Tag Archives: IDF

SJP UC Irvine Put on Disciplinary Probation for Two Years

Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of California Irvine have been suspended from operating for the next two academic years.

This significant decision, made by UC Irvine, comes after SJP interrupted an event held by Reservists on Duty (ROD) in conjunction with Students Supporting Israel, and yelled horrifying chants at the nonprofit Israeli organization, made up of reserve combat IDF soldiers dedicated to sharing their experiences and educating students about Israel on US campuses.

In a coordinated effort between SSI National, ROD, and several other organizations who took part, including CAMERA, Hasbara Fellowships, the Louis D. Brandeis Center, Hillel International, Amcha Initiative, the Zionist Organization of America, Hasbara Fellowships and StandWithUs, massive pressure was applied to UC Irvine to act.

ROD’s event was held during SJP’s “Apartheid Week” to counter the lies being spread by the anti-Israel hate group on campus. ROD was also present on campus throughout the week to further their mission.

Jonathan Elkhoury, who tours with CAMERA, was a part of a five person ROD delegation consisting of three lone soldier reservists, a Bedouin IDF reserve soldier and himself.  The delegation was present on campus throughout the hate week. “We came to facilitate dialogue in order to share with people our experiences as former IDF soldiers, national service volunteers and minorities who are living in Israel,” he says.

Christian Lebanese Israeli speaker Jonathan Elkhoury

Elkhoury says hateful slogans such as “Go back to Europe!”, “Intifada Intifada!”, “Long live the Intifada!”, “Hey white girl/Hey white boy, how many people have you killed today?” were yelled at the delegation, in addition to other threatening chants that could be heard over and over again throughout the week.

On May 10th, Reservists on Duty held an event on campus.  At the event, “SJP members started yelling, chanting and making the audience leave and interrupting them from asking questions,” he says.  At one point, the police were called.

Recounting the horrific behavior shown by SJP, Elkhoury recalls just how bad it was. “We were yelled and cursed at, and one of our female delegation participants was spat on by an SJP member. They came to our event to shut it down, an SJP representative said it herself while yelling into a microphone the next day. We had to have them escort us off campus because the SJP students made it impossible for us to leave the class safely.”

Thanks to this video recording of the event by ROD members, there was ample evidence against SJP for UC Irvine to review.

UC Irvine rightly determined that SJP’s interruption violated university policy after a lengthy review process. Below is a section of the university’s statement:

“Based on the review, it was determined that a group of individuals organized by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) disrupted a portion of the question-and-answer period, in violation of university policy.  As a result, SJP was sanctioned with disciplinary probation for two academic years, ending June 16, 2019.  During this time, the organization must abide by UCI’s standards of conduct, meet with the Dean of Students six times per year to discuss free speech issues, and consult with a representative of the dean’s office before hosting or co-hosting any campus event.  Any further violations of university policy may result in suspension or a revocation of the organization’s status.

SJP leaders were notified of the decision on August 22, 2017, and filed an appeal on August 31, 2017.  The appeal process is expected to take several weeks. The Dean of Students or his designee will consider the appeal and make a final decision, which can be to affirm, modify or reverse the sanction.  The outcome of the appeal is final.”

Elkhoury is satisfied with UC Irvine’s decision. “UC Irvine’s decision is a successful win for free speech. We can’t keep silent while we are misrepresented, bullied and shut down by extremists that are motivated by hate and antisemitism. I hope this decision will send a clear message to SJP chapters across the US that the days of bullying and shutting down Israel events and speakers are over. We are here to stay and spread the truth.”

It’s also worth noting that the statement includes that, “Any further violations of university policy may result in suspension or a revocation of the organization’s status,” which begs the question of how SJP will continue to operate after its two year probation period is over without using its violent disruption tactics.

Contributed by Lia Lands, Campus Communications for CAMERA

Healing Ink Screened at California Polytechnic State University SLO

CAMERA-supported group Mustangs United for Israel hosted a film screening of ‘Healing Ink’ at California Polytechnic State University.

‘Healing Ink’ is a film about wounded Israeli soldiers, or victims of terror, healing through getting tattoo art. Artists 4 Israel completed this project in Summer of 2016, where a group of international artists traveled to Jerusalem to give free tattoos to veterans or survivors of terror attacks.

Artists 4 Israel brings art, healing and protection to communities and people ravished by war. They cover scars on bodies, uplifting all people to overcome the struggles of living in crises with permanent and direct quality of life changes through arts and culture based humanitarian aid and social service projects.

Photo from the Healing Ink screening by Mustangs United for Israel

Along with the screening of the film, CAMERA-supported Mustangs United for Israel also invited Craig Dershowitz, the Executive Director of A4I, and Sgula Dershowitz, his wife, to the event. After the 40 minute screen filming, the two engaged the audience in a very interactive question and answer session about the film itself, the events that happened there, and any general questions about Israel.

Craig and Sgula were able to share very intimate moments from the trip and amazing stories which they couldn’t share in the film. Overall, it was a very successful event and many people felt a very strong connection to the film and the idea behind it.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern

 

 

Mekonen Screened on Campuses Across the US

Mekonen, a film about an African Jew, has been screened on campuses around the United States. The film follows the backstory and personal journey of Mekonen Abebe, who was a 12-year-old shepherd when his father died suddenly, less than a day before his family was to move to Israel.

The film accompanies Mekonen back to Africa on an emotional journey. He explores his roots, makes peace with his past and embraces his future in Israel. After a difficult adjustment period in Israel, Mekonen was fortunate to attend the Hodayot High School, which educates children from troubled backgrounds and helps integrate them into Israeli society. Mekonen became a decorated officer in the IDF, while staying true to his Ethiopian roots and culture.

Mekonen is an uplifting and inspiring film that will move audiences and show viewers that anything is possible with the right attitude, tools and support.

CAMERA-supported group Tritons for Israel held a screening of the film on campus during lunchtime at UCSD. The screening occurred in the presence of guest speaker Chloe Valdary. Valdary is a African-American pro-Israel activist. Following the film, Chloe led a question and answer session, which students found very interesting. Many of the questions were not on the topic of the film, but rather had to do with campus issues relating to Israel such as accusations of “pink-washing”. Chloe was able to provide students with the tools to address such accusations. The conversation then turned to the human side of Israel, which this film definitely captures.

CAMERA-supported group Mustangs United for Israel also hosted a screening of the film at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. Mustangs United for Israel invited the Black Student Union and its members so they could watch the movie together and have a discussion afterwards about the content of the film. The joint screening helped to further develop a positive relationship between Mustangs United for Israel and the BSU.

The film was also screened at University at Buffalo by CAMERA-supported group UB For Israel. Chloe Valdary was also present at the screening, and like ast UCSD, held a question and answer session after the film. The film engaged the students and students described the event as very enjoyable.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern.

 

Incredible Story of IDF Soldier Yonatan Handelsman

Imagine this, you are a young Israeli man serving in the IDF as a combat soldier. You are Jewish, your parents are Jewish, and you are a proud Zionist. Imagine then being told your great grandfather was a Nazi during World War II. Would you believe it? This is exactly the scenario Yonatan Handelsman faced.

Handelsman was working on a family tree project for school when he noticed there was next to no information about his maternal great-grandfather. Intrigued by the lack of a name or even a picture, the boy asked his mother for answers.

Sergeant Yonatan Handelsman (Avi Chai)

His mother tried to avoid the subject at first, but eventually told Yonatan that his great-grandfather was a Nazi officer. Naturally, Handelsman didn’t believe it, but then his mother explained to him the story. Yonatan’s mother grew up in Germany and was not Jewish. One day, whilst she was 14, there was a neo-Nazi demonstration in Munich conducted by former Nazi officers. Yonatan’s mother went to protest the demonstration, along with her brother. Suddenly, they saw their grandfather participating in the march, which was a huge shock to them. After further investigation, they found out their grandfather was a former Nazi officer.

Following the discovery, Yonatan’s mother was horrified. So much so that it motivated her to convert to Judaism and then to eventually move to Israel. After her move to the Jewish state, she got married and started a family.

This puts Yonatan in an incredibly unique situation. On his father’s side, his grand-parents are Holocaust survivors, and on his mother’s side, his great-grandfather was a Nazi officer.

Handelsman’s great-grandfather (Avi Chai)

Yonatan said it took him time to take it all in and accept his newly discovered family history. Speaking to i24 News, Yonatan said, “I had to deal with this part of my past, I was at war against it, I didn’t know what to think but today I only think about my relatives who went through the Holocaust”.

Yonatan Handelsman’s story is truly remarkable and shows the diversity and incredible family history of many who serve in the IDF and live in Israel.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern.

11 Years Since the Start of the Second Lebanon War

This week marks 11 years since the start of the Second Lebanon War. The war took a large toll on northern Israel and its population, and still lives strong in the memories of many Israelis.

The war was sparked when Hezbollah terrorists fired rockets at an Israeli town near the Lebanese Border. At the same time, Hezbollah attacked an IDF Humvee, killing three soldiers and abducting two. The IDF then launched an operation to recover the abducted soldiers which included airstrikes on key Hezbollah infrastructure and the invasion of southern Lebanon.

The war lasted almost two months, with Hezbollah around 4,000 rockets at Israeli towns and cities, at a rate of over 100 per day. Over a million Israelis had to stay near or in bomb shelters throughout the duration of the war, with some 250,000 civilians evacuating northern Israel and relocating to other areas of the country.

In the 11 years since the war, Hezbollah has been significantly increasing its weapons stockpile, with the terror group now possessing 17 times the number of missiles it had at the end of the war.  The specific number of Hezbollah missiles stands at around 120,000, with many being placed in and around villages in southern Lebanon, within the vicinity of schools, mosques and hospitals.

Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, has continued to threaten Israel regarding war, and there have been some worries that a ‘Third Lebanon War’ is on the horizon with the end of the Syrian Civil War seemingly in sight. Hezbollah has recently even erected billboards with the words “we are coming” facing the Israeli border.

Hezbollah Billboards on Israeli Border (Courtesy)

Despite this, Israeli intelligence officials have recently noticed some positive developments in regard to the Hezbollah threat. Iran is trying to establish a weapons factory in Lebanon, which in reality points to a failure for the Iranian regime and their proxy Hezbollah. This is because it indicates that all other ways by which Iran could transfer advanced weapons to the Shiite terrorist group through Syria have been blocked.

Additionally, the IDF believes its deterrence efforts regarding Hezbollah are going well. Israel has incredibly strong intelligence on the terror group, with one IDF official stating “If Nasrallah knew what we knew about him, he would give up any future intentions to start a war.” Israel’s striking power, which dealt large blows to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War, combined with a now superior intelligence, would give Israel a significant advantage if war were to break out.

Another deterrence from war, this time not from Israel, is the Syrian Civil War. Though some may argue the ending of the Syrian Civil War would make war between Hezbollah and Israel more likely, Hezbollah has lost over 1,800 operatives since it entered the fighting in Syria, hardly acting as an incentive to start a fresh campaign against Israel.

Therefore, though threats from Hezbollah are very real, so real that they are considered to be Israel’s biggest strategic threat, the circumstances around the Syrian Civil War, and the strong deterrence strategy from the IDF, means war, for now, seems unlikely. The sudden flare-up however of the Second Lebanon War shows the fragility of the situation on Israel’s northern border.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern

Punitive Housing Demolitions: Why They Are Justified

Israel has suffered from various threats from the first few hours of its existence, and those threats still continue today. At first the Jewish State was under threat from invading Arab armies seeking to militarily destroy it, and now it is faced with Palestinian terrorism from within. In response to the recent wave of terror, under much international criticism, Israel has re-introduced its policy of punitively demolishing the homes of terrorists and their families.

The punitive housing demolition policy permits the IDF to demolish houses that were home to Palestinians suspected or convicted of involvement in terrorism against Israelis. These acts include suicide bombings, shootings, stabbings, as well as thwarted attacks against soldiers or civilians. The demolished houses belong not only to the terrorists, but also to suspects accused of involvement in an attack, such as planning, dispatching the terrorists, or assisting the responsible terror cell. The policy has received strong criticism in both the international press and on college campuses, with some claiming it violates international law.

IDF demolish house of Palestinian who stabbed and killed two Jews in Jerusalem’s Old City (Silman Khader/ Flash 90)

Israel has suffered from a wave of terror since September 2015, with 49 people being killed and 731 being injured in deliberate acts of violence aimed at killing Jews. These attacks have been in the form of 177 stabbing attacks, 117 attempted stabbings, 144 shootings, 58 vehicular (ramming) attacks; and one vehicular (bus) bombing. Israel, like every other state under threat, must protect its citizens, and the punitive house demolition policy has shown to be an effective way of doing so. An independent study of Israeli punitive home demolitions found that the demolitions led to a significant decrease in terror attacks of between 11.7% and 14.9%. Moreover, since the re-introduction of house demolitions, terror in Israel has significantly decreased, with the first half of 2017 marking the lowest number of terror attacks since early 2015. Therefore, to criticize the Israeli government for protecting its citizens and clearly saving lives is ludicrous and morally wrong.

Israeli Zaka volunteers carry a body following a shooting attack on a bus in Jerusalem in 2015. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

Contrary to claims made by Israel’s critics, the policy is legal under international law, with the Geneva Convention requiring an occupying army to keep in place the laws of the previous recognized governor, in this case the British Mandate.

Punitive home demolitions act as a strong counter to the benefits given out by the Palestinian Authority to convicted terrorists and their families. The Palestinian Authority incites violence against Israelis by paying convicted terrorists and their family a monthly salary, with the more Israelis killed, the higher the salary. The financial hardship burdened by the families of terrorists is arguably outweighs to the financial benefits of conducting an attack, thus at least partially removing the incentive to carry out terror attacks from the Palestinian Authority.

Further justification for the demolition policy can be found in that it focuses on the terrorist’s family’s complicity. Many relatives of future terrorists often encourage, help supply, or fail to report planned acts of terrorism to the relevant authorities. The re-implementation of house demolitions acts as a strong deterrent, not necessarily to the terrorist themselves, but to their family, who will know if they do not report their relatives to the authorities, will face losing their homes.

All governments, including the Israeli government, have a responsibility to protect their citizens from all threats, such as terrorism. And despite all the criticism surrounding Israel’s re-implementation of punitive housing demolitions, studies show that it clearly works as a strong deterrent to terrorists and their families, saving many innocent lives. To demand of Israel to stop its demolition of terrorist’s houses, is to demand the Israeli government fail to do all it can to stop the murdering of its citizens, and no government would, or should accept that.

Contributed by Daniel Kosky, CAMERA Intern

Campus Activist to Active Duty

 

Jason Frances, CAMERA Fellow

Jason Frances was a CAMERA Fellow at the University of Central Florida this year, as well as serving as vice president of CAMERA-supported group Knights for Israel. Next year, he takes the exciting step of moving to Israel and serving in the Israel Defense Forces. In his final Fellow article for CAMERA on Campus, Jason explains why he is making this decision.

As my time as a CAMERA on Campus Fellow comes to an end, I want to share my story about my experience as a university student and the decision to make Aliyah and join the Israeli Defense Forces.

When I first transferred to University of Central Florida in spring 2015, I had very little connection with Israel aside from the Birthright trip I took two years prior. I had no plans of getting involved and didn’t know that I even could. As soon as I arrived though, I began meeting other Jews and pro-Israel Students on campus, but never got too involved. By the summer though, I was given the opportunity to go on Onward Israel, a two-month internship program in Jerusalem.

That is where my journey really took off. When I got back to Israel I instantly fell in love with the country and began thinking about the possibility of moving there after college. I also decided that I wanted to become more involved with advocacy on campus to share Israel with every student at UCF.

As I came back to school for my junior year, I had a new passion and excitement for Israel that I never had before. I became heavily involved with Knights for Israel, UCF’s Israel group, and began educating myself on the conflict and the region. As Junior year ended, I was able to return to Israel on the Zionist Organization of America campus trip and used the rest of my summer in Israel to see if I could make Israel my home. That summer is also when I decided to join the IDF as well.

Jason is moving from College to serve as a soldier, protecting the State of Israel

Before then I had never really thought about joining, but as I became more connected with the land, I realized that the only way I could call Israel my home, is if I defended it first. For my senior year, I was appointed Vice President of Knights for Israel and was accepted as a Fellow with CAMERA on Campus. These opportunities gave me even more motivation and focus for life after graduation. By working with these organizations, I was able to directly impact pro-Israel activity on my campus and learn more about the place I will be living.

As I graduate and move to Israel, I am extremely excited for the next chapter in my journey. Life in the IDF will be extremely tough, but I know that my campus experience will motivate me on tough days and when I ask myself what I’m doing there, I will have an answer. I want to thank CAMERA on Campus, Knights for Israel and UCF for helping me complete my journey because without each and every person, I know that none of this would be possible.

CAMERA thanks Jason for his contribution to defending the Jewish state, on campus and in the IDF. We wish him Behatzlacha!

Israel Remembers the Fallen and Victims of Terror on Yom HaZikaron

This evening Yom HaZikaron begins, Israel’s national day of remembrance. The country comes to a halt to remember those who have been killed in Israel’s wars, and in terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately over the past year, Israel saw more Israelis killed in terrorist attacks. Last June, Hallel Yaffe Ariel z”l, a thirteen year old girl, was murdered in her sleep by a Palestinian terrorist, killing her in her own bedroom. As soon as her parents had finished the seven day “Shiva” mourning period, they went themselves to visit another group of mourners – ten orphans, whose father Rabbi Miki Mark z”l had been murdered by a Palestinian terrorist, in a drive-by shooting.

Friends of Hallel at her funeral

As well as the victims of terrorist attacks, we remember the soldiers who have died in Israel’s many wars. One of the most famous of Israel’s soldiers is Michael Levin z”l, a lone soldier from Philadelphia, whose story captured the hearts of Jews around the world. He was killed on August 1st 2006. He was 22 when he was killed in combat.

 

There are a number of ceremonies that take place around the country to mark the day. In the evening, the President and Chief of Staff of the IDF attend a central ceremony at the Western Wall. At 8pm, the siren sounds, and the country pauses for a minute’s silence, and then the ceremony begins. Then, in the day, the siren sounds once again at 11am, and the country once again pauses. There is then a ceremony at Har Herzl, Israel’s military cemetery in Jerusalem, at which the Prime Minister speaks.

Over 23,000 Israelis have been killed in wars and terror attacks. As we pay tribute to them each year, the wish we have is the same, and it is simple – that next year, we should not have to add any names to the list, and that the families of those who have died should find some comfort, as the Jewish people unites to remember their loved ones.

May their memories be a blessing.

To be a Druze Commander in a Jewish Army

The actions of the IDF are frequently in the news, but nothing compares to being able to actually hear firsthand from IDF soldiers themselves. CAMERA on Campus brought Major Abdallah (whose full name cannot be revealed for security reasons) to speak to American audiences – and he brought a unique story.

Major Abdallah with students at University of Central Florida

Despite the fact that Major Abdallah is a senior officer in the IDF, the army of the Jewish State, he is not himself Jewish, but is Druze. There are over 100,000 Druze in Israel, and they have full rights, and are represented in all areas of Israeli life. Major Abdallah has played a major role in fighting the terror tunnels that threaten Israel, and that led to the 2014 Gaza War. At his event at the University of Alaska, hosted by CAMERA-supported group UAA Students United, he described how he has been in involved in the destruction of nineteen terror tunnels. (That event was covered by the campus newspaper at the university, The Northern Light)

Major Abdallah’s tour also featured an exciting milestone, when Major Abdallah spoke at University of South Florida, marking the first event for our new CAMERA-supported group, Bulls for Israel.

Major Abdallah with the student leaders of Bulls for Israel

Major Abdallah spoke on numerous campuses across the country during his tour with CAMERA, and the message he conveys is a powerful one. In other countries in the Middle East, sectarian tensions mean that members of different religions or sects are fighting against each other. Hearing from a Druze member of the Jewish army is a powerful message about the tolerance and diversity of Israel, something that is a model for the whole Middle East.

Major Abdallah with students at SUNY Buffalo

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern

Overcoming Disability to Serve in the IDF

Many Americans have served in the IDF, making an important contribution to Israel’s security. Even though every soldier has a story, the story of Izzy Ezagui is especially inspiring, and CAMERA-supported group Realize Israel hosted Izzy at New York University last month and heard his story first hand.

Izzy was born in New York and was raised in Miami, and he enlisted in the IDF at 18. He fought during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and during the operation he was seriously injured. As a result of his injury, he had to have his arm amputated below the elbow. While understandably many would be broken by losing a limb, Izzy was determined to return and continue serving in his combat unit, despite the fact he only had one fully functioning arm. He managed to get accepted back into his unit and returned to full IDF service; running, crawling, jumping and shooting a gun, despite his disability.

Izzy talking to students at NYU.

Izzy’s story of determination, courage, and dedication to the Jewish State is inspiring to Israel’s supporters, but is also inspiring to people with disabilities, as he demonstrates how one can overcome adversity and continue to live and thrive. For this reason, Realize Israel partnered with the Disabilities Student Union to host this event, and members of the union were also inspired by Izzy’s incredible story.

Izzy with students who attended the event

Izzy has now completed his IDF service, finishing with a rank of First Sergeant, and has returned to live in the US. But his work for Israel continues on campuses, as he shares the story of Israel, and of one Israeli soldier, inspiring students around the country.

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern.