Monthly Archives: June 2016

Letter: Mainstream pro-Israel groups do welcome liberal Zionists

June 30, 2016

Brooke Davies’ Voices op-ed on May 12, “Yes, there is a Jewish left on campus, and it needs to be heard,” and Edward Kopf’s June 16 letter, “Young leaders want, need their voices heard,” call for the inclusion of the self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group J Street U in the pro-Israel campus community. Davies claims that the mainstream Jewish community is searching for liberal Zionists, and that the positions held by J Street are shared by the majority of the Jewish community, making it the only option for young, progressive Jews. In so claiming, the author implies that liberal Zionists cannot exist in mainstream pro-Israel organizations such as AIPAC and AJC.

Liberal Zionists like I am are welcomed in the pro-Israel community deemed “illiberal” by Davies. Conversely, J Street regularly silences campus Zionist voices by enforcing the notion that a lack of support for J Street is equivalent to blindly supporting all the policies of the current Israeli government, which is patently false.

In an age of anti-Israel bias, young activists need facts. But J Street does not provide students with the information necessary for advocates of Middle East peace. The organization tries to claim a monopoly on the “truth” it inculcates in its students.
If J Street were truly pro-Israel and pro-peace, it would unequivocally oppose the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. While J Street formally opposes BDS, individual chapters at several universities have not done so, without reprimand from the J Street headquarters.

Further, J Street sponsors speakers like Lisa Goldman and Maha Mehanna. Goldman wrote that anti-Zionism should thrive in the United States. Mehanna regularly accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing.

How can pro-Israel students be part of a “pro-Israel organization” that sponsors lecturers who disseminate misinformation about the only democracy in the Middle East?
LEORA EISENBERG
Kensington

Originally published in Washington Jewish Week.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Princeton University, Leora Eisenberg.

Zionist: One who believes in the right to flourish in Israel

June 29, 2016

“It’s the state of Israel I’m against, not the Jewish people.” A mere justification to continue pushing an irrational narrative. “I’m anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic.” A clarification to dispel any notion that one can discriminate against an entire group of people. “Make America Great Again.” All expressions that evoke a specific set of emotions. We have become numb to the point of blind acceptance when it comes to these statements when we should be questioning the underlying meanings and intentions of these dangerous assertions. Taking issue with the land of Israel’s existence and her people is a mentality created through hate and ignorance; not out of a desire to improve the conditions on the ground. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism and to disagree could only mean that one is unaware of the proper definition for Zionism or alternatively that one is just a blatant anti-Semite.

My identity has been hijacked and I, a proud Zionist, am fighting to take back what makes me who I am. Not a baby killer, settler, or colonizer (all terms I’ve been referred to as in the past), but a Jew that is proud of my people’s story. The Jewish people were forcibly exiled from their land 2,000 years ago. This isn’t “religious” or “biblical,” but fact based on archaeology and a simple understanding of human history. Our return was not a scriptural promise from God but a basic human right.

Today extremists are trying to associate the term “Zionism” with extreme right-wing politics and ideologies that solely embrace the Jewish settling of land. In doing so, anti-Zionists are striving to warp the term to fit the false narrative that Zionists could not care about the well-being of the Palestinian people. Yet, in reality, Zionism has nothing to do with land or settlements. While the Zionism movement was originally founded to re-establish a sovereign Jewish nation, it has transformed into one that seeks to affirm the right of a Jewish nation to continue to exist. The means at which we can ensure a secure Jewish nation is a varying opinion each one of us are entitled to; however it’s the understanding that the Jewish people have a right to flourish in their eternal homeland that makes one a Zionist. This is a concept that is hatefully invalidated by anti-Israel activists on campuses and in high bodies of power each day.

To invalidate a part of who I am and deny my story in the name pushing an opposing agenda is anti-Semitic. These claims do not lead to compromise and solution but to delegitimization and conflict. Now more than ever is it our job to challenge the common sentiments that “Zionism is racism” and that we have simply stolen the land we now call home. We have overcome expulsions, pogroms, and a Holocaust and finally returned to our home. This is the home we have been longing to return to for thousands of years and whose existence is the only way to guarantee that “never again” remains a reality. After 2,000 years we are finally home and for that reason alone we must find the bravery to stop those with hate from defining who we are.

Originally published in Heritage Florida Jewish News.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow and President of Knights for Israel at UCF, Ben Suster.

Unfair Criticism Confronted: Israel at the UN

June 28, 2016

UN Watch, an organization that monitors the United Nations and promotes human rights for all reports on instances where Israel is unfairly criticized at the UN.

Following Operation Protective Edge, Israel was accused of war crimes at the United Nations. In response, Richard Kemp, a highly-respected colonel in the British Forces and CAMERA speaker, testified on Israel’s behalf. Colonel Kemp addressed the UN’s false and misleading accusation:

“While the IDF made efforts, unprecedented in any other army, and exceeding the requirements of the laws of war, to save Palestinian civilian lives, including warning them to leave target zones, Hamas forced them to remain in those areas.”

Hamas’s cornerstone strategy was, as he explained, to “cause large numbers of casualties among their own people in order to bring international condemnation against Israel, especially from the United Nations.” According to Kemp, the UN not only unjustly condemns Israel but also faithfully reiterates Hamas’s own false narrative in doing so.

Col. Richard Kemp Speaks at the UN. Source: UN Watch

Col. Richard Kemp Speaks at the UN. Source: UN Watch

More recently, this past May, UN Watch reported that, “the UK, France, Germany and other EU states voted…for a UN resolution, co-sponsored by the Arab group of states and the Palestinian delegation, that singled out Israel at the annual assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) as the only violator of ‘mental, physical and environmental health.’”

Swedish delegate joins UK, France, Germany and other EU states today in singling out Israel at the 2016 WHO world assembly. Source: UN Watch

Swedish delegate joins UK, France, Germany and other EU states today in singling out Israel at the 2016 WHO world assembly. Source: UN Watch

Ironically, however, the UN Assembly did not address Syria and Russia for bombing Syrian hospitals, or criticize Saudi-led groups for bombing millions of Yemenis and blockading their access to food and water. In fact, the UN did not even pass any other resolution on any other country in the world.

This resolution against Israel, Item No. 19, serves as an example of what Hillel Neurer, Executive Director of UN Watch deems absurd.  As he explains, this “resolution…accuses Israel of violating the health rights of Syrians in the Golan, even as in reality Israeli hospitals continue their life-saving treatment for Syrians fleeing to the Golan from the Assad regime’s barbaric attacks.”

This past April, the NY Daily News reported that the “United Nations [singled] out Israel for anti-women bias in the middle east.” In reality, women in Israel have full rights as citizens. The integration of women in the IDF serves as a great example for foreign militaries.

Source: United with Jerusalem Facebook page.

Source: United with Jerusalem Facebook page.

However, twenty countries in the UN voted to condemn Israel as women’s victimizer, and somehow decided to specifically only condemn Israel.

The criticism of Israel aside, more troubling is how the UN chose not to confront other countries regarding women’s rights.

Other countries cry for reform yet were not criticized at all by the UN.

In Saudi Arabia, women are denied the right to drive, walk around without a chaperone, or do other basic day-to-day activities. And even more tragically, in Sudan especially, women are subjected to genital mutilation. The UN fails to fully advocate for women when they choose to not condemn such horrific standards.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, activist against female genital mutilation. Source: quotesgram.com

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, activist against female genital mutilation. Source: quotesgram.com

While Israel was exclusively blamed for victimizing women, a recent UN report exposing the genocide of Yazidis in Syria and Iraq did, however, finally include criticism of ISIS for ongoing mass rapes.

One must wonder—in disgust and astonishment—how this could possibly be.

Even more recently, UN Watch exposed the unfair reporting of the Tel Aviv terror attack by Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan. UN watch reported that he “noticeably refused to call Wednesday’s Palestinian shooting of Israelis in Tel Aviv a terrorist attack…and he refused to mention that the attackers were Palestininan. Moreover, [he] declined to call out Hamas leaders for celebrating the murder.”

In a recent report republished by the Washington Post, the Associated Press finally exposed the mistreatment of Israel at the United Nations. While Israel has been an active part of the UN since 1949, as the AP article explains, Israel is unfairly criticized in many UN committees, while fellow member states get away with horrific atrocities.

Until now, unfair criticism of Israel at the UN has not been confronted by the media. The succinct AP report has allowed mainstream media to cover the issue, and will hopefully raise awareness and outrage.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

Five Facts the BDS Movement Should Learn from Bassem Eid

June 27, 2016

Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist, has lectured at many CAMERA-supported events on college campuses including at Cornell University, University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University, Vassar College, and Binghamton University.

At each school, Baseem Eid shows students his Palestinian perspective, including his vision of how to improve life for Palestinians. He advocates for a more responsible Palestinian leadership and more dialogue with Israel.

In addition to lecturing, Bassem Eid has been featured in The Times of Israel, Israel Today, The Washington Institute, and many others.

Bassem Eid is very clear that the BDS movement only serves to hurt the Palestinians for the following reasons:

1. BDS makes the situation worse economically for Palestinians.

Palestinian wokrers at SodaStream before a massive layoff, a direct result of the BDS movement. Source: U.S.News

Palestinian workers at SodaStream before a massive layoff, a direct result of the BDS movement. Source: U.S.News

“Pro-Palestinian” activists call to boycott Israeli businesses, which employ Palestinians. Such activists fail to recognize this simple equation:

Boycotting Israeli businesses = An increase in unemployment for Palestinians.

Perhaps BDS activists do not fully realize their negative effect on Palestinians’ economic standing. However, because the main objective of the BDS movement is to weaken Israel, they are not bothered by their damage to Palestinian employment opportunities.

Bassem Eid even went as far to say that Pro-Palestinian activists “thrive on the deaths and unemployment of Palestinians.”

2. BDS picks and chooses Palestinians to “support.”

John Calvin, a Palestinian refugee that Israel helped greatly. Source: Times of Israel

John Calvin, a Palestinian refugee that Israel helped immensely. Source: Times of Israel

Pro-Palestinian activists will protect and only truly value the Palestinians that strengthen their cause of putting down Israel.

Bassem Eid argues that Pro-Palestinian activists do not defend, for example, Palestinians like John Calvin, a refugee living in Canada, specifically because he is pro-Israel.

3. By dehumanizing Israelis, BDS supporters effectively choose to hurt Palestinians.

-I'm opposed to the boycott because it only ends up harming the Palestinians themselves.-

BDS focuses on Israel as this abstract imperialist country that must be exclusively boycotted and ostracized.

The “pro-Palestinian” activists do not, however, criticize Fatah regarding problems in the West Bank, or hold Hamas responsible for the horrible situation in Gaza.

A Palestinian with a shipment of cement supplies from Israel to the southern Gaza Strip; May 23, 2016. Source: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

A Palestinian with a shipment of cement supplies from Israel to the southern Gaza Strip; May 23, 2016. Source: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

While Israel constantly and consistently ships in goods to help the citizens of Gaza, Hamas steals these goods from their people to build tunnels. They are more concerned about plotting against Israel than improving the standard of living in Gaza.

Simply put, the Palestinian Authority must develop leadership to help the Palestinians. Perhaps if the BDS movement rightfully pressured the PA, Palestinians would actually be helped.

4. The BDS movement lacks openness for discussion and discourse.

When lecturing at the University of Johannesburg, Bassem Eid experienced straight-up hatred and aggression from pro-BDS attendees. As a result, he could not even speak and engage in any dialogue and discourse with his critics.

Without dialogue, the conflict is left at a complete standstill and the BDS movement cannot help anyone.

5. A peace deal cannot be imposed by outside diplomacy or economic pressures.

Source: www.redletterchristians.org

Source: www.redletterchristians.org

The conflict is between Israel and Palestinians and as such, the solution must come from Israelis and Palestinians.

Both sides are tired of the peace process and have learned to cope with the conflict rather than actively solve it.

Palestinians and Israelis must willingly negotiate and work together to initiate a peace process. Any effort from outside diplomats or political groups, Bassem Eid argues, only imposes more pressure on the two sides and prevents any advancement toward a solution.

In other words, critics need to back off a little and give Palestinians and Israelis some space to talk.

In addition to hurting the Palestinian cause, Eid goes as far as to suggest that “BDS is a prelude for genocide against the Palestinian people.” To learn more about his argument, follow this link.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

10 Years Ago, Hamas Kidnapped Gilad Shalit

June 24, 2016

On June 25, 2006, I was enjoying my summer vacation having recently completed my sophomore year at UMass Amherst. That past January, just a few days after my 19th birthday, I traveled to Israel for the first time with Birthright. A place I had dreamed of visiting from a very young age.

On June 25, 2006, IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit was taken hostage by the internationally recognized terrorist organization, Hamas, during an unprovoked cross border raid via underground tunnels near the Israel-Gaza border. He was just a few months shy of his 19th birthday.

The news of Gilad’s kidnapping was shocking, but there was hope he would be found quickly and unharmed.

Gilad Shalit during a forced interview. A Hamas terrorist has his hand on Shalit's shoulder.

Gilad Shalit during a forced interview. A Hamas terrorist has his hand on Shalit’s shoulder.

Gilad Shalit was held hostage by Hamas for five years. No one knew where he was kept, and no one knew if he was healthy, as Hamas refused to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit him.  The only sign of his life was one audiotape and one videotape that Hamas terrorists released in 2007 and 2009 to be used as bargaining chips for negotiations with the Israeli government. For the release of Gilad Shalit, Hamas demanded over a 1000 Palestinian and Israeli-Arabs to be released from Israeli jails, included those with “blood on their hands.”

I prayed for him to be released. How could someone my age be held by terrorists? Terrorists with the same mentality, the same aggression as those who lynched Vadim Nurhitz and Yossi Avrahami in 2000. Why was I at age 19, 20, 21 able to live a carefree life, attending classes, seeing friends and family while someone else across the world, the exact same age as me was alone, hidden away from his friends and family, tortured for defending his country, innocent men, women, and children, from these murderers? Why wasn’t the world condemning Hamas and demanding his release?

Gilad Shalit was on the minds of most Israelis. His family and friends held weekly protests outside the Prime Minister’s house. They weren’t going to let Israel forget about their son. They weren’t going to lose him.

I remember seeing the clock on many Israeli media sites, counting down the days, the hours that Gilad Shalit was still in captivity.

In 2009, 2010, and 2011, I traveled to Israel while leading CAMERA’s Annual Leadership and Advocacy Training Mission and saw the many signs and graffiti calling for Gilad to be released. His picture was everywhere.

One of the signs displayed during Shalit's captivity, reading "Gilad is still alive."

One of the signs displayed during Shalit’s captivity, reading “Gilad is still alive.”

It was a strange feeling to be touring around Israel, capturing pictures of Jerusalem’s unique stone walls, while Gilad’s picture peaked out from the corner of your lens.

On October 18, 2011, Gilad Shalit was released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian and Israeli- Arab prisoners. Gilad’s safe return to home was a heavy price to pay for many Israelis. Some of the prisoners released were expected to serve life sentences for murdering innocent Israelis. This included the infamous Aziz Salha who participated in the lynching of Vadim Nurhitz and Yossi Avrahami, famously pictured waving his bloody hands outside of the window to the cheering crowds gathered on the street in Ramallah.

A Palestinian terrorist raises his bloody hands to show that he just took part in the lynching of two Israeli reservists, who were then dragged through the streets of Ramallah.

A Palestinian terrorist raises his bloody hands to show that he just took part in the lynching of two Israeli reservists, who were then dragged through the streets of Ramallah.

There have been too many young soldiers and Israeli civilians before and since Gilad’s kidnapping and release who weren’t able to make it home.

Israel and her people mourn the death of every life taken before their time and refuses to succumb to the terrorists’ will.

The price that was paid for Gilad Shalit’s release wasn’t easy, but I, among many Israelis, released a sigh of relief to have one more son return home.

Contributed by CAMERA’s International Campus Director, Aviva Slomich.

PTSD in Israel: A Subculture of the Masses

June 23, 2016

Israelis are known for having resilient personalities — for their chutzpah, being outspoken, and, with an obligatory draft at age 18, being tough individuals.

'Karakal' infantry female soldier. Source: slate.com

‘Karakal’ infantry female soldier. Source: slate.com

As a state created by Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees from Arab countries, Israel was forced to be resilient — this still rings true today. Between rockets shooting down on homes and terrorist attacks across the country, Israelis live under constant fire. At an early age, Israeli children learn that the sound of a siren signals they need to run for cover from a rocket attack. And as they grow up, they come to realize that the siren sounding precisely at 11AM on Yom Hazikaron notes something even more horrifying— remembering the death of loved ones lost to terror.

Israel puts on a tough face, and it is not a mask—the country successfully endures a lot of terror without giving up.

However, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is undeniably an intrinsic part of Israeli culture. That being said, Israel does not remain a passive victim of PTSD, but rather takes action in developing tactics to combat and counteract trauma.

Fighting PTSD

Source: emaze.com

Earlier this year in a CAMERA-supported eventFriends of Israel at MIT hosted Ayal Beer to speak about the issue of PTSD among Israelis. Beer, a social worker, is involved in social-change projects that deal with military trauma. The goal of the MIT event was to raise awareness about trauma and recovery. During his lecture, Beer also spoke more specifically about PTSD in Israeli society and the trauma many IDF soldiers experience.

Beer understands that in order to solve the PTSD problem, it must first be confronted and understood. When he lectures, he uses Israeli film to show how PTSD plays a role in Israeli culture.

In the recent Sderot Film Festival in Israel, the issue of PTSD was brought to the forefront. Yaniv Berman’s film, Land of the Little People, portrays the story of children who build a secret camp in an abandoned army base, revealing how Israeli children grow up in a military culture. More blatantly dealing with PTSD, Erez Mizrahi and Sahar Shavit’s Beneath the Silence tells the story of a father who suffers from PTSD and struggles to keep his family together.

In addition to discussing PTSD throughout film, Israelis like Ayal Beer are innovating ways to help the greater Israeli society, most of which is not officially diagnosed with PTSD — but is indisputably affected.

Ayal Beer is involved in Project Resisim, an organization that helps the general population that suffers from PTSD. Many individuals in Israeli society do not have any medical conditions or physical conditions, but they have lived through wars — and that is enough to scar a person internally. Just as the children in Land of Little People are affected by the dangerous conditions in Israel, so too are many Israelis. Shlomi Askira, CEO of Project Resisim, explains that although he himself is not diagnosed with PTSD, his military experiences indeed have affected him deeply.

By confronting this military trauma issue, Project Resisim is striving to revolutionize Israeli society and challenge the Israeli public to end the silence surrounding PTSD. Through its work with the Israeli public, Resisim can develop a culture of sharing and processing war experiences that global sufferers of PTSD can learn from.

While amazing organizations like Project Resisim are dealing with the aftermath of war trauma, Israeli innovations are helping to mitigate it. By saving lives, the Iron Dome prevents the PTSD that would have come with all the lives that would have been lost. A recent Bar Ilan University study shows that the Iron Dome helped to reduce PTSD symptoms by also enhancing people’s overall sense of safety. The study reveals that belief in the external protection of the Iron Dome strengthens resilience and prevents trauma.

Iron Dome System. Source: rafael.co.il

Iron Dome System. Source: rafael.co.il

Between exposing Israeli trauma in films, discussing the effects through projects like Resisim, and developing protective military innovations, Israel is once again proving its resilience in the face of a deep-rooted PTSD problem. As Israel learns from the effects of this debilitating illness and innovates accordingly, sufferers of PTSD around the world also benefit.

Tips for the Israel Advocate

June 22, 2016

Between anti-Semitism on college campuses and terror attacks, it doesn’t seem that hatred for the Jewish state will end in the near future.

While hate for Israel does not seem be letting up, the approach of Israel advocates can change.

At a recent event hosted by CAMERA at Hebrew University, Assaf Luxembourg, CEO of Crowdmii (Crowd Made in Israel), addressed the best approach for Israel advocacy.

There are two main ways, Luxembourg explained, to advocate for Israel:

1) Through Hasbara, Hebrew for “explaining,” which defends or positively influences people’s views of Israel, her political moves and policies.

2) Or through the “Marketing Approach,” as Luxembourg calls it, which uses personal stories and interests, in order to present Israel not just as that distant place of conflict but as a real and thriving place, a place close to our hearts.

He argues that the second approach is more successful. He sets a great example of how to implement it. As CEO of Crowdmii, a fundraising platform, Luxembourg connects people from around the world with Israeli innovative business ventures.

Luxembourg speaking on I24News about Israel's Public Diplomacy. Source: flickr.com

Luxembourg speaking on I24News about Israel’s Public Diplomacy. Source: flickr.com

Luxembourg talks about Israel as a “start-up nation,” a phrase well-known by Hasbara advocates. But by presenting his personal interest, which for him happens to be start-ups, he successfully implements the “marketing approach,” and connects to people globally through the culturally rich modern Israel that he loves being a part of.

Also bringing a valuable viewpoint to the table is the award-winning Chloe Valdary, who founded and led a CAMERA – supported group in 2013, and now researches and develops successful Israel advocacy tactics as a Tikvah Fellow at the Wall Street Journal. In her recent Times of Israel article, 21st Century Zionism: The Importance of Place & Homeland in Popular Culture, she shared her discoveries.

Israel Advocacy begins with a question: Why advocate for Israel? That is to say, why care about Israel?

Yes, Israel is an innovative, resourceful, pluralistic democracy that has built itself up exponentially since being returned to the Jewish people in 1948. This is nothing short of a miracle and it is something to be amazed by.

However, that is not really why people love Israel, Valdary explains. Any reason to advocate for this crazy little country begins with love—a love deeply rooted in a historic, familial relationship with the land.

Source: Chloe Valdary's Twitter page

Source: Chloe Valdary’s Twitter page

To advocate for Israel is to protect family, to cherish home. Israel is where the story began and where it can only truly continue for the Jewish people.

To not value home is to abandon identity. Without a homeland, there is no safe haven for the Jewish people—but more than that, without Israel, the Jewish people has no real sense of place in the world.

Source: The Israel Network

Source: The Israel Network

According to Luxembourg and Valdary, defending Israel should come from within—from personal stories, from a historical, shared connection to a homeland, from a pure desire to better the country and how it viewed by the world because it is so essential to the existence and identity of the Jewish people.

If an advocate begins with a pure appreciation of Israel in mind and then shares all the great things that flourish from Israel and the Jewish people, there will always be plenty to discuss.

Valdary’s Facebook post following the recent Tel Aviv attack shows just how to relate Israel to anyone who appreciates most anything else in world culture:

“If you are moved by the music of Bob Marley, if your imagination is captured by the works of Michelangelo, if your heart is stirred by the dream of MLK, if you are captivated by Leonard Cohen, if you are inspired by the story of David and Goliath, if you were moved to tears by old Negro spirituals…
Then right now, at this moment you are all Tel Aviv. You are all Israel. And not in the lame social media meme sort of way but quite literally. For the things that move you were rooted in a language and lexicon shaped and crafted by a people. A people currently under attack and to whom you owe a debt. And if you do not defend and fight on behalf of them, all your institutions will come crashing down with sound and fury.”

Revealing the depth of Israel and Jewish culture, Valdary allows people to realize how much it deserves to be appreciated. Luxembourg does this as well as he helps Israeli businesses and global supporters collaborate and thrive in partnership.

An advocate should strive to present Israel in such a beautiful, relatable way.

But if an advocate’s passion for Israeli innovations or multi-faceted Jewish culture does not influence people, those people will hopefully at least begin to respect the Jewish people’s love for Israel because they understand what it means to love a home.

Valdary concludes her recent article by explaining that just as humans love their home and family, the Jewish people’s connection to their homeland “is an instinct every human being can relate to.”

In short, to advocate for Israel is equivalent to expressing one’s love for another person—each person says it or does it in their own way but the key is to be genuine and relatable.

Contributed by CAMERA Intern Penina Simkovitz

SUNY Albany’s “Israel Fest of Love”

June 21, 2016

This past April, The Great Danes for Israel, a CAMERA-supported group, held an Israel Fest along with a number of other pro-Israel groups on the SUNY Albany campus. Hundreds of students participated in the event, including many with no prior knowledge of Israel.

Source: The Great Danes for Israel Facebook page.

Source: The Great Danes for Israel Facebook page.

It was a “huge celebration of love,” according to Aviv Zommer, one of the organizers, who was very happy with the event’s turnout.

Love was indeed in the air at this event, but also in the art. Artists 4 Israel, an organization that educates and provides awareness about Israel through art, set up a spray paint mural project at the Israel Fest. With the help of two artists, students were given the opportunity to express artistically their vision of Israel.

Completed mural now displayed permanently at the Student Association Office.

Completed mural now displayed permanently at the Student Association Office.

The event included other stations as well, revealing the diversity of the people and the land of Israel. The Interfaith Alliance set up a necklace-making station. The UAlbany Pride Alliance set up a Tel Aviv station—a city known for its beach as well as its LGBTQ-friendly reputation. A virtual reality glasses station and a Middle Eastern reptiles station presented other fun aspects of Israel. In addition, an ice cream station and an Israeli marketplace station left the students with a sweet taste of modern and traditional Israeli culture.

UAlbany Israel Fest

The study abroad office set up a station, informing students about opportunities to see the country for themselves. Students learned about semester abroad programs as well as sponsored trips to Israel.

The event was a great success and Great Danes for Israel made a video to remember it.

 

Building Bridges, Not Boycotts

June 20, 2016

The BDS movement is working to break down Israeli society and prevent Israeli individuals from developing the only democracy in the Middle East—a country where Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, or any other people for that matter, can practice their religion freely.

CAMERA on Campus was thrilled to sponsor and participate in the Building Bridges, Not Boycotts Anti-BDS Conference held at the United Nations, where Pro-Israel organizations came together to stand strong together against the discriminatory movement.

Gilad Skolnick (left), CAMERA's Director of Campus Programming, with students Lilia and Austin.

Gilad Skolnick (left), CAMERA’s Director of Campus Programming, with students Lilia and Austin.

Interviewed by the Associated Press, Gilad Skolnick, director of campus programming for CAMERA, said that of the 26 U.S. college campuses that voted on BDS resolutions last year, 12 were approved and 14 were rejected.

“So while it is a problem, BDS is often times a symptom of hatreds and anti-Semitism that starts on campus so CAMERA’s strategy is to set up before that happens so that it doesn’t become an issue,” Skolnick said.

MC Noa Tishby, Israeli actress and producer, introduced the first ever international anti-BDS movement in the United Nations. Tishby made clear that the Ambassadors against BDS will not accept the BDS movement, which is based on lies. The focus of the summit was to present the truth to the world.

Matisyahu sings at the UN. Source: onlysimchas.com

Matisyahu sings at the UN. Source: onlysimchas.com

Amongst a variety of speakers, Matisyahu brought his pro-Israel voice to the United Nations. In an invigorating moment, Matisyahu sang Jerusalem and could not have been more powerful:

“Jerusalem, if I forget you
Fire not gonna come from me tongue
Jerusalem, if I forget you
Let my right hand forget what its supposed to do”

We will not forget our Jerusalem. The BDS movement will not stop the Jewish people from living in our land of milk and honey after three thousand years with no place to be.

Danny Danon, Israel’s envoy to the UN, spoke as well. “It is up to us to stop this campaign of hate,” Danon explained, this conference serving as a metaphorical “Iron Dome” against the constant attacks from the BDS movement. Addressing the “leaders of BDS which call for the elimination of Israel,” Danon exposed them as the “true face of modern anti-Semitism.” They have no true interest in peace and are only devoted to attacking Israel.

Danny Danon at the United Nations. Source: Facebook Page

Danny Danon at the United Nations. Source: Facebook Page

He also reminded students, when bombarded by the BDS movement and anti-Israel messages on campus, to “remember this picture,” the picture of over 1,500 pro-Israel advocates convening at the United Nations. This summit does not just serve as a statement to the BDS movement that “you will never win,” he said, but as an inspiration for Jews and Zionists as well—stand for truth and know you never stand alone.

“This is not just a one-time conference,” Danon continued, this is only part of our fight to not let “the BDS demonize Israel…this is the time to take action.”

Danny Danon does not just talk the talk. Shortly after this conference, Danon showed us a great example of how to walk the walk.

While the BDS movement is trying to prevent Israeli advancements and stop Israeli individuals from taking part in the international world, Danny Danon made history at the United Nations. He became the first Israeli to head a committee at the United Nations since it was established in 1945.

Palestinians and other nations tried to stop the appointment, but Danon succeeded to fill this position after months of diplomatic wrangling. Israel is a world leader in international law and in fighting terrorism and Danon says he is “pleased to have the opportunity to share [Israel’s] knowledge with the countries of the world.”

As Israel’s Ambassador, Danon confronts opposition from groups like the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at the UN, just as students face harassment from the BDS movement on their campuses.

Discussing how he will run the UN committee, Danon makes his intention to not back down absolutely clear and sets a great example for anyone combating anti-Israel obstacles:

“We will not allow dictatorships and anti-Israel countries to harm our standing in the international community. Those who tried to block our appointment would be well advised to take note of the jurisdiction of this committee, as they have much to learn about international law. We are a full member of the UN and any attempt to deny us of our legal rights in this organization will be met with uncompromising rejection.”

As Noa Tishby stated at the beginning of the anti-BDS conference, we stand for a “devotion to Israel, and a commitment to making the world a better place.” Danny Danon is the perfect example of putting these sentiments in motion. May our generation follow his lead.

Outstanding Students Awarded at CAMERA Gala

June 17, 2016

This past April, supporters, advocates, and special guests gathered at the annual Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) awards gala in New York City. Colonel Richard Kemp, a battle-tested veteran of the British Forces and a fearless defender of Israel, was honored at this year’s gala. In addition, two student Israel advocates, Michael (Misha) Vilenchuk and Reut Baer were recognized for their extraordinary efforts on campus with David Bar-Ilan Awards.

Colonel Richard Kemp poses with students for a photo at the 2016 CAMERA Gala

Colonel Richard Kemp, center, with CAMERA students and advocates at the 2016 CAMERA Gala

A long-standing officer in the British forces, Colonel Kemp was presented with the CAMERA Emet Award in recognition of his work to defend Israel and, more specifically, the IDF’s high moral standards which are often criticized. Having planned and led many counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan and abroad, Col. Kemp has an exceptional understanding of morality in times of war. He has spoken in the UN numerous times on behalf of Israel regarding such issues. Additionally, he has lectured students at CAMERA events on campuses.

Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the US and formerly the senior adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, attended the gala as a distinguished guest. Later in the evening, Dermer delivered the keynote address.

Following Dermer’s speech, dedicated student activists Michael (Misha) Vilenchuk (on behalf of CAMERA-supported group Judges for Israel) and Reut Baer were presented with this year’s David Bar-Ilan Awards for their outstanding efforts to promote Israel on and off campus.

CAMERA’s Outstanding Campus Activism and Outstanding Student Leadership awards honor the late David Bar-Illan, a former editor of the Jerusalem Post and long-time friend of the organization. CAMERA supports CAMERA Fellows and autonomous pro-Israel groups through the Emet for Israel program on more than 55 college and university campuses.

This year’s Campus Activism Award was awarded to Judges for Israel, for their outstanding Israel advocacy. Vilenchuk, a Brandeis University student, accepted the award on behalf of the group, which CAMERA helped found in 2013. This past October, Judges for Israel co-sponsored an event with the South Asian Student Association, bringing an expert on the Indian community in Israel to campus.  An engaged audience of both Jewish and Indian students learned about this important minority and subculture, furthering Israel’s identity as a diverse and accepting nation.  Through Misha’s initiative, JFI organized with seven other area colleges to march against media bias.  Cheers of “Am Yisrael Chai” and “open your eyes, stop the lies” were heard coming from the one hundred students marching.  The passion of the students was echoed by passing motorists with honks and waves – made more meaningful as this event was held only a few days after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Following Misha’s acceptance of the Outstanding Campus Activism Award on behalf of Judges for Israel, this year’s Outstanding Student Leadership Award was given to Baer, a Cornell student. Born in Jerusalem, Israel, Reut has always had strong ties with Israel. Her passion for Israel flourished as she grew up and began college in the US. As an intern for CAMERA, Reut has has organized several educational and advocacy training programs and a variety of speakers on campus. She is the president of CAMERA – supported group Cornellians for Israel, and is the Vice President of Pre-Professional Programming for her pre-law fraternity, KAPi.

Congratulations, Judges for Israel, on the David Bar-Ilan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism, and Reut, on the David Bar-Ilan Award for Outstanding Student Leadership!

Below are their beautiful acceptance speeches from this year’s gala.

Misha Vilenchuk is given the David Bar-Ilan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism

Misha Vilenchuk is presented with the David Bar-Ilan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism

Bar-Ilan Acceptance Award Speech

Misha Vilenchuk, Brandeis University Student

It is with great honor that I accept the David Bar-Ilan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism on behalf of Judges for Israel. I cannot express how grateful I am to CAMERA; it has been a genuine pleasure to serve as the EMET for Israel CAMERA Intern and to reinvigorate Brandeis’ call for social justice through a pro-Israel lens.

Though I am the one on stage today, my Israel co-activists deserve a special acknowledgement; I would like to thank three of them, Daniel Shpilsky, Ron Gadot and Andrew Jacobson, who are in the audience today, as well as our personal “Doctor X,” the former president Ari Givner, who brought us all together. While CAMERA provided me the guidance, training, and funding to conduct constructive events, the Judges for Israel team was essential to our success.

Working with CAMERA empowered me to cater to Brandeis’ unique Zionist demographic. Though we face no boycott issue, apathy, ignorance, and organizational incompetence prevented a serious pro-Israel voice at our historically Jewish college. With CAMERA’s support since the fall of 2013, we introduced exclusive speakers such as Dr. Maina Singh, who spoke of the Indian-Israeli minority, raised hundreds of dollars for OneFamilyFund through bake sales, and organized 130 students for a Vigil for Terror Victims in Israel. Disappointed in the global media’s anti-Israel bias, we utilized CAMERA’s student network in Boston and led over one hundred students from eight different universities in the March for Truth from Harvard College to the UK Consulate, highlighting BBC’s slanderous lies.

Though I graduate next month, I know Brandeis is in good hands. Students feel more open about their Zionism. I have had underclassmen approach me and thank Judges for Israel for empowering them to openly criticize their friends, and have seen non-Jewish students take interest in pro-Israeli programs. Zionism is not only alive, but blooms at Brandeis.

CAMERA helped us turn advocacy into activism. And for that, ladies and gentlemen here tonight, I thank you. At a time when Students for Justice in Palestine chapters grow and BDS continues to emerge, your gracious support is needed more than ever.

As my university’s namesake once said, “”Zionism finds in it, for the Jews, a reason to raise their heads, and, taking their stand upon the past, to gaze straightforwardly into the future.” Together, let us turn against apathy in search for truth.

Thank you.

Reut Baer speaks after after accepting her David Bar-Ilan Outstanding Student Leadership Award

Reut Baer speaks after accepting her David Bar-Ilan Outstanding Student Leadership Award

Bar-Ilan Acceptance Award Speech

Reut Baer, Cornell University Student

Thank you so much for this award. I really appreciate it, as well as all of CAMERA’s support that led up to this moment.

When I first started at Cornell University, I didn’t think my Israeli identity would matter. I assumed the school would be a place for exchanging ideas, not judging people on the basis of their national origins. But what I found was that it came into play on a daily basis, even before I got involved with Israel advocacy.

My freshmen year, my professor class decided to use Israel as an example of wrongdoing: she stated that all Israeli doctors forcefully abort Palestinian children and sterilize Palestinians.

Something should have been said. But that time, I was honestly so shocked she would say that, knowing both my parents are Israeli doctors, that I didn’t even say a word.

Soon after, the “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP) on campus tried to pass a BDS motion in the student assembly. They were relentless and aggressive in their tactics.

Thankfully, we as a pro Israel campus community acted fast and quickly had the motion tabled indefinitely without being heard even. There simply was no place for that on Cornell’s campus.

Being confronted with BDS and this opposition to my Israeli identity was what got me involved with Israel advocacy.

This is when CAMERA came into my life. I joined the pro Israel group on campus Cornellians for Israel (CFI) and became a CAMERA fellow.

Since the moment I became a CAMERA fellow, I had a support system for whatever came my way and I was encouraged to take action like never before.

I and my board of CFI are focused on bringing a positive spin on Israel within the campus community through bringing speakers and having pro Israel events on campus.

With CAMERA’s help, we got specialized training in Boston and were able to bring a multitude of speakers on campus. People like Bassem Eid, the Palestinian human rights activist who speaks frankly against BDS. People like Kasim Hafeez, the former Islamist extremist who is now pro Israel. People like comedian Benji Lovitt.

We also held pro-Israel events. Published articles in the Cornell Sun. Raised money for Israeli causes like humanitarian aid. Distributed educational material around the campus. In short, we had an impact on the culture of the campus.

As I accept this award, I cannot be more proud of my organization CFI, which has been a CAMERA supported group since 2011.

As an organization, we have become a force to be reckoned with, gaining a presence throughout the campus, whether on the Student Assembly, among Jewish Groups, among Christian groups, and various other minority groups.

This striking difference became even more apparent last year when I experienced SJP members following me and my friend on campus – stalking us actually — hoping to intimidate us, to silence us, to bully us.

My friend had to call the police to report this overt intimidation.

At an anti-Israel protest a month later, SJP students spat at pro-Israel students. Smeared ketchup on us. Ripped signs out of our hands.

Thanks to CAMERA, I knew it was imperative to record their aggressive behavior, so as to monitor and influence the media coverage. This video was then added to the blog Legal Insurrection and garnered a lot of attention.

I want to thank you all for the help and support you have given us. These are a few of our experiences at Cornell as pro-Israel students, and I know that without your backing, those experiences would have been even tougher.

The support you gave us daily helps us face the challenges and helps us be a positive pro Israel influence on our campus.

No matter how tough it gets, we won’t stop advocating for Israel and showcasing the truth.

Thank you CAMERA and thank you all.