Campus Activity Over Passover – The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

April 19, 2017

Passover has just come to an end, and over the course of the Jewish holiday, a lot happened on campus. Over the past week, you may have missed the good, bad and ugly news.

The Good – Harvard University

At Harvard University, the planned Israel Apartheid Week was a major failure. The CAMERA-supported group HLS Alliance for Israel had been working hard to counter the planned IAW events, and in the end, the organizers of IAW brought themselves down. They undertook a very offensive exercise in which they distributed “eviction notices” to students around campus, telling them that a resident of their dorm has been “indefinitely detained” by the “Harvard Special Investigations Unit.”

Their publicity stunt caused real offense and harm to many students on campus who actually had experienced the deportations of loved ones. The organizers put out an apology to those offended, but almost all of the partner organizations who had initially offered co-sponsorship for Israel Apartheid Week pulled their support, and it was a total failure. (The story was also picked up by national news networks.) The desire of the anti-Israel campaign to demonize Israel backfired on the demonizers. It seems that justice was done as the organizers had planned for the IAW events to take place in the middle of Passover, making them all the more anti-Semitic.

The notices given out to Harvard students

The Bad – UMass Amherst

However, there were other events organized by Israel Apartheid Week. At University of Massachusetts Amherst, an “apartheid wall” was erected by Students for Justice in Palestine, used to draw attention to the security wall Israel built following the terrorist attacks of the Second Intifada. Naturally, the organizers did not educate visitors about the 1,100 Israelis killed in the Intifada, only trying to demonize Israel for taking steps to protect its people, inaccurately labeling it an apartheid wall. Ironically, the wall was set up on the same day that CAMERA-supported group SAFI organized an Israeli Latino Dance Night – because nothing says “Israeli apartheid” more than the pro-Israel group on campus joining together with another minority group. All the SJP has to offer is blind hatred, in the face of displays of unity from the pro-Israel side.

The Ugly – Tufts University and Concordia University

But there were two really horrible steps taken by the anti-Israel groups on campus over Passover, which cut through the narrative of “social justice” and exposed their true face as radicals full of hatred.

A BDS vote was organized at the last minute at Tufts University, and scheduled for the night before Passover, when many of the Jewish students would be away, and thus unable to campaign. In typically underhand fashion, by preventing dialogue and debate, the SJP managed to achieve a pro-BDS vote at Tufts. Absurdly, the resolution called for the university to provide civic engagement – this from the people who had just denied the Jews on campus the ability to speak in a debate.

And at Concordia University, the anti-Israel groups tried to hijack and appropriate the Jewish holiday itself for their own political cause. Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at Concordia organized an anti-Israel event during the festival where they ate “Hillel sandwiches,” a traditional Passover food, and discussed potential replacements to the traditional Passover phrase “Next Year in Jerusalem.” This is cultural appropriation and anti-Semitism at its very worst.

How dare a group of activists discuss how to change ancient Jewish liturgy for the sake of their political beliefs? The lack of sensitivity to Jewish tradition, and the callousness of the event, reveals the true hatred that underlies the anti-Israel campaign. When you put a Palestinian flag on a picture of Jewish food, you are saying that your affiliation with the Palestinians means you have no regard whatsoever for the Jewish people or their traditions – they are just playthings for your publicity stunts.

The poster for the “Passover against Apartheid” event. (Credit to Hasbara Fellow Eden Moalem)

However, there was some silver lining to these ugly stories. At Tufts University, elections were held a few days later for next year’s student senate. Ben Shapiro, a student who was helped by CAMERA in trying to stop the BDS vote, contacted all those running for the senate, to get a statement from them about Israel, the peace process, and the BDS vote. Those statements were then emailed to all the pro-Israel students, so they could make an informed decision about who to vote for, and to ensure that the senate candidates who supported the underhanded BDS vote would not get the chance to do it again.

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern.

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