Tag Archives: campus

The (Sometimes) Uncomfortable Truth

CAMERA Fellow Emily Firestone

Students at Yeshiva University are not generally attacked for their pro-Israel views and often feel comfortable discussing them publicly. But how about when out and about in the city? When visiting a friend on a secular college campus? In the office of an internship or a job? The discomfort tends to increase as one gets farther and farther away from a comfort zone.

What if you find yourself in a discussion out of your comfort zone and someone asks you if you support the building of settlements in the West Bank (or Judea and Samaria)? Would you yield to what you think the person wants to hear? Would you even have an answer?

Yeshiva University students at the Israel Day Parade in New York

It has come to my attention that there is a sense of uncertainty, hesitation, and tension around the topic of showcasing one’s pro-Israel stances in the urban setting of New York City. Some express concerns for their safety. Strong and sometimes scary political opinions have endured from the recent Presidential election. Especially in New York City, with a diverse population of approximately eight and a half million people, one can never feel too confident and safe expressing a pro-Israel viewpoint. I say this because it is not uncommon to hear of acts of intolerance against pro-Israel advocates. But there is a deeper root. As Jewish college students, we hear about attacks against fellow students across the world on various campuses. But psychologically, people don’t really think they will be victimized. So what is it that’s holding these Israel supporters back from expressing themselves?

I think that students feel uneasy to showcase or even openly discuss their pro-Israel views because of a lack of confidence in the information–the cold facts. In a world full of attacks against Israel and loads of controversy all over the news, students can be easily intimidated by all the details. The truth is, however, that this is exactly the reason why it is crucial to stand up and speak out in support of Israel. By attributing these feelings of uncertainty, hesitation, and tension to the topic of Israel, it further strengthens the belief that Israel should not be supported.

Of course, it is crucial to get educated and read up about the very complex issues surrounding Israel and the Middle East, but this information is not required in order to outwardly support Israel. Everyone has the right to express their views. Most students are not majoring in political science or Middle Eastern studies. There should not be an expectation of sophisticated understanding of all the history and laws when it comes to supporting Israel. It is perfectly valid to say “I don’t know”, if someone responds to your pro-Israel stance with something you are unfamiliar with.

If you are seeking information to bolster your pro-Israel knowledge, there are many opportunities both on and off campus. In addition to the many easily accessible websites and YouTube videos, the CAMERA-supported YU Israel Club constantly hosts speakers and events to help broaden our awareness of the topic.

Just this month, YU Israel Club hosted Bassem Eid, a journalist who exposes Palestinian government corruption

There is a well known saying that “people respect people who respect themselves”. This is very fitting in this context. We must not bend and just say what others want to hear. If we truly support Israel, we must stand up and not hide our views. We must not allow the conversation of Israel to continue with negative connotations. It is up to us to set the tone.

I am not advising stirring up controversy. There truly are situations that are uncomfortable that don’t require confrontation. There are times when a liberal is found in a room full of conservatives and times when a conservative is found in a room full of liberals. In that case, which I have personally experienced, it is of no use to begin to forcefully insert your opinion. There is much tension between the left and right wings when it comes to political associations, but it is absolutely crucial to remember that Israel is a bipartisan issue. Israel is an ally of the United States of America, and there is no use to arguing on this point. The successful way of advocacy is to become associated with spreading truth, not furthering your agenda or feeling the need to get your own personal thoughts out there. This does not have to be a formal debate, we are talking about slowly shifting public opinion. And students play a big role in this.

Average Americans hear about Israel primarily when it is at the forefront of the news. There are terrible inaccuracies about Israel in the media and they determine how Israel is portrayed in the public sphere. Unfortunately, sometimes people that are pro-Israel and know that lies are being spread about Israel are unable to shake the feelings, mentioned above, that are connected with these lies. The way to move past this is by clarifying the point of misunderstanding. Then, there can be an “agree to disagree” conclusion to a discussion. One thing you can do to take action against false reporting is by working with CAMERA which is the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. This organization works to correct mistakes in media. If you find an inaccuracy you can and should report it. This is taking action.

It is hard for pro-Israel activists to change the perceptions of Israel, created by warped media coverage. This CNN report fails to mention that the two Palestinians were terrorists, who had just murdered the four Jews.

Only a small percentage of people (about 10%) will be strongly pro-Israel and another small percentage of people (about 10%) will be strongly anti-Israel. The truth is that the majority of people do not have a strong opinion! There is not so much use in trying to influence the opinions of people who are already starkly opposed to supporting Israel, but it is valuable to influence people who hold no opinion.

Many students at Yeshiva University feel pro-Israel and overlook the responsibilities of speaking out their support. It is so crucial to be confident and unapologetic through the city we find ourselves in and the various people around us. Students can make a real difference and change the perception of Israel but to do this, the uncertainty, hesitation, and tension has got to go.

Originally published in the YU Commentator, the student newspaper at Yeshiva University.

Contributed by Emily Firestone, CAMERA Fellow at Yeshiva University

The Identity Crisis of the Cautious Zionist

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

One warm afternoon this past semester, I found myself in the car of a Saudi girl. We hadn’t met before – she was a friend of a friend — and had offered to drive us somewhere. While we were in the car, I blurted something out to my friend. At the time I was in a cross-continental, not-quite relationship with an Israeli boy, who I had always simply referred to as “the Israeli.” I don’t remember what I said, but I referred to him by that moniker, forgetting whose company I was in. I had let my guard down. How did this Saudi girl feel about Israel? Did she despise Zionism? Would she kick me out of her car and drop me on the side of the road?

The story ends well, and with me still in her car. She didn’t say anything at the mention of ‘the Israeli’. She’s a liberal girl, dressed in Western fashion, studying architecture at a prominent university, and apparently a Bernie supporter. But those facts alone weren’t enough to make me feel totally comfortable letting my Zionism show.

I should say here that my previous interactions with Saudis – and other Arabs – stemmed from my experiences in high school. The boarding school I attended regularly pulled well-to-do kids from various Middle Eastern Arab countries. Though they came from a mix of different countries, they all had a few things in common – a heightened sense of nationalism that likely came from being transplanted in a society so far from home at a young age, and a hatred (or a strong distaste for, to put it mildly) for Zionism. As one of the only Jews in my grade, and as one who had traveled to Israel during my high school years, I became the target of their anger toward Israel. I was, to them, what the country represented. My knowledge about Israeli and Middle Eastern history was, at the time, lacking, and so I found myself swallowing my words, arguing with someone whose history I didn’t know, and arguing a history I barely knew myself.

For the full article, visit the Times of Israel.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow at Syracuse UniversityShoshana Kranish.

Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories on Campus

The anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the past – Jews are plotting to rule the world, Jews control the banks, Jews are agents of calamity and catastrophe –have found new life in the North American university campus.

At the City University of New York, the “Students for Justice in Palestine” club blamed the “Zionist administration” for the high cost of tuition and claimed that the university “aims to produce the next generation of professional Zionists”. If student debt is rising, it logically follows that Israel must be at fault.

A similarly absurd accusation was just made at York University – the Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) club is insisting that a cabal of “pro-Israel racists” are behind a new electronic voting campaign and are plotting to take over student government.

On Monday November 30th, the York Federation of Students (YFS) held its annual general meeting at York University. Students had the opportunity to vote on a motion to implement online voting in future student government elections.

For some background information, the YFS represents 55,000 students and controls a budget of approximately 3.1 million dollars. Many students support online voting as an alternative to the paper ballot system because past YFS elections have had problems with double voting, missing ballots, and undemocratic practices such as poll clerks being hired by the YFS board of director. In other Ontario-area universities, online voting has helped the non-incumbent slate win election.

Needless to say, the merits of online voting vs. paper ballots is an issue that is wholly separate from race, nationality, or religion. To insist otherwise would be ludicrous and irrational. One would scarce expect this ‘disclaimer’ to even have to be mentioned, much less elaborated upon.

Except for the fact that the motion for online voting was submitted by a Jewish student. And wherever there are Jews, the irrationality of anti-Semitism is sure to follow.

Bereft of any facts and armed with a paranoid tendency to see the malign influence of Jews in every event, the online voting motion was promptly characterized as “racist” and “extremist” by Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA). SAIA is a York University group which is notorious for its radicalism, its vandalism of school property with anti-Israel signage, and its promotion of terrorist propaganda on social media. The group has previously praised Rasmea Odeh, murderer of two Israeli students.

Multiple “Vote no for electronic voting” events sprang up on Facebook. In each “vote no” event, one prominent SAIA executive used the student’s identity as a Jew to criticize the online voting campaign. The Jewish student was slandered as a racist and as an apartheid supporter. The definitive “proof” for these libellous accusations was that the student is a member of Hillel.

This incident is part of a disturbing pattern of Jewish students having their religion being used as innate evidence of ill intent or impartiality. Last February, a Jewish student at UC Los Angeles found that her religion was being discussed as a reason to reject her from a position on student government. This November, a Jewish student at UC Santa Cruz was warned to abstain from voting on a pro-BDS motion because he is the president of the school’s Jewish student union.

At York University, non-Jewish students who supported the e-vote motion were also defamed as “racists” by association and were accused of “collaborating” with the Jewish student in other pro-Israel activities.

For example:

“You won’t be happy until your racist friends take over the YFS. It’s that simple. It’s not like I’m the only one here who sees the trends.”

“Everybody knows this is a pro-Israel push to take over the union. The Israel lobby isn’t even quiet about it. You can’t even address the murderous extremism in your circles”.

“Racist pro-Israel students throw their backing behind every opposition in their desperate attempt to smash the social justice activists in the YFS”

“I’ve pointed out your ties with pro-Israel racists and extremists, which you do possess. That, in itself, says a lot about your utterly despicable values and what you stand for”

“Your collaboration with extremists and right-wing conservatives are more than enough for all of us to see what kind of union (or should I say government) would emerge from the work that you do and the way you go about doing it”

These accusations make it harder and harder to insist that there is a impermeable line between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

Whether it’s accusing Jews of plotting to take over the world or just plotting “to take over the York Federation of Students”,  whether it’s accusing Jews of murdering children for religious rites or just being  “murderous extremists”, whether it’s characterizing Jewish values as satanic or just “utterly despicable” , it’s clear that the intent is the same.

This was contributed by York University CAMERA Fellow Danielle Shachar. Danielle is Vice President of York University’s Emet for Israel group, York Students for Israel.

Local Jewish college student refuses to be intimidated

Lilia Gaufberg at the March for Truth

Lilia Gaufberg at the March for Truth

As a Jewish student, I feel unsafe on my campus. I feel unsafe on my campus when there is an open forum about race, with a huge portion of the student body and faculty in attendance, and the sole comment made by a Jewish girl, submitted anonymously, is booed by nearly everyone present. Her comment merely expressed that Students for Justice in Palestine’s methods make her feel targeted on campus.

 

 

I feel unsafe on my campus when one of the audience’s members gets up after said comment, interrupts the forum, and starts screaming for several minutes about how Israel is a terrorist country that murders people indiscriminately.

I feel unsafe when this girl is cheered, loudly, for her hatred by the same student body and faculty that jeered at the comment made by a Jewish individual who feels threatened for simply existing on campus.

I feel unsafe that, in a supposedly safe space focused on oppression due to identity, I feel oppressed because of my identity.

To me, the term ‘safe space’ implies a space that is safe.

To me, the term ‘safe space’ implies that everyone should be able to sit in a room without feeling explicitly targeted for their ethnic, religious, or racial identification.

To me, the term ‘safe space’ implies listening from the heart and speaking from the heart. To me, the term ‘safe space’ implies empathy. To me, the term ‘safe space’ implies that everyone has an opportunity to voice experiences with oppression, including African-Americans, including Jews, including Arabs, including Asians.

Everyone.

But that is not what this ‘safe space’ turned out to be.

As a Jewish student, I feel unsafe on my campus. But my fear will not overshadow my voice.

I will not let a safe space for one group of people turn into a dangerous space for another.

I will not act with trepidation when confronting discomfort.

I will not accept my narrative being chewed up, spit up, and bottled up.

I will not stand by as I see fellow Jewish students hide their identity.

I will not watch idly as Israel is defined by those who have never stepped foot on her soil.

I will not let my peers demonize the only place in the world where I, as a Jew, truly and unquestionably feel secure.

I will not allow myself to be boxed in and denied my own voice.

A lack of safe space does not mean a lack of agency.

This was written by former CAMERA Summer Intern Lilia Gaufberg and was originally published in the Jewish Advocate.

Important Alliances

The state of Israel has been an ally to the United States of America since its’ birth in 1948. This has been a relationship that has been cultivated over decades and has proven mutually beneficial to both countries. Whether financially, militarily, medically, technologically etc., the partnership that has existed between these two countries has proven to be a positive force on the world stage. So much of what we do is impacted by Israel and he contributions they make to our society and the global community as a whole.

Here on our campus, majority of students are business centered in their studies and there is a huge emphasis on keep up to date with the latest business news and breakthroughs. Israel is a huge player in the business world and in fact, they are known as the start-up nation. Start-ups’ are becoming more and more common, prevalent, and numerous among young businessmen and women as the next step to success. For example start-ups such as GetTaxi, an Israeli company akin to Uber, was founded in 2010 in Tel Aviv and is growing exponentially. They have spread to 32 cities across the U.S., U.K, France, and Israel and are a million dollar grossing company.

Not only this, but over 1,000 Israeli companies are present and active in the U.S. and providing over 100,000 jobs in over 40 states. The U.S. is also grossing almost 40 billion dollars a year since signing a Free-Trade agreement with Israel. Israel is one of the smallest countries and yet they are one of the top countries leading direct investments on U.S. soil and are one of the United States top 25 export destinations.

Aside for being deeply involved in the American economy and aiding in stimulating the financial landscape of the U.S., Israel is also leading in technological advancement. In fact, our iPhones contain Israeli technology. The flash storage technology, which optimizes the memory capability in many apple products such as the iPhone, was developed and established by a Herziliya-based company called Anobit. Some of the technology used to develop the high-power camera in iPhones was also developed by and Israeli-based

""Three array camera module design configurations for mobile devices, each having its unique properties and introducing new features." (Photo: Business Wire)" (Photo Source)

“”Three array camera module design configurations for mobile devices, each having its unique properties and introducing new features.” (Photo: Business Wire)” (Photo Source)

Company, LinX, which was acquired by apple for about 20 million dollars. Without Israeli influence and contribution to our society so many of the crucial things that we do would not be possible. From something as large scale as our economy to something as personal as our cell phone, Israel has etched a place in world progress and advancement. For that reason, Israel is a subject we should pay mind to and stay attentive to the innovative society that has aided in creating our modern environment from 6,000 miles away.

 

This was contributed by CUNY Baruch CAMERA Fellow Sivanna Shusterman.

Kasim Hafeez comes to San Francisco State University!

On April 16th, Kasim Hafeez made an impactful and impressionable appearance at SFSU, where he was hosted by the campus’s Israel group. Kasim told students the history of his own anti-Semitic past and how he became a pro-Israel advocate through education and self-questioning. As a Muslim, Kasim talks about the Muslim world’s negative bias towards Israel and Jews as he explains how kids and people are subjected to false propaganda demonizing the Jewish people.

He talked about his own experience being subjected to demonization of the Jews and how his father taught him that Hitler was a hero for killing Jews. Now a self-proclaimed Zionist, Hafeez shares his journey with students and people across the US and Canada to inspire them to challenge their cultural biases and seek out the truth.

Kasim Hafeez at SFSU

Kasim Hafeez at SFSU

This event was covered by the campus paper at SFSU.

CAMERA goes to Memphis for Israel!

CAMERA on Campus had the privilege of being invited to the 8th annual Memphis Friends of Israel Festival. The day-long festival at Audubon Park in Memphis, Tennessee played host to hundreds of visitors from the local community and drew quite a crowd. Camel rides, a falafel eating contest, and performances by Kol Ish acapella group brought the Israel lovers out on a very hot Sunday!

Participants of the falafel eating contest, trying their best to come in top three! Photo courtesy of Memphisfoi.org

Participants of the falafel eating contest, trying their best to come in top three! Photo courtesy of Memphisfoi.org

Festival goers strolled by the CAMERA booth and asked questions about Israel bias in the media, the CAMERA on Campus program, and how they can help in the fight against anti-Israel bias. People came from Oklahoma, North Carolina, Illinois, and all the way from Jerusalem to see us!

Israel lovers at the festival stopping by the CAMERA table

Israel lovers at the festival stopping by the CAMERA table

Memphis Friends of Israel welcomed CAMERA on Campus coordinator Tatiana-Rose Becker to speak to the festival attendees about advocating for Israel on campus and the anti-Israel sentiment behind the BDS movement. Attendees gained knowledge of the sweep of anti-Israel sentiment on campuses all over the country as well as learning about CAMERA’s proactive and powerful methods for combating Israel hatred on campus.

CAMERA on Campus coordinator,Tatiana-Rose, speaking at the festival

CAMERA on Campus coordinator,Tatiana-Rose, speaking at the festival

A panel discussion was held at the end of day to discuss the perspectives on how to best contribute to Israel and combat the growing wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment in the US and abroad. The panel hosted such speakers as NYU Professor Dr. Abraham Haak, originally from Jordan, Jonathon Feldstein, the director of Heart to Heart, the American wing of Magen David Adom, author Bill Koenig, and Israel Goodwill Ambassador Earl Cox. Those attending asked questions about Israel’s legitimate claim to Jerusalem, the future of peace negotiations, and what the common person can do to help the cause.

Panelists discussing Israel’s peace negotiations

Panelists discussing Israel’s peace negotiations

Memphis Friends of Israel hosts this festival and a 5k every year to honor Israel and show their city’s solidarity with the Jewish state. They also created a how-to guide for other cities that wish to plan their own festivals, which can be found here.

Why is This State Different From All Other States

Contributed by Lindsay Hurwitz, our CAMERA Fellow at the University of Michigan. This piece was republished in the Algemeiner.

In honor of the recent Jewish holiday of Passover, I found myself reminiscing about the oppression of the Jewish people in Egypt thousands of years ago. I then considered a more modern representation of the oppression of a people based off of a belief, situation, or attribute that a person was born into. I considered the situation of the LGBTQ community in Israel and came up with the following question:

Why is this state different from all other states (in the Middle East)?

People take part at the annual Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv

People take part at the annual Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv

In all other states, being LGBTQ is comparable to a crime; but in this state, it is not only accepted, but also celebrated.

In 1988, same-sex sexual activity was legalized in Israel, making Israel the first country in Asia to recognize same-sex unions. Although no same-sex marriages are performed in Israel itself, it is currently the only country in Asia to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. In 1992, discriminating based off of a person’s sexual orientation was prohibited, followed by a 2008 law allowing same-sex couples to adopt children together. All Israeli citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, and openly LGBTQ soldiers can hold classified positions in the IDF. Openly LGBTQ community members also hold parliamentary positions and have become famous artists and entertainers within the state.

In fact, Tel Aviv, Israel has been deemed one of the top friendliest cities to the LGBTQ community worldwide. This week, Tel Aviv will host a huge Gay Pride Parade complete with music, speeches, and floats. Thousands of people from all over the world join together at this parade to celebrate the freedom to be openly LGBTQ in Israel. This is not to ignore the fact that there are communities within Israel that oppose the LGBTQ community. Nonetheless, other countries look to Israel with admiration, as its general acceptance of LGBTQ should serve as a model to its neighbors.

Meanwhile, in Syria, being LGBTQ is outright illegal. In fact, both “coming out” and the creation of LGBTQ rights movements can lead to imprisonment. Syria rules according to Islamist law, which just so happens to be an incredibly oppressive governing system. Regardless of consent, desire, and age, Syrian laws dictate that homosexuality is a crime.

In Egypt, however, being LGBTQ is technically not illegal. However, the most dominant religion in Egypt, Islam, rejects the possibility of being LGBTQ and deems same-sex relationships to be illegitimate. Therefore, LGBTQ people are often arrested and charged with pornography or prostitution and face several years in jail simply for expressing or celebrating their sexual orientation. Thus, due to a fear of being arrested, many people keep their sexual orientations hidden and present a façade of heterosexuality.

Actually, in Gaza, homosexuality is illegal. Hamas opposes being LGBTQ, and such Palestinians have been tortured and killed simply for embracing their homosexuality. Also, within the Palestinian territories, there are no laws protecting the LGBTQ community members from harassment based off of their sexual orientation. In the Palestinian authorities, same-sex relationships of any sort are not recognized as legitimate. In fact, due to a lack of protection, hundreds of gay Palestinians have fled to Israel for safety.

According to the article “Professor Addresses Stigma Faced by Gay Palestinians” posted on the Michigan Daily website, Professor Sa’ed Ashtan spoke about his experience coming out as a gay Palestinian. As the statements in this article show, Professor Ashtan references the torment that Palestinians face in the West Bank every day. However, this sentiment is not related to being LGBTQ in the Palestinian territories or in Israel. This insinuates that the Palestinian Authority’s persecution of Palestinian LGBTQ community members and the hardships that this community endures in Israel is the fault of the Israeli government. However, these Palestinians are not under Israeli rule and Israel is the most welcoming state in the Middle East to the LGBTQ community. What should instead be noted are the numerous benefits that living in Israel grants members of the LGBTQ community as opposed to living in its neighboring countries or in the Palestinian territories.

It is important to stand in solidarity with members of the Palestinian LGBTQ community, as no person should ever have to face persecution simply based off of his or her sexual orientation. In order to successfully support the LGBTQ community in its entirety, the oppressors of these communities should be scrutinized. States like Israel that, for the most part, welcome and celebrate the LGBTQ community should not be punished for their acceptance of LGBTQ.

Tulane University Students Supporting Israel: “The Forgotten Refugees” Screening

Contributed by CAMERA intern Lilia Gaufberg

On December 2nd, our EMET for Israel group, Tulane University Students Supporting Israel (TUSSI) together with our CAMERA Fellow Emma Colbran, hosted a screening of the documentary “The Forgotten Refugees,” a film about the Jewish refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. One of the movie’s directors also attended, and held a question and answer session following the screening.

graphic-refugees.pngThe main goal of this event was to spread knowledge about these forgotten refugees and to have a meaningful conversation about the expulsion of Jewish individuals from these countries. In order to publicize the event, flyers and Facebook invites were used.

The attendees enjoyed the film, and were provided with a perspective that they had not been exposed to before. The audience asked questions about how the film was made and about what impacts the film has had on the world. Especially interesting for students was the attendance of the actual director.

For future events, more posters will be hung around Tulane’s campus in addition to hanging up flyers and posting on Facebook to increase attendance.

Watch the full film below:

Clark Students Learn about LGBTQA Rights in Israel

On March 31st, Clark University, in conjunction with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Eastern Reporting in America, CAMERA, hosted one of the Clarkies Helping and Advocating for Israel’s most successful events of the year: LGBTQA* Rights in Israel featuring Assi Azar, host of Israel’s own “Big Brother”. To an audience which consisted of former and current Israeli emissaries, gay rights activists, and co-sponsors from Amnesty International, Assi gave an inspiring talk about his experience growing up and coming out in Israel.

Assi at clark

Beginning first with his documentary, Assi moved the audience with the touching story of his parents’ eventual acceptance of his homosexuality. The journey wasn’t easy, he described, and in his arrogance, he left behind the feelings of his parents. His documentary, Assi explained, was not only an apology to his parents for his misunderstanding, but a coming to terms with his parents’ delayed acceptance of his sexuality.

Hosted by CAMERA fellow Seth Greenwald, Assi Azar was the final of many successful events throughout the year, including, of course, “Less Hamas More Hummus” featuring Noam Bedein, Kay Wilson, and Kasim Hafeez in conjunction with CAMERA. It has been an incredible year for Clark and the pro-Israel community.

We as a community look forward to continued and greater success in the coming year at Clark and beyond.