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In 2024, we are all Theodor Herzl

The genocide libel against Israel parallels the Dreyfus Affair, except that now Jewish students have the tools to combat hate...and win
SSI chapter at Duke University covers the grass with Israeli flags to remember the victims of October 7th. (courtesy)
SSI chapter at Duke University covers the grass with Israeli flags to remember the victims of October 7th. (courtesy)

This Yom Ha’atzmaut, as we witness the lies and libel spread against Israel and our Jewish People on college campuses, we are reminded of the “Dreyfus Affair” and the striking parallels that can be drawn between the wrongful persecution of Jewish French artillery Captain Alfred Dreyfus and the insidious disinformation campaign against the world’s only Jewish state.

Need a quick history lesson? Dreyfus was falsely accused of treason in 1894 in France, triggering a wave of antisemitic hysteria. Despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence, he was convicted in a sham trial fueled by prejudice and misinformation. He was eventually exonerated in 1906.

No onlooker was more profoundly affected than Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl. Witnessing the blatant antisemitism and injustice surrounding the case convinced him of the necessity for a Jewish homeland. The affair strengthened his resolve to advocate for the creation of a Jewish state where Jews could live free from persecution. In 1901, Herzl founded our Jewish National Fund movement, energizing Zionists everywhere.

Fast forward to today, and despite the anguish felt by Jewish students across US campuses and the helplessness felt by many of their parents, this is our 1901 moment, and in 2024, we are all Theodor Herzl.

This isn’t a time to retreat or retract our support for Israel. Imagine if Herzl had had the resources and organizing abilities we do today!

As the largest provider of Zionist education in the US, Jewish National Fund-USA has mobilized its nationwide network to deepen its decades-long support for college students. From our antisemitism reporting toolkit to bringing thousands of student and faculty leaders beyond the Jewish faith to Israel to see the realities on the ground, we are standing up against hate and disinformation — and we are winning!

We are also empowering high school students — the majority from public and non-Jewish schools — to become informed advocates for Israel at our college-prep study abroad experiences provided by Alexander Muss High School in Israel. When our Muss alums arrive on college campuses, they feel confident in their inalienable connection to the land and people of Israel, and can share their firsthand experiences about our homeland with their peers.

My message to students and parents is this: Don’t be disheartened. We know that such egregious misuse of the word genocide not only distorts Israel’s legitimate fight against the Hamas terrorist regime, but also dishonors the memory of true victims of genocide — something which our Jewish people are unfortunately all too familiar with.

Now is the time to stand up. If you’re on campus, reach out to organizations like Students Supporting Israel, AEPI, Yavneh on Campus, or the Israel on Campus Coalition. When you have time off, travel to Israel on our College Student Volunteering Trips and experience your ancestral soil in a new light.

If you’re a parent, don’t let your high school teenager arrive at college uninformed about Israel. Enroll them today in one of the many study abroad experiences in Israel offered by leading providers, including Alexander Muss High School in Israel — and fund part of their trip up to $7,500 through the Dream Israel Teen Travel Initiative.

As we come together to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, let us reject hatred and division and work towards a future where Jewish students everywhere can feel safe and proud of their identity on our college campuses. Our 1901 moment is upon us, and we must seize it with courage and conviction.

About the Author
Dr. Sol Lizerbram is President of Jewish National Fund-USA.
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