Passover is one of the three pilgrimage festivals of Judaism. In ancient times, during the seven days of the holiday, Jews came to the Holy Temple to make sacrifices. Today, there is no Holy Temple, but Israelis and Jews from the Diaspora fill the city with thousands of visitors to enjoy the holiday atmosphere.
The event which we chose to attend in Jerusalem was held at the huge, bustling Cinema City multiplex, located across the street from the Supreme Court campus. We were there to see an important new documentary film, produced by Jerusalem U / Step up for Israel, entitled Crossing the Line 2. It is not the kind of film that one enjoys, but one that educates, informs, and disturbs. The topic is the incredibly disturbing feeling that many young American Jews experience at the college or university they attend. This new documentary reveals the rise of anti-Israel activity and anti-Semitic rhetoric on North American university campuses, and demonstrates when reasonable criticism of Israel ‘Crosses the Line’ into anti-Semitism. (ctl.stepupforisrael.com/watch)
The film was graphic and disturbing. The ugly, obnoxious, undemocratic behavior of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators, most of whom are students and lecturers, is appalling. Jews are verbally and physically threatened by these organized, well-funded mobs. Unfortunately, our Jewish students are not sufficiently educated, nor prepared, for the onslaught they might encounter.
That’s where organizations like Jerusalem U / Step up for Israel come in. They are doing the hard work of intellectually arming our young people to not only oppose the bigots, but to avoid being “turned” by their propaganda. There were several speakers who told us about the organization and what American Jewish students need to know.
Rabbi Raphael Shore, founder and CEO of Jerusalem U, explained the need to focus on what’s great about being Jewish, to implant a positive attitude in impressionable young students who are bombarded with ugly, hysterical demonstrators and one-sided, false displays and events on campus. He explained that the Jewish establishment is 30-40 years behind the Arabs, who early on funded Middle Eastern Studies departments on many campuses, which were filled with faculty who present the Jews as interlopers, and Arabs as the indigenous people, of the Land of Israel.
We then heard from Hebrew University’s Professor Robert Wistrich, one of the most distinguished scholars of anti-Semitism. He explained that Western Jews have denied the reality that anti-Zionism has become anti-Semitism. Two events which led to this were the United Nations resolution that Zionism is racism, a mere 37 years after Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in Nazi German; and the hate fest against Israel sponsored by the UN in Durban, South Africa, ironically a supposed anti-racism conference (2001).
Professor Wistrich had more to say in the Q&A period: One might think that education is the answer do this situation, but academia is not the antidote, but fertile ground for anti-Zionism; the Israel haters are ignorant of our history and religion; and anti-Zionism is the entry card for Progressive credentials, masquerading as social justice and civil rights.
Exactly what Israel’s problem is, and how to combat it, must be taught, Wistrich advised the audience. Students need education to be equipped to stand up to the challenge and to face down determined adversaries. Israel/Jew hatred has escalated to the point that even the “blind” Jews are beginning to see the problem and to get involved. Also, the Israeli government is beginning to be involved, after many years of downplaying the movement against Israel.
Wistrich told us that, historically Jewish communities don’t react sufficiently to danger; outsiders are needed. For example, during WWII, the Israeli Hillel Kook, using the psuedonym Peter Bergson, came to America to wake up the Jews and ultimately the American government to the genocide against the Jews of Europe. There has always been a failure to anticipate on our part. We reject “messengers of bad news,” because we are upset about being informed.
Rabbi Shore told us that a more aggressive and proactive stance is required on campus. It has already begun online, but college students confronted by hatred against Israel and Jews are not prepared and confident enough. They must stop looking for “cooperation” with their adversaries and start taking the fight to them. As for the venerable Hillel organization, it has not stepped up on most campuses and has even fragmented, with “Open” Hillel chapters disaffiliating with Hillel, welcoming anti-Israel speakers (supposedly to be objective about Israel). Despite the setbacks, Shore feels that Hillel’s new leadership is beginning to react.
The next morning’s Jerusalem Post coincidentally devoted the Op-Ed page to the film’s subject. One article described the anti-Semitism on college campuses, written by Eric R. Mandel (director of the MEPIN research organization), about his talks on several campuses. He related that, “Nowadays anti-Israel activists of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement are targeting almost every college, and the anti-Israel activity often turns into simple, ugly anti-Semitism. … Our kids are besieged by a growing plague of anti-Zionism in the name of political correctness and anti-colonialism.” Mandel called for “fighting the BDS movement, not rationalizing it, legitimizing it, and providing Jewish forums to demonize the Jewish state. Are you listening, New Israel Fund and J Street?” (jpost.com)
The other article was by three pro-Israel leaders studying at George Washington University, who deplored the language used by the Black Students Organization of Columbia University. Their statement called Israel an apartheid state and accused it of genocide. These are among the most common slurs that are thrown at Israel and at anyone who “dares” to defend it. It’s ironic that Columbia, whose student body is more than a quarter Jewish, is a hotbed of anti-Semitism and has a Middle Eastern Studies department that epitomizes the worst kind of incendiary “scholarship.”
Jerusalem U / Step up for Israel (www.jerusalemu.org), and its partner organization, Standwithus (standwithus.com), are on the front lines educating young Jews and others to take the fight to the enemy. There’s no alternative, if Diaspora Jews don’t want to be forced to find a new home and Israel doesn’t want to be erased.
Please go the site (ctl.stepupforisrael.com/watch) to see this film for yourself and then share it with friends and family. On the site are other links for additional information on how YOU can help combat the terrible BDS initiative against Israel and Jews.