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February 7, 2012 4:08 pm

Anti-Israel Conference Galvanizes Jewish Students on UPenn Campus

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LOVE sculpture on University of Pennsylvania campus. Photo: wiki commons.

It Was “Israel Across Penn” this past weekend.

Last year a group of students established PennBDS, a student organization to further the efforts of the National Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Committee aimed at spreading the “culture of boycott as a central form of civil resistance to Israeli occupation.” This year, Jewish students at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia raised their voices in opposition to PennBDS – not merely in protest, but in an effort to make their own inroads on the public view of Israel.

Dubbed “Israel Across Penn,” this new initiative aims to provide students of all faiths an “opportunity to discuss Israel in a more positive light.” Friday night, as the PennBDS conference officially commenced, State Senator Anthony Williams spoke to an audience of student leaders to show his support for Israel. The student leaders then spread across campus in leading dinners and discussions about Israel. Over 800 students attended.

Shlomo Klapper, a UPenn freshman and the program’s co-organizer, told the Algemeiner that many students felt “threatened” by the BDS presence on campus, and were spurred to “not only defend, but galvanize other students in understanding and supporting Israel.”

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“We didn’t want to cancel the BDS event,” he said. “It is integral to protect freedom of speech, but also fight for the truth.”

Renowned political commentator Alan Dershowitz commended the students’ “model” approach as he spoke Thursday night, the first of many events that would spread “Israel Across Penn” throughout the weekend. According to Klapper, it was a learning opportunity for “many students – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – who knew little about Israel, and support for those who already did.”

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