first and foremost fun: art galleries, music, headlined by Matisyahu and a Grammy award winning New Orleans staple, free food, spoken word artists, and some of the greatest speakers in the Zionist movement today. From African-American pastor Dumisani Washington to Indigenous rights activist Ryan Bellerose, DYF 3.0 encompassed the great scope of all who are engaged in the struggle today.

DYFThe majority of the speakers and attendees were non-Jews. This illustrates that it is not necessarily “too political” or “too controversial” to raise issues such as civil rights in Judea or the ideologies of the freedom fighters in pre-state Israel. Rather, it matters how one does it. Instead of preparing lessons in a classroom setting, DYF gives expression to Jewish identity by celebrating its totality in a setting that is both entertaining and inviting.

There was a little inclement weather, which actually worked in our favor, as the show lasted till 1:00 in the morning. Matisyahu performed most of his set with a full band at a nearby bar instead of on the main stage and over 500 people came to watch. Many said it was the best Sunday of their lives and expressed a desire to help out with next year’s event.

There is nothing to describe that moment when we sat on the side of the stage and watched Matisyahu sing classics like ‘One Day,’ and ‘Jerusalem.’ The crowd went insane and as he jumped into their arms and crowdsurfed, as a member of the DYF crew, we could do nothing but beam with joy.

Its funny. That’s the same feeling I get when I’m in Israel.

That is the purest form of Zionism.

IMG_20150412_145551918

Pro-Israel Life is Alive and Well at NYC Colleges Thanks to CAMERA

April 24, 2015

Our EMET groups in New York City are constantly leading the way with educational programming on Israel. Our EMET group at Queens College, ISA, was recently visited by CAMERA’s director of campus programming, who helped students brainstorm and plan events such as their successful presentations by Izzy Ezagui and Kasim Hafeez.

The Israel Student Association at Queens College with CAMERA's Gilad Skolnick are putting on a lot of exciting events this semester.

The Israel Student Association at Queens College with CAMERA’s Gilad Skolnick are putting on a lot of exciting events this semester.

Our EMET group at Hunter College was started two years ago with CAMERA’s help. They recently strategized with CAMERA on boosting attendance and finding events that would be a great fit for their campus.

CAMERA staff visiting our EMET group at Hunter College, where Jacob Kessler is a Fellow.

CAMERA staff visiting our EMET group at Hunter College, where Jacob Kessler is a Fellow.

CAMERA helped start YOFI at Baruch College in 2011, as one of our first EMET groups!

CAMERA is the main sponsor of the Yom Haatzmaut celebration at Baruch College. Above: Meeting with our EMET group at Baruch, YOFI.

CAMERA is the main sponsor of the Yom Haatzmaut celebration at Baruch College. Above: Meeting with our EMET group at Baruch, YOFI, in Febuary.

Gilad of CAMERA meets with Jonathan Razon, our incredible Fellow at Yeshiva University.

Gilad of CAMERA meets with Jonathan Razon, our incredible Fellow at Yeshiva University.

Yom Ha’atzmaut

April 23, 2015

Contributed by CAMERA intern Aaron Hunt.

Today is Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, which occurs on the anniversary of 5 Iyar (May 14), 1948, when David Ben-Gurion announced Israel’s independence. This year, the fifth of Iyar falls on a Friday, so Yom Ha’atzmaut is celebrated today to avoid conflicting with Shabbat.

In Israel, today is a day of barbeques, military exhibits, official ceremonies, fireworks, and large celebrations from the Golan to Eilat, Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. The festivities began with an official ceremony last night on Har Herzl in Jerusalem marking the end of Yom Hazikaron and the start of Yom Ha’atzmaut. After the ceremony, which featured performances, speeches, and the lighting of twelve torches by twelve Israelis honored for their contributions to society.

Independence Day

Israel’s transition from mourning one day to celebrations the next is always difficult, but this year’s switch is especially poignant, since yesterday’s Yom Hazikaron was the first since Operation Protective Edge last summer, during which 67 IDF soldiers died in the fight against Hamas. After an especially painful day of mourning, during which Israelis reflected on the price their country has had to pay defending its existence, they spent today celebrating 67 years of independence.

Through 67 years of threats to its very survival, from invasion by larger neighbors to terrorism from Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and beyond, Israel has stood strong and achieved economic, technological, and societal successes beyond what seemed possible. Today, in Israel and around the world, is a celebration of what a small but tenacious and courageous state can achieve in the face of monumental challenges.

Independence day

Yom Hazikaron

April 22, 2015

Contributed by CAMERA intern Sarah Salinger.

Today is Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance, which is observed every year to honor those who have died in wars to protect Israel and as a result of terror attacks. This year, Yom Hazikaron is especially painful for friends and families of the 60 plus IDF soldiers and innocent civilians who died this past summer during Operation Protective Edge. In addition to these victims, the three boys– Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah– who were kidnapped from a bus stop in Gush Etzion last June are also in the hearts of all Jews this Yom Hazikaron.

Like other important days of commemoration in Israel, Yom Hazikaron is observed with sirens that can be heard around the country– one at 8pm the eve of Yom Hazikaron and one at 11 AM the next morning. The sirens are a way for Israelis around the country to mourn collectively for the losses of their friends, family, and others who have died for their country. In addition to the sirens, ceremonies are held in numerous places around the country to honor the fallen soldiers and terror attack victims. This year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein spoke at the ceremony held by Yad Labanim in Jerusalem, the association for the families of fallen soldiers. Since Yom Hazikaron last year, 116 soldiers and terror victims have died.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 11.15.17 AM

CAMERA Brings Benjamin Anthony to UConn

April 21, 2015

On Wednesday, April 1, CAMERA fellow Ali Jabick at the University of Connecticut hosted a talk with Sergeant Benjamin Anthony (res.) from the organization Our Soldiers Speak at the UConn Trachten-Zachs Hillel House. Sgt. Anthony was invited to bring awareness to students about the nature of the IDF and to discuss his first-hand experiences serving in the IDF to protect Israel.

One of the highlights of the event was when a student asked Sgt. Anthony how he knew that he was meant to join the IDF, since he is British by birth and raised in the U.K. He also put forth several ideas as to how college students in the United States can help stand up for and protect Israel. This, coupled with his retelling of a traumatic experience from his youth concerning anti-Semitism, helped to make the event quite powerful and memorable for those in attendance.

After Sgt. Anthony’s talk, many students approached him to get further information about the humanitarian efforts of the IDF and how they could become more informed about Israel. Ali herself was quite impressed with the event. “I think the presentation left the students with a better idea of how to respond when Israel is brought up in conversation and how they can make an impact here in the United States,” she said. In addition, the event was used to get more students involved with pro-Israel advocacy at UConn. She gave multiple resources to those in attendance and directed them to people to reach out to if they had any questions or wished to get more involved.

CAMERA On Campus congratulates Ali on hosting a great event and ensuring a strong pro-Israel voice at UConn!

Event attendees pose alongside Sgt. Benjamin Anthony and CAMERA Fellow Ali Jabick.

Event attendees pose alongside Sgt. Benjamin Anthony and CAMERA Fellow Ali Jabick.

CAMERA Fellow Published: Israel and LGBTQ Rights

April 20, 2015

Contributed by Concordia University CAMERA Fellow Bradley Martin. This piece was published in the Link‘s special LGBTQ Issue. It is reproduced in full below. 

Israel and LGTBQ Rights

Why Israel Provides a Model for LGTBQ Rights Other Nations Should Follow

Published March 25, 2015

075While there is certainly much debate and controversy on the subject of Israel, the fact that it is a country with a remarkably progressive record on the subject of LGBTQ rights needs to be recognized.

Israel actually affords members of the LGBTQ community equal rights under the law, despite being surrounded by countries that persecute homosexuals. As such, this is a feature of Israeli life that should be examined and can even serve as an example for other states.

When the State of Israel was founded in 1948, it inherited “sodomy” laws from the British Mandate legal code. However, there is no record that such laws were enforced against homosexual acts that took place between consenting adults in private. The Knesset repealed the formal ban on consensual same-sex acts in 1988. Since 1993, homosexual soldiers have been able to openly serve in Israel’s military. Harassment and discrimination against Israeli soldiers due to their sexual orientation is illegal. Israel also recognizes gay marriages that are performed abroad and permits gay couples living in the country to adopt children.

In terms of gay culture, Israel has a thriving LGBTQ community with well-attended gay pride festivals held in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem since 1998. Tel Aviv especially has become known as a city where, according to Deputy Mayor Asaf Zamir, an estimated 16 per cent to 17 percent of the city’s population is gay. In a worldwide survey conducted by GayCities.com and American Airlines, it was declared “the best gay travel destination of 2011” with 43 per cent of the vote. Lonely Planet named it “one of its top three cities in the world.” Pride events have also been held regularly in Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Petah Tikva, Hadera, Ra’anana, Eilat, and Rishon LeTzion.

israel_gay_pride1
Contrast this to countries neighbouring Israel, such as Iran. In 2007, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bizarrely proclaimed at Columbia University, in response to a question about the execution of two gay men, that there were absolutely no homosexuals in his country. Not only is that statement patently false and utterly absurd, but homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran. Until recently, sodomy for men was considered a capital offence. In 2012, the Guardian reported, “under amendments to the penal code, the person who played an ‘active role’ will be flogged 100 times if the sex was consensual and he was not married, while the one who played a ‘passive role’ can still be put to death regardless of marriage status.”

Israel not only grants members of the LGBTQ community equal rights under the law, but also serves as a haven for gays persecuted by its neighbors such as in the Palestinian Authority. According to the BBC, in 2003 there were an estimated 300 gay Palestinian men secretly living in Israel. Israel has granted residency permits to openly gay Palestinians who fear they will be killed. Homosexuality is illegal in the Gaza Strip, while LGBTQ rights are not protected in the West Bank. gay2This leaves gay Palestinians open for persecution by Islamic religious leaders, the Palestinian police and even members of their own families in the form of so-called “honour killings.” Many LGBTQ people in the West Bank have made it known that they feel more at home in Israel, where they can have a social life without fear of punishment from the government or private citizens.

Many things can certainly be said about Israel. But its exemplary record and policies when it comes to the protection of LGBTQ rights is something that should be commended. Progressive policies concerning the protection of homosexuals must be ensured, regardless of geographical location.

Bradley Martin is a Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) fellow and student at Concordia University.

Bringing the Sderot Media Center Director to SUNY Buffalo

April 17, 2015

Contributed by CAMERA intern Chaiel Schaffel.

Though sometimes we can barely stand it, time is our most precious commodity. We are so rich in it that it has mostly lost its meaning. We waste time, chew time, burn time, even kill time. But there are those less fortunate. It takes fifteen seconds to reach down and tie your shoelaces, yet at times the residents of Sderot can’t even afford this simple luxury of time. They have to spend those fifteen seconds running to the closest bomb shelter, with fear giving chase all the way until they slam the eight inch blast proof door shut.

Being a Sderot resident, Noam Bedein, who presented at SUNY Buffalo on March 11th, is acutely aware of the difficulties in Sderot life. Presenting to a room of Buffalo students, Bedein detailed the daily life of Sderot residents, and delved into his own decision to move to the border town. The event, hosted by the University of Buffalo for Israel group, went off without a hitch. There were no counter-demonstrations, and there was a marked lack of opposition to the presentation in Talbert 115. A number of participants reported enjoying the presentation. The CAMERA Fellow at SUNY Buffalo, Logan Woodward, said the goal of the event was to “…spread awareness of what it is like to live under the constant barrage of rockets from Gaza.”

And Bedein did just that. Noam, the director of the Sderot Media Center, shared pictures of Israeli children fleeing a rocket assault from across the border, along with photographs of the aftermath. Woodward felt that this display was effective, as it moved many of his classmates, and that it “…provided a human face to the Israeli side of the conflict and raised awareness for the town of Sderot.”

Our Fellow Logan with Noam Bedein!

Our Fellow Logan with Noam Bedein.

According to Woodward, the group got the word out about the presentation effectively and through mixed media. “We hung up flyers, utilized our text alert system, sent out emails, published the event on Facebook and Instagram, reached out to club leaders through Facebook and emails, and made regular announcements at other events and general body meetings,” he said. CAMERA on Campus commends UB for Israel and the SUNY Buffalo community as a whole for hosting another successful presentation by Noam Bedein.