After the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in September 2000, and in the midst of the continuing Arab/Israeli conflict and the dramatic setbacks in the Oslo peace process, anti-Israel advocates on the nation’s campuses greatly intensified their anti-Israel efforts. These activities have included anti-Israel protests, the launching of a nation-wide campaign to convince universities to divest their holdings in companies doing business in Israel, the passing of anti-Israel resolutions by student governments, anti-Israel “teach-ins”, and in some cases outright anti-Jewish harassment against Jewish students, faculty, and on-campus institutions. In the aftermath of the September 11th terror attack against America, there was only a momentary pause in these activities.
Under these very difficult circumstances, thousands of Jewish students nationwide have, with the help of Hillel and off-campus resources, organized themselves into pro-Israel activist groups on American college campuses. These students have, with fortitude and determination, succeeded in creating credible pro-Israel voices, while promoting peace with security for Israel, on often-hostile campuses.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs applauds these students for their superb efforts and successes to-date. Their leadership and commitment have set an example of which the entire American Jewish community can feel proud. Yet, these students are in need of increased support from the organized Jewish community. The JCPA recommends the following steps be taken by its member agencies, in partnership with Hillel, to further assist these students’ efforts on campus:
- Provide resources including:
- speakers’ bureaus
- inclusion of local campuses in itineraries of visiting Israeli scholars or officials
- pro-Israel advocacy training
- outreach to Jewish faculty, including utilizing contacts from outside the campus community
- providing support for specific events
- ensuring a community presence at campus activities, upon request.
- Coordinate with and involve other major Jewish and Israel-connected organizations to ensure that useful and effective resources are made available to students on an on-going basis.
- Bring local student activists to speak to or serve as representatives on JCRC and Federation boards to educate local Jewish community leadership about the on-campus situation.
- Establish campus advisory committees comprised of community and campus representatives to address issues on campuses and develop pro-active strategies.
- Work with students on a pro-active basis to identify and recruit pro-Israel faculty who would support Jewish student activists and who could serve as scholarly resources, potential speakers, and providers of guidance.
- Utilize our field’s expertise by providing educational materials to these activists on the complex issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These materials would be used by the students for their own education, as well as to develop materials for use on their respective campuses.
- Provide our field’s professional expertise and experience to these activists in such essential organizing techniques as how to start a new group of activists, recruit new members, develop a consensus-building process for decision-making, engage in coalition-building with other campus groups, and become active in an effective manner in student government.
- Assist Jewish campus organizations in working with campus administrations to ensure that rules governing explicit hate speech, intimidation, demonstration guidelines and similar concerns are adhered to including through the use of appropriate sanctions.
- Utilize community contacts to bring successful intergroup models for dialogue, bridge-building and cooperation to the campus and to the area of Arab/Jewish and Muslim/Jewish relationships.
- Devise a training program for students on how to debate the issues in a persuasive manner to combat the forceful stances taken by groups and individuals hostile to Israel.
- Promote opportunities for students to spend time in Israel.
- Promote better Middle East education on Israel through Jewish high schools, religious schools, youth groups, summer camps, high school retreats, to give Jewish high school students a foundation of knowledge about Israel, its history and the Arab-Israeli dispute, so they will be prepared to be effective pro-Israel activists when they attend college.