Groundbreaking online event disrupted with hate

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While those in the Jewish community are well aware of Israel’s rich history, too often people outside the Jewish faith view Israel with apathy. The Israel Summit movement means to change all of that by exposing students outside of the Jewish faith to Israel’s story in the hopes of fostering a more nuanced, balanced dialogue surrounding Israel on campus. Though students were unable to gather in person for such an event in the midst of the pandemic, participants are making history this week by hosting the first-ever virtual Israel Summit.

The groundbreaking conference connects students from over 400 universities in 55 countries in hopes of educating non-Jewish students on Israel’s past. It is the largest gathering in the history of students from all over the world coming together to learn about and support the state of Israel. However, what makes this event truly unique is the line up of extraordinary speakers and their broad-based appeal. Israel may not seem relevant to much of the non-Jewish world, but by featuring keynote speakers ranging in an appeal from Senators Cory Booker and Mitt Romney to Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer Tal Zaks, the Israel Summit can draw students that wouldn’t normally care about Israel into the conversation.

Other speakers include Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Waze CEO Noam Bardin, Founder of KIND Snacks Daniel Lubetzky, President of Columbia University Lee Bollinger, and many others.

The non-partisan educational event highlights Israel’s global contributions and rich culture to build an appreciation and understanding of the country’s background. Speakers explain their relationship with and support for Israel before participating in a career fair meant to provide students with travel, study abroad, and internship opportunities in Israel.

Despite the fact that the purpose of this event is to bring people together and educate students on Israel in an unbiased manner, anti-Israel extremists couldn’t miss a chance to attack the Jewish State. In an attempt to sabotage the discussions, radical activists “Zoom bombed” the event — disrupting the educational conference and momentarily shutting down discussion. Several of the detractors sent public messages in the chat feature, calling Israelis “colonizers” and falsely accusing Israel of occupying “stolen land”.

One man repeatedly disrupted the discussions by shouting his support for the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign and yelling “f**k Israel” and “free Palestine, 1948” while waving a Palestinian flag. The man, who covered his face to remain anonymous, claimed that Israel was responsible for ethnically cleansing Palestinians. Others spread dangerous misinformation by falsely claiming that the American Jews hosting the event are responsible for killing and imprisoning thousands of Palestinians.

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These accusations are a disgusting attempt to demonize Israel in front of an impressionable audience. Make no mistake, this event was targeted by anti-Israel detractors because they want to poison the very unaffiliated students that this event was designed to educate. The “Zoom bombed” because they would rather spread propaganda meant to demonize Israel and the Jewish people than participate in a productive conversation about conditions in the region. The protesters were muted and removed several times before the speakers were able to continue.

It is shameful that these individuals would attempt to limit other students’ opportunities to learn about Israel’s culture and global contributions. But despite the attack on the conference, it has been a resounding success. More and more students are being educated about Israel each day of the event. By the close of this year’s Israel Summit, fewer students will be indifferent to Israel and that in and of itself is progress. The only way to combat hate and ignorance is with education. That is the true impact of the Israel Summit.

About the Author
Hen Mazzig is a Senior Fellow at The Tel Aviv Institute (TLVi). He is a writer, digital communications expert, international speaker and LGBTQ+ advocate. His work focuses, among other topics, on the Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.
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