Monthly Archives: January 2016

USF: The Story that Should Have Been Told

January 28, 2016

For those of you who have been following the recent vote on boycotting Israel at the University of South Florida, you will be happy to know that though the decision to boycott originally passed, it has now been vetoed by Student Body President Andy Rodriguez and Vice President Michael Malanga. We aren’t out of the woods just yet as there could be plans by SJP (Students for Justice Palestine) to present the resolution to Senate again.

Below is an article by CAMERA Fellow Jesse Davidson that should have been shared in October when the ugly harassment by SJP members occurred. This example will shed light on the supposed human rights activists who use intimidation and censorship to further their cause.

**UPDATED** February 7th, 2016: The SG Senate approved a new BDS resolution on February 4th. The new resolution does not require the signatures of the executive branch of leaders. An article on the resolution in USF campus paper The Oracle, which includes remarks from Jesse, can be found here.

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The Hallmark of Jewish identity, both physical and spiritual, is the land of Israel. The world over, generations of Jews feel religiously, ethnically, and culturally compelled to pay homage to the land that has hosted their Hebrew ancestors for thousands of years. Taglit-Birthright, a free 10-day trip to Israel for Jewish men and women aged 18-25 is the medium to make their pilgrimage to the holy land possible. To the Jewish community, no program is so important, as one that escorts blossoming minds to their ancestral homeland, so that they may fully realize the significance of their Jewish Identity.

It is well documented that on college campuses, that this subject of Israel is met with hostility.  The subject elicits more rage and indignation than any other nation. Even more sadistic than the intent of those that envision an Israel that ceases to exist, are those that wish to designate all Jewish life  as open to demonization in the same manner that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is slandered.

During my collegiate experience, I have come to see the anti-Israel movement on campus become increasingly aggressive and obsessed with targeting the Jewish community on campus alongside the nation of Israel. This ugly head of anti-Semitism reared itself on my campus just two short weeks ago (October 13th). While stationed at the Birthright table to register students for a winter trip to Israel, the USF Hillel staff member was aggressively confronted by a student. The student demanded that it be answered why she could not travel to Israel. After realizing the staff could not be solicited into a heated argument, the student retreated towards the rest of the Students for Justice in Palestine cadre holding signs that read, “I’m from Tampa, Florida. Israel would pay me to move to their land… if I was Jewish,” and, “I’m from Palestine and I can’t return to my land because I’m not Jewish.

After witnessing several students departing, leaving only one member to staff the table, the protesters proceeded to advance on the table and form a barrier with their bodies to prevent students from approaching the table. When the staff asked the group to leave, they began to berate and goat her into arguing with them. Screaming their accusations, the protesters demanded to know why the trip only catered to Jewish students.

Later posted on their Facebook page, the protesters attempted to exonerate their actions with an equation to confronting the Israeli occupation and supposed human rights abuses on Palestinians. Their actions prove that there is no perceived difference between a deeply complicated conflict and Jewish existence.

This is discrimination. Specifically, the focus on the Jewish Student Center and the way these students blocked the freedom to speak, express their views, and educate students about Jewish culture is clear-cut anti-Semitism. Instead of highlighting the vast bevy of human rights abuses in the Middle East, or even last summer’s war between Hamas and Israel, they confronted the table to address their paranoid notions of supposed Jewish privileges that they were deprived of.

The anti-Israel movements perception of no distinguishable difference between demonization of Israel  and demonization of pillars of Jewish existence is what makes the Birthright program fair game in the eyes of this group. When faced with this accusation of racism, their immediate defense is the facade of fighting against Israel’s policies or against Zionism. If all this constitutes is a righteous fight against Israeli oppression; why are Jews always in the cross hairs?

Contributed by University of South Florida CAMERA Fellow, Jesse Davidson.

 

Druze Delegation at NYU

January 27, 2016

On November 2nd, 2015,  New York University’s Emet for Israel supported group, Realize Israel,  hosted a delegation of Druze leaders from Israel.

The Israeli Druze Alliance brought a group of IDF soldiers of Druze descent and other leaders in the community to NYU in order to speak with students about what it’s like to be a part of the minority population of Druze in Israel. They spoke about their experiences in the IDF, why they support Israel, and much more. It was a unique opportunity provided to the NYU students to learn about an incredible minority living in Israel and how they contribute to the thriving Jewish state. It was also fascinating for the students to learn about the concept of the Druze religion and its secrecy.
Based on student accounts following the event, it is clear that they grasped the significance of this specific demographic group in Israeli society. Attendees learned that Druze-Arabs have a strong sense of loyalty to the country in which they reside, and they saw how this translates on a practical level in their lives. Some students may have even been pleasantly surprised to hear of the many Druze soldiers who take on high-ranking positions in the IDF. The event proved to be an eyeopening experience for the students, and through it they were able to gain a better understanding of how nuanced and diverse both Israeli society and its army truly are.

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Letter to the Editor: ‘This resolution does not contribute to the peace process at all…’

January 26, 2016

I am a senator, one of 60 voted into the positions by the student body. It is in honor of this faith that I stood in opposition to the divestment resolution this past week. To be clear, I am all for a socially just investment policy. Our great school and Student Government have the resources, and reach to give opportunity and inspiration to so many just causes, and they effect positive change in choosing where our money is invested.

The resolution (presented at Tuesday’s Senate meeting) holds Israel totally responsible for the every day (trajedies) suffered by the Palestinians. It does not mention Hamas or the Palestinian Authority even once, the governments in control of the disputed territories that oppresses its people and uses the $400 billion it has received in aid to wage war and line the pockets of its administration and advocates.

Senate is supposed to be a place of deliberation. What took place was the entertainment of misinformation and an angry diatribe, rather than balanced dialogue. The presentation made many people in the room uncomfortable because the choice of rhetoric was inciting and offensive, and none of the more than 50 students who came in opposition to the resolution could answer such charges.

Israel is not an Apartheid state, as her Arab and Jewish citizens alike enjoy full freedoms and rights. This slur dishonors those who lived and fought against the real apartheid South African regime. Israel is not an Imperialist colonizer, as the disputed territory was won in the (Six Day War) war (of 1967) and much has been given up in the hopes of a lasting peace treaty. No side is innocent in this. But if we are going to make a statement against a side in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, it needs to be one that emphasizes the need for peace, shared bonds and opportunity, and dialogue.

The Florida Senate recently passed (Senate Bill) 86, an anti-discrimination bill that serves to strengthen the American-Israeli Relationship and weaken the tide of discrimination and double standards that are hurled at Israel.

My constituents include Bulls of every race, religion and personality. We are sworn by oath as members of Student Government that we must maintain viewpoint neutrality, not to let our obligations to one particular group or our personal affairs interfere with serving the entire communities interests. Regardless of your stance, we can all agree that peace and a stop to the hate and violence would be the preferred ending to all the conflict.

This resolution does not contribute to the peace process at all. It decreases the quality of life for the very people it claims to advocate for, and does not reflect the views of many students and the policies of our state and federal government. It works against globalization and shared opportunity, strong pillars of our University.

The administration has once more declared it will not entertain such a notion again, and for good reason. They will not go against state policy, and they will not approve a policy change that makes USF an environment where it is unsafe to foster ideas and discussion. So why would I?

Contributed by University of South Florida CAMERA Fellow, Jesse Davidson, and was originally published in The Oracle.

When Terror Strikes and the Response is Silence

January 25, 2016

After the horrific murder of Dafna Meir on Sunday, January 17, 2016, there was widespread condemnation by most pro-Israel groups. When one claims to be “pro-Israel,” it is expected that when an Israeli mother is stabbed to death in front of her six children, a critique of such an attack would ensue.

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Dafna Meir, who was killed in an attack in her Otniel home on January 17, 2016 (screen shot)

On the exact day of Dafna’s death, however, J Street U’s newly appointed President, Amna Farooqi, published an article on Haaretz about intersectionality within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She went on to discuss human rights issues currently affecting the American political atmosphere, and how movements for social justice must begin to work together. She claims, “only a genuine commitment to supporting social justice can win the respect of progressive groups the pro-Israel community wants to partner with. Demonstrating that commitment doesn’t just mean joining in battles against injustice here in the United States. Many progressive movements see Israel’s occupation as related to the same injustices they are fighting in their own communities. We must take their concerns seriously. ”

Although it is admirable to help human rights organizations in their pursuits toward equality, focusing solely on occupation when terrorism is afflicting Israeli civilians daily is another major injustice. If the president of J Street, who is very active on social media and constantly calls her group “pro-Israel,” fails to condemn Palestinian terrorism, it is safe to say that this group cannot call itself pro-Israel.

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J Street U logo

What’s most interesting is that Dafna’s family, who is currently mourning, made a statement that they refuse to give in to hatred. Natan Meir, Dafna’s husband, even said that his long-time Palestinian friend, who’s actually a relative of the killer, paid a shiva call. This approach proves that the Meir family is truly committed to maintaining the Jewish and democratic nature of the state, which is what it means to be pro-Israel.

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Renana and Natan Meir (Channel 2 screenshot)

It’s true that to be pro-Israel one must be able to criticize it truthfully, but it is vital to also provide comfort when Israeli citizens are unjustly killed in their homes. Rather than publishing an article about BDS and fighting social injustice on the exact day Dafna was stabbed, Farooqi should have proven her support for Israel with a genuine condemnation of the attack. This would have been a way to actively fight injustice. Through J Street U’s President’s chilling silent response, it is clear that the group’s main goals are to highlight Palestinian struggles, rather than focusing on both sides and showing that Israelis along with Palestinians are suffering as a result of Palestinian extremism and incitement.

This was written by Bar Ilan University CAMERA Intern Jasmine Esulin.

Neil Lazarus Visits Queens College

January 22, 2016

Neil Lazarus came to speak at Queens College on October 28, 2015 about current events in the Middle East.

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Lazarus gave a lecture to members of Emet for Israel supported group Queens College’s Israel Student Association for about an hour throughout which he discussed the conflict and issues Israel is facing now. This event was intended to be educational and board members hoped to give students a better and deeper understanding of Middle Eastern affairs.

StandWithUs and the ZOA were sponsors of this event in addition to CAMERA.

Neil Lazarus was definitely a great resource to provide them with such a clear perspective on the matters at hand. Students expressed that they enjoyed Neil’s wit and easy-to-understand breakdown of current events in the region. He also brought great visual aids that really helped unravel the nuanced and complex situation. Toward the end, Lazarus was very open to questions, which created a comfortable atmosphere for the attendees and clarified many of the common misconceptions regarding Israel.

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Afterward, pizza was served and this gave students the opportunity to interact with one another and talk about the lecture. Once members and other students really understood the topic and had enough confidence to bring up these issue with their peers, only then would they be able to properly advocate for the club and its goals. Board members are ecstatic that this is the case, and are looking forward to the group’s growth and effectiveness on campus in the near future.

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Since the lecture, the clubs has received many new “LIKES” on Facebook and messages from members reaching out about ideas for events. QCISA has also been working on more cooperative events with other clubs to help gain more recognition. Everyone is looking forward to other events on campus that will strengthen their ability to advocate for Israel.

Campus staffers convene at ICC in the Nation’s Capitol

January 21, 2016

This past week, our US based CAMERA on Campus staff traversed the northeast from Boston to Washington, DC for the Israel on Campus Coalition Winter Staff Retreat.

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CAMERA staff flaunting their new ICC customized jackets!

Gilad, Hali, and Tatiana arrived in DC on Tuesday afternoon and were greeted by ICC and its many partner organizations. They spent the next two days in an interactive setting working with fellow professional Israel activists to facilitate new and productive ways to work with all of our students in the US, Canada, South America, and the UK.

When the team was not hard at work, ICC brought all conference attendees to a Wizards Basketball game where colleagues enjoyed a DC win!

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ICC taking an on court photo at the end of the Wizards game!

Many of the ideas discussed throughout the conference were new and innovative, and our staff can’t wait to apply them to future programs and events. CAMERA staff finished the retreat on Thursday with a reinvigorated passion for the cause and some new and even stronger connections within our community of pro-Israel advocates from around the world!

Anti-Semitism at a Brooklyn College

January 20, 2016

On Wednesday, December 23, 2015, a 24 year old Jewish student was assaulted at a Brooklyn College, Medgar Evers. The student was wearing a yarmulke, spat at, and then called a “dirty Jew,” so it’s safe to say this was a clear act of Anti-Semitism.

According to the police report, the suspect bumped into the victim and then began to harass him. The Jewish student proceeded to hit him with his umbrella to distance himself, but the man began punching him in the chest and face. The 24 year old was injured, but is in stable condition and the police are currently looking for the suspect throughout the Greater New York area.

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College President Dr. Rudolph Crew issued a statement saying the college has “zero tolerance for this type of behavior and we will do everything in our power to ensure the assailant is found and held fully accountable for these hateful actions.”

Nonetheless, statements such as these by the president are not enough. Every student must feel comfortable on their college campuses. Thus, a major shift in how anti-Semitism is discussed and approached needs to take place. This is not the first time students here have been bombarded with anti-Semitic remarks. Simply responding to such attacks will not stop them from happening.

Rather, a preventative measure that can be instituted to ensure these hate crimes cease to occur is through education and for Jews to have an open sense of pride for their heritage. Perhaps more students and even parents can join in protesting against these attacks. Another way to gain momentum is by make sure the media is covering these stories. People outside the Jewish world need to be aware of what is taking place as well. The time has come for Jewish students to raise their voices and stand up against such violence.

Unity Circle with Realize Israel

January 19, 2016

On October 21, 2015 NYU’s Emet for Israel supported group, Realize Israel, initiated a unity circle in their own Washington Square Park.

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They joined together as a community of Israel supporters to make one giant circle of individuals, united for ONE cause, as ONE people. The attendees created a human chain by the fountain to show the world that they refuse to remain silent at a time when Israelis are under attack. Everyone was decorated in blue and white clothes as well as hundreds of Israeli and American flags. The passerby’s in the vicinity noticed the chain that was formed and seemed to be supportive.

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Unfortunately, however, the park police claimed that people were complaining. It was difficult to comprehend why people were upset by our pride and clearly peaceful initiative, and were bothered at the notion that it may have been anti-Semitism. Regardless of this slight setback, the event was a huge success. It was important for the event to be widely publicized so the club heads hired a professional photographer. The photos were then posted on Facebook and it was clear that those who were unable to attend wished they could have.

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After forming a circle and sharing a moment of complete silence for the terror afflicting those in Israel right now, people connected and spoke about their relationship to the Jewish state. Students took the initiative to write on the pavement with chalk phrases such as”My Grandma Lived There” and “Peace in the Middle East.” Members of the club, as well as students who are taking more of an interest in joining, saw what Realize Israel stands for. It is a group that seeks to find innovative and unique ways to get their peers to begin talking about Israel and what its citizens go through on a daily basis. Ultimately, they are trying to personalize Israel, which is something the media so often fails to do.

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Shabbat With Sgt. Benjamin Anthony

January 15, 2016

On November 20th, 2015 Binghamton University Zionist Organization (BUZO), SUNY Binghamton’s Emet for Israel supported group, hosted Sgt. Benjamin Anthony for Shabbat dinner together with Chabad. This was not the first time that Anthony had been invited to speak by BUZO and CAMERA at Binghamton, but it was still an honor to have him present his experiences in such an engaging manner. In the past, Anthony’s words left students feeling inspired so it was only a matter of time before he came back to Binghamton to share with a new group of undergraduates.

Sgt. Benjamin Anthony is originally from the UK, but is now a reservist for the Israel Defense Forces and the founder of Our Soldiers Speak. Anthony captured the attention of all 400 students in the room as he shared his personal journey. He spoke about the dangers of growing up in the UK as a Jew, and a brutal anti-Semitic attack that he and his brothers endured on their way home from school.

Shortly after this traumatizing occurrence, he decided to move to Israel. He made it a point to make the move when he was young and while embracing his Judaism, rather than later on when it may have been in spite of his Jewishness. Sgt. Benjamin Anthony also discussed his experiences in the army and the importance of defending the Jewish state, both on the front lines and from abroad.

Often, Americans supporters of Israel feel discouraged on college campuses, but Anthony reiterated the importance such advocacy. His strong attitude toward defending Israel gave many students the confidence to go forward in their pro-Israel efforts.

Pictures from BUZO's ZED talks, a TED Talk-style discussion about Israel.

Pictures from BUZO’s ZED Talks, a TED Talk-style discussion about Israel.

Anthony went on to point out that fellow Binghamton students may turn out to be future politicians or individuals forced to make critical decisions regarding Israel. The work that BUZO does to support Israel and demonstrate the country’s importance to the US will impact these potential leaders, and leave a lasting impression. Therefore, it is crucial that Israel advocates continue educating their peers with truth, history, and an unbiased facts when it comes to the Jewish state.

The Board of BUZO wearing their Israeli made t-shirts thanks to CAMERA funding and the NU Campaign.

The Board of BUZO wearing their Israeli made t-shirts thanks to CAMERA funding and the NU Campaign.

A Taste of Israel

January 14, 2016

On December 7th, SUNY Albany’s Emet for Israel group, Great Danes for Israel, hosted “A Taste of Israel” brunch at Terra International Cuisine, a kosher restaurant in Downtown Albany. Many of these students had never tried authentic Israeli foods, so the event gave them the opportunity to take part in a unique cultural and culinary experience.

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At the event, SUNY Albany students tasted all sorts of Israeli cuisines, including shakshuka, hummus, falafel, Israeli salad, and a variety of other foods. The students had the opportunity to learn many different facts about how Israeli food is prepared, eaten, and distributed throughout the country.

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This event was not only unique, but also delicious. Food can help give insights into diverse cultures. Because Israeli food comes from so many cultures, the flavors are not what one would find at your typical American restaurant. Additionally, food has a way of attracting people meaning that no one is going to say no to delicious and free meal.

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The students who planned the event were pleased to see the outcome, and how excited their peers were to get a real taste of Israel. Creating events that are based around the notion of food is an effective way to get more students involved. Somehow food always has the power to bring people of many backgrounds together and ultimately, to engage in dialogue. That’s exactly what we accomplished through our brunch event, and we look forward to planning more in the future. Maybe next time we’ll snack on Bamba and Bissli!