Tag Archives: hasbara

An Eye-Opening 10 Months

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

As someone who was once blind to anti-Israel bias both on and off campus, CAMERA has truly opened my eyes to its prevalence in academia and in the media.

During the fall semester, I took a class taught by a very anti-Israel professor – one who spoke of ‘occupation’ and who happens to be a signatory of BDS. If I hadn’t become a CAMERA Fellow, I would have been a bystander in that classroom, allowing my professor to indoctrinate students without providing an accurate depiction of history.

There is one experience I will never forget in that classroom. My professor had students speak freely about whatever their preconceived notions were of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, fostering a dialogue that could have gone much better than it did.

All of the material she had given for reading was so blatantly one-sided. Students who had no prior knowledge of the conflict only added fuel to her hateful, inaccurate bias. One student claimed that Palestinians are victims of asymmetric violence – and my professor said nothing.

I was shocked and hurt, and so disappointed that even someone who is so fiercely anti-Israel would let this blatant lie live in her classroom.

Sitting there, I thought back to the times I had spent in bomb shelters in Tel Aviv (thankfully never because of an imminent rocket attack) for drills, meetings, and – believe it or not – rehearsals for Israel’s remembrance day ceremony. These flashbacks prompted me to speak up.

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I asked my professor if she had ever heard of the Iron Dome, which holds the sole purpose of protecting Israelis – Jews and Arabs alike – from Hamas rocket attacks. The only other pro-Israel student in the class supported my position. My professor’s inaccurate and biased information was not only hurtful; it ignored the experiences of every Israeli.

Having attended the CAMERA advocacy training conference a few months prior, I knew it was time for me to speak up – and I did so with conviction.

It is increasingly common on college campuses today for students, rather than professors, to be the ones presenting an accurate image of Israel in classrooms. It shouldn’t have to be this way. Students deserve the opportunity to learn without being taught lies from biased professors.

Activist Liz Wahl and Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

Activist Liz Wahl and Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

Without CAMERA’s training, I might not have known how to respond to my professor’s inability to teach the facts. CAMERA taught me that it is up to me to stand up for the truth. I wrote an article about my experiences in that class, and CAMERA had it published in a widely-read online newspaper. I realized that I wasn’t alone in my experiences, and there were so many people – people I never had and never will meet – who voiced their support for me.

As a CAMERA fellow, I have connected with a vast network of like-minded, determined, and inspirational students at colleges across the country. We’re all experiencing different forms of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic biases, and as a community we look to each other for guidance on how to combat these issues.

For college students, there are a million and one meetings, papers and exams, and having to deal with anti-Israel bias only adds to the struggle. Knowing I’m not alone on that front is comforting. CAMERA fellows and staff are always on the other end of the phone with a strategy to combat whatever issue pops up on campus. The staff doesn’t just manage us, they’re our friends, and they go to great lengths to make sure we know that. When my pro-Israel group was rejected from being an independent organization, CAMERA was there every step of the way with me. There’s no way I could go through being the president of my university’s only pro-Israel group without the support of CAMERA staff and Fellows – they are an integral part of my experience as a pro-Israel leader on campus.

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Hosting Liz Wahl on campus in early April is perhaps one of the most effective ways I’ve brought accuracy and context to Israel on my campus. A journalist with no prior connections to Israel, Wahl conducted an investigation into media bias against Israel, finding that indeed, the media so often skews stories in favor of the aggressors, and leaves Israeli victims as an after thought, if at all. Her message reached journalism students at my school who had never been taught about media bias, despite attending one of the top journalism schools in the country.

I am sure that the relationships I have made with CAMERA staff and Fellows will be long lasting. It is because of the CAMERA on Campus staff that I have become the unwavering Israel advocate that I am today. The Fellowship has provided me with so many opportunities to harness my engagement skills, perfect my writing technique, and become the most effective defender of Israel that I can be. I will take all of this with me in my future endeavors, with pride and gratitude.

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.

Apply for the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship here!

Student Activists Fight for Accuracy on Israel

A CBS News headline from February, reporting on a series of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, reads, “3 Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on.”

For the past six months, a wave of Palestinian terrorism has shaken Israel, and while some reporters and editors have been accurately reporting events, many are failing miserably.

The twisting of headlines and news stories to fit the “hip” narrative of the oppressed Palestinians often casts terrorists as victims. This is one small example of how the media fails to report on attacks against Israelis with any semblance of accuracy. CAMERA researchers are vigilant in prompting corrections to reports published in media outlets around the world, but significant damage to Israel’s reputation has already been done as these false and misleading headlines and news reports are immediately plastered across social media and television screens.

Initial headline by CBS News.

Initial headline by CBS News.

The constant spreading of misinformation about terrorism in Israel is upsetting as much as it is dangerous. Sadly, the example given here is a mere drop in an ocean of inaccuracy on Israel-related news. Add into the mix anti-Israel groups – many with a significant presence on college campuses – and students are left vulnerable to accepting such false accusations against Israel as factual realities.

Every year, 35 students are selected by CAMERA to lead in the fight against misinformation and media inaccuracies on their campuses. Responding to the defamatory and discriminatory anti-Israel movement, CAMERA Fellows are provided hands on training from CAMERA experts, high level instruction from leading Middle-East specialists, global networking with published writers and activists, live seminars and workshops, and assistance with event planning. These resources aid Fellows in confidently and effectively adding a desperately needed voice on the Israel-Arab conflict for students.

The CAMERA Fellowship stands out for its unique opportunity for college students to channel their Pro-Israel advocacy into journalist activism. As Fellows, students write in their local campus papers to expose anti-Israel media bias and activities, that would otherwise go unchallenged. CAMERA Fellows are the first to respond to anti-Israel slander and to fact check students’ inaccurate perceptions of the state.

Fellow Joelle Reid spoke in the British Parliament about media bias issues within UK publications together with how to combat aggressive anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attacks on campus.

Speaking in the British Parliament, Fellow Joelle Reid addressed media bias issues in UK media outlets and how to combat aggressive anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attacks on campus.

“The tools offered to students at the initial conference as well as the ongoing support and guidance throughout the year have assisted me greatly in highlighting the constant misinformation and inaccuracies in today’s media coverage of Israel and the Middle East,” says CAMERA Fellow Joshua Seed (Binghamton University). “CAMERA has empowered him to effectively engage on campus. “The Fellowship has sharpened my writing skills, guiding me in correcting falsifications through strong well-written arguments in campus media outlets,” he says.

Students engage at the 2015 CAMERA Conference.

Students engage at the 2015 CAMERA Conference.

With the help of CAMERA, Fellows host events on campus inspiring countless students to learn about and advocate for Israel.

“CAMERA has given my campus group, Judges for Israel, the tools necessary to organize successful Israel events at Brandeis. It has empowered me to combat Israel apathy head-on, and has led to numerous students actively engaging in Israel activism,” says Misha Vilenchuk.

“I am now a journalist and writer, and I believe my career was made possible by the training and support I received from CAMERA,” affirms Eliana Rudee, a former CAMERA Fellow.

Summing up her experience she says, “Most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, I found that the work that I began as a fellow has given my life and work deep meaning, as I feel I am involved in a cause much greater than myself.”

Empower yourself. Join our team of experts and gain the tools for effective activism.

To learn more/apply for the 2016-2017 CAMERA Fellowship, click here.

IsraelFest Impacts Students at UMiami

In early February IsraelFest was held by campus group Emet Israel at the University of Miami.  Approximately 150 students turned out to the annual celebration, showcasing Israeli food, a falafel eating contest, and a Krav Maga class. Attendance was high, but more importantly, the students engaging and asking questions were not Jewish or already affiliated with Israel.  They were intrigued by the activities organized, and many walked away with a deepened understanding of Israel.

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A Krav Maga instructor gave demonstrations and taught students how to defend themselves in various dangerous scenarios. The workshops were open to all students, and provided a rare opportunity for them to learn personal protection strategies. The falafel eating contest was a big hit – each contestant represented a different club on campus, which was instrumental in Emet-Israel creating bridges with other student groups.

Connections were made between the UCatholic Club, the Student Government Club, the Ping Pong Club, and other sororities and fraternities, as participants ate falafel in record-breaking times. Giving out free shirts at the event also helped Emet Israel spread awareness of its existence.  Across campus, students are still seen wearing these shirts weeks after the event took place.

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“Ultimately, IsraelFest is an initiative that UMiami intends to host annually, because it was incredibly successful in bringing acknowledgment and recognition to Israel advocacy on campus. It is important to further this recognition, so that everyone knows the goals of Emet-Israel and all that the group works toward,” said organizer and President of Emet Israel, Tal Tahori.

Taking note of IsraelFest’s success in getting the general student population involved, Emet Israel has future events featuring interactive programs in mind.  Based on the event’s positive turnout, it is clear to organizers that students are interested in learning more about Israel on campus.

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.

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.

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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.

State of Failure at the University of Chicago

On May 14th, University of Chicago Friends of Israel (UCFI), a CAMERA-supported EMET for Israel group, hosted Dr. Jonathan Schanzer on campus. Dr. Schanzer is the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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Dr. Schanzer at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Schanzer delivered a lecture on Palestinian governance based on his book, State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State. He eloquently argued that the main obstacle to Palestinian statehood is not necessarily Israel’s intransigence, but the Palestinian Authority’s ineptitude. Dr. Schanzer drew examples from history and even the most recent events to support his argument. He claimed that there has yet to be a Mandela or Gandhi equivalent in Palestinian leadership. And until we see that, prospects for a viable Palestinian state remain bleak.

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Friends and supporters of University of Chicago Friends of Israel posing with Dr. Schanzer.

Dr. Schanzer’s lecture was packed to maximum capacity. For the first time in UCFI history, we had to borrow ten additional chairs from neighboring classrooms. Overall, the event was a great success, and UCFI greatly appreciates CAMERA’s generous support.

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Great Success: Dumisani Washington Event at University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign

Contributed by CAMERA intern Emma Fruchtman

More than just being the Jewish State, Israel is a vibrant country that is a center for scientific advancement, history, culture, and diversity. As such, she holds great significance for Jews and non-Jews alike. Especially now, Israel relies on a widespread support network, in which both the Black community and Christian Zionists have been instrumental leaders.

In order to show students that issues regarding the State of Israel are “not only of Jewish concern, but are also humanitarian problems,” Elana Zelden, the CAMERA Fellow at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, brought Dumisani Washington to speak on campus at an event organized by her together with Illini Students Supporting Israel.

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Dumisani Washington at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

Dumisani is a pastor from Northern California, the Diversity Outreach Coordinator for Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a founder of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI), and an advocate for Israel. He hopes to strengthen solidarity between Israel and Black Americans and other communities of color. At this event, Dumisani inspired students with his personal narrative. “He described the importance of Christian Zionism and the connection between the Zionist and Civil Rights movements. Since Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, [many people can discover what Israel means to them without a seemingly direct link].”

11156152_933367643381728_6878693858454728054_nFollowing the CAMERA sponsored event, Elana heard outstanding feedback. Dumisani’s presentation was “very interactive and kept the entire audience engaged for the whole time,” according to a student who attended. Using Facebook and other methods of social media, the event attracted 50 students, which was more than expected. It was a great success! Pro-Israel students are hoping that this will help cement a relationship between different groups on campus and engage more students in the future.

Kasim Hafeez at Cornell

In April, Cornellians for Israel, an EMET for Israel group at Cornell University, invited Kasim Hafeez to give a presentation about the flaws of anti-Israel radical movements, in addition to his own personal accomplishments and views.

Hafeez, a Muslim-Zionist who founded “The Israel Campaign,” spoke to about 25 engaged students at Cornell who wanted to learn more about his work and about anti-Israel radicalism in general. Although Hafeez’s lecture was interrupted by an SJP appearance, attendees were still able to learn a great deal from the self-proclaimed Muslim-Zionist.

In addition to speaking to students at Cornell, in the past year, CAMERA has also helped bring Hafeez to Boston College, the University of Vermont, SUNY Albany, SUNY Rockland, the University of Houston, and San Francisco State University.

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