CAMERA Helps Jewish Students Fight Back on Campus

August 28, 2013 9:09 am 1 comment

The campus of the University of California, Berkeley, where an Israel divestment measure passed in the school's student government in April. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – Lighting up the screen at Boston University Hillel is a progression map of Israel titled “Palestinian Loss of Land.” The image isn’t surprising to the students attending the annual Student Leadership and Advocacy Training Conference of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Similar sights are frequent at their own schools.

“During Israel Apartheid Week, there are a lot of skits and performances. Students wrap keffiyehs around their heads and people mock Israel while dressed as IDF soldiers,” said Beata Samel, a CAMERA Campus Activist Project (CCAP) student representing City University of New York (CUNY) Brooklyn.

Highlighting the growing need to combat anti-Israel campaigns on campus, and equipping pro-Israel students with the tools to motivate others to action, is the focus   of the student conference of CAMERA, the Boston-based media watchdog that seeks to promote accurate news coverage and commentary about Israel and the Middle East.

In attendance from Aug. 18-20 were students ranging from native Israelis, to those that have never been to the Jewish state, those planning their Birthright trip experience, and those that have already served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Some pro-Israel students at the conference—like CAMERA Fellow Abraham Mercado, who was the only Jew among 8,000 students at Morgan State University before transferring to Florida Atlantic University—have faced significant isolation on campus.

After finishing his IDF service, Scott Ehrenberg, a CCAP student at CUNY Queens, asked himself how he could support Israel despite being back in the United States.

“The least we can do is to advocate for Israel,” said Ehrenberg, “to hold events on campus wherever we go to college in order to protect and support Israel’s name.”

Twenty-six of CAMERA’s yearlong Fellows joined the organization’s CCAP participants for the three-day conference to learn skills they can bring back to their campuses. According to CAMERA Regional Campus Coordinator Gilad Skolnick, “arguments of the heart and arguments of the mind are the best weaponry” in defense of Israel.

For the CAMERA Fellows, the conference marked the beginning of their yearlong program. Chosen for their commitment to countering anti-Israel activity at their schools, 53 students representing 39 colleges partake in a series of events meant to help them organize pro-Israel events like CAMERA’s “Less Hamas, More Hummus” campaign.

The campaign, which all Fellows are required to run on their campus, was inspired by student Ellie Rudee, the current president of Claremont McKenna College’s CCAP initiative, who drew on Hamas’s own materials to educate students on her campus about the biases against Israel in the media.

During the presentation, CAMERA Campus Director Aviva Slomich cued up a clip of a Hamas kindergarten graduation ceremony where children brandished automatic weapons and sang of their aspirations of death on behalf of Allah.

“Conflict continues because of hateful indoctrination,” Slomich said.

A graphic of a child in tattered clothes being stabbed in the neck by a Jewish star is just one example of the propaganda many students are presented from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) or other anti-Israel groups on campus.

“The SJP has risen up and become pretty prominent on campus,” said a CAMERA Fellow from Duke University. “I remember waking up one Monday morning and seeing they had posted an eviction notice on my door. It said something along the lines of, ‘You have 48 hours to get out of this dorm room.’”

The CAMERA conference’s itinerary was designed to present effective techniques to counteract the rise in SJP activity; Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement campaigns; and the proliferation of Israel Apartheid Week around college campuses in North America. Presentations included “How to Plan An Effective Event,” “How to Educate Yourself and Others,” and “Standing Up for Israel on Campus.”

Other events included talks from Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, Twitter software engineer Danny Hertz, and a seminar in Krav Maga (Israeli martial arts) from Israeli Museum of Martial Arts inductee Gershon Ben Keren.

“It’s not enough for Israel to defend herself,” said Michelle Soicher, a CAMERA Fellow at Concordia University in Montreal. “We need advocates internationally. It is important to fund people who want to educate themselves and the people on their campuses. It’s the idea of perseverance: it’s not enough to just be okay, we have to help Israel thrive and grow, and we have to change the, unfortunately, declining view of Israel internationally.”

Despite their accounts of anti-Israel sentiment on campus, the students seemed hopeful for the upcoming school year. Their ideas about increasing the integration of Jewish and Israel education in campus life bounced around the conference room. Many of these ideas were based on the use of social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to draw attention to facts about Israel and the Middle East.

“One of the biggest ways to get people to attend your event is to partner with other groups on campus,” said Eliana Butler, a CCAP student from the University of Chicago.

The consensus among the students was that establishing cooperation and communication with other groups on campus could act as a steppingstone to changing anti-Israel sentiment.

“You never know,” said CCAP student Chloe Valdary of the University of New Orleans, “some people that don’t necessarily agree with your politics may just end up your strongest supporters.”

1 Comment

  • Salomon dayan

    All Jews have to be unified in eradicating college anti Israel policies and bds movements. These are nothing but expression of anti semitism being promoted bu Arab students who find easy preys among naive college students

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.