It is important to speak up for Israel around the world. We want the true story of our land to be known worldwide and to ensure that there is a response when falsehoods about Israel are spread. International opinion can influence government policy, sometimes even in wartime decisions, and therefore it is crucial for Israel to be engaging people with its story, around the world.
CAMERA is an international media watchdog active in confronting biased media coverage of Israel, and prompting corrections when falsehoods or inaccuracies are presented as news. The organization is 35 years old, and it prompts tens of corrections a month. CAMERA on Campus is a subsidiary of the organization, and it is active on 70 campuses around the world – last year, CAMERA organized more than 600 Israel-themed events on campus. About a year ago, together with a group of motivated and visionary students, CAMERA founded FOCUS at HUJI, the first Israeli student group of its kind, dedicated exclusively to telling Israel’s story both within and outside Israel. The group is different than other Israeli student groups (which are often political in nature) because it is heterogeneous, with students with various political views, but who all share a commitment to sharing the truth about Israel. “We felt that there is a vacuum here – how can it be that we Israelis are not doing more to help Diaspora Jewish communities, and supporters of Israel around the world, to fight delegitimization of Israel?” said CAMERA Fellow Lee-El Hayun, Director of External Relations for FOCUS.
FOCUS, now in its second year of existence, contains fifty students, who receive professional training on how to represent Israel, engage students groups from around the world through joint events, and are also active in telling Israel’s story on social media.
On January 5th, FOCUS hosted a talk by Member of Knesset Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the US, on the topic of the Security Council Resolution 2334. The talk was for students from Hebrew University, as well as a delegation from the University of Kansas, allowing students from the USA and Israel to meet one another. “The build we can bridge between us allows for a flow of new ideas and activities to make real change,” said CAMERA Fellow Eden Adler, President of FOCUS.
On the educational front, FOCUS hosted a lecture by Dr. David Gurevitch, a researcher and lecturer in the field of Media and Communications, who explained how Israeli history is perceived by anti-Israel groups, deepening students’ understanding of those who seek to harm Israel’s image around the world.
On International Holocaust Memorial Day (which often is not marked in Israel, as Israel has its own Holocaust Memorial Day) FOCUS members took part in a lecture hosted by The Israel Project. Dr. Ephraim Zuroff gave a unique and important lecture on his life’s work as a Nazi hunter.
The group uses social media, particularly Facebook, to expose students to blatant errors that are made in the international media about Israel, something which is not covered too often in the Israeli media. Recently, a Danish journalist made false claims about Elor Azaria, and FOCUS students responded online, and their response was also shared on social media.
FOCUS provides students the opportunities to receive practical training in the field of Israel activism, hear engaging lectures about Israel, interact with students and campuses around the world, take part in delegations to campuses around the world, and most importantly, to engage international students in direct, face to face conversation.
Contributed by Bar Sheleg, member of CAMERA-supported group FOCUS at HUJI.