On the 26th of February, campuses across America will begin their eighth annual Israel Apartheid Week (IAW). The stated aim of IAW is “to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system.” They believe that by doing so they will exert “urgent pressure on Israel to alter its current structure and practices as an apartheid state.” The attack on Israel goes beyond just the calendar of events during the week of Apartheid protests. IAW is the major pep rally for gearing up the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement—a movement that seeks to isolate Israel economically but questions its basic right to existence.
If you happen to live in one of the 100 college towns participating in the Apartheid week this year, you may likely be a witness to this event. The IAW website has yet to publish an updated calendar of events for 2012 but I can predict with almost certainty how the average Apartheid Week will play out.
Many campuses will show a documentary about Israel’s security barrier, called “The Iron Wall.” The film perpetuates the myth that the “settlements” program—and not Palestinian aggression–is the sole obstacle to achieving peace in the region. In this film, the director uses the wall as a symbol of apartheid and feels no need to reference how effective it has been at stopping Palestinian suicide bombers from sneaking into Jerusalem to blow up pizza parlors.
The roster of lecturers for IAW will be regurgitating the same theme: minute comparisons of South Africa’s apartheid regime and the government of Israel. Equating South Africa’s system of racial segregation to Israel’s treatment of its Palestinian citizens is such an imaginative stretch that the topic requires the organizers’ continual reinforcement.
Pro-Palestinian groups will also use the week’s events to meet and form action plans on how to boycott and divest from Israel in 2012. I have seen BDS protest alerts for everything from the famous Israeli “chocolate by the bald man” to Ahava Dead Sea products–products that I am personally a huge fan of and prepared to lead a “boycott of the boycott.”
I remember first noticing IAW events when I lived near the University of Virginia. Driving to work, I could not avoid the protestors wearing duct tape on their mouths and shirts saying “Zionism is Racism.” The virulent anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric at these protests would nauseate any passerby who has even an inkling of sympathy for the Jewish state.
At the Kennedy School of Government I observed the same thing. Being pro-Israel in Cambridge is like drawing a target on your chest. Even still, the most disturbing thing to me was seeing Jewish and Christian students walking by the protestors in silence, intimidated and afraid even if they disagreed. Columnist Jonathan Rosenblum says that when Jewish students face criticism on campus, “even those with the strongest Jewish identity become apologetic, if not absolutely cowed, when the subject of Israel arises.” I imagine the same could be said of young Evangelicals on campuses that have no idea how to articulate their support of Israel.
Natan Sharansky, former Member of Knesset and current leader of the Jewish Agency for Israel, is often invited to speak at universities and many times met Jewish students who felt too ill-informed to confront the Palestinian bias of professors and students. Sharansky decided something had to be done to counter the anti-Israel outcry on campuses.
The Jewish Agency partnered with Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, to bring a consortium of young emissaries from Israel to work on campuses across America. This program, known as the Israel Campus Fellows Program, aims to wake up Jewish and Christian students to the fact that they must speak out for Israel. The fellows are responsible for Israel education and engagement of students in pro-Israel activities as well as advocacy.
To be chosen as a Fellow, young Israeli veterans of the IDF who have completed at least one university degree go through a rigorous application process. Once accepted, each Israel Fellow participates in intensive training programs so they will be well prepared to serve as unofficial peer ambassadors on campus and in the local community.
The Fellows program started in 2003 with six Israelis. These emissaries were so talented and charismatic that they ignited a Zionist fire in the belly of students who once shied away from the conflict. Instead of shirking from the protest signs on campus and letting the anti-Semitic rhetoric go unrecognized, Jewish and Christian students are beginning to model the example of the outspoken Israelis on their campuses in North America. Since 2003, the program has grown to 50 Israel Fellows on campuses. The goal is to add 50 more Fellows to unreached campuses over the next three years.
The Jerusalem Connection believes that the Israel Campus Fellows Program is an effective intervention to combat the viral effects of the Israel Apartheid Week and the BDS movement. One of the stated goals of the program says specifically that a Fellow should “provide students with the knowledge and tools to combat the anti-Israel Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement.” As the pro-Palestinian groups grow in strength and try to overtake the debate, the urgency to expand the Israel Campus Fellows Program becomes more pressing.
We at The Jerusalem Connection understand that this generation of emerging leaders and thinkers are living in a time where even Israel’s right to exist is put into question. In the quad and in the classroom, impressionable young men and women are forming their opinions and values that will last their lifetime. For this reason, Israel cannot afford to lose on the campus battlefield.
The Jerusalem Connection’s mission is to inform, educate, and activate support for Israel and the Jewish people. As such, we invite you to join with us as a cadre of donors who recognize the importance of inspiring and connecting the next generation of Zionists. Please join us in sponsoring one Israel Campus Fellow. Any amount will help!
Or mail your donation to:
The Jersualem Connection, International
PO Box 20295
Washington, D.C. 20041
*Please note on the check that your donation is for “Israel Fellows”
See below for a list of universities where Fellows are hoping to be placed in the coming academic year.:
Cornell University Hillel
California State University, Northridge
University of Central Florida
University of Miami
University of Vermont
San Diego State University
University of Delaware
University of Maryland