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Israel on campus: Now for the good news

It turns out that at US institutions of higher learning, it's not all about that BDS

When you only hear the bad news, it’s easy to conclude that the pro-Israel movement on campus is on the defensive – or worse, on the decline. Over the past year, headline after headline has suggested that the campus environment is toxic to pro-Israel students. Even potentially dangerous. But what’s often presented is an incomplete picture.

It’s true that there has been a significant increase in anti-Israel activity on college campuses. In the wake of Operation Protective Edge, the number of U.S. campuses with anti-Israel activity jumped by 51.5 percent last semester.

Indeed, headlines shout that student governments around the country are voting to divest from Israel or calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. A tenured professor at Ohio University aided the student senate president in recording a video in which she poured a bucket of fake blood on her head in an anti-Israel stunt. At a Temple University student activities fair, a pro-Israel student was punched in the face by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). And anti-Israel students at Brooklyn College and other universities staged “die-ins” dramatizing the death of Palestinians and chanting anti-Israel slogans.

That’s the bad news, but it’s only half of the story.

Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) tracking reveals a fuller picture that shows an even larger surge in pro-Israel activism on campuses this year. Pro-Israel students are tireless in their passion to uphold the integrity of their school communities, and they are not letting hateful anti-peace groups like SJP take their campuses hostage. They are defeating anti-Israel resolutions in their student governments, holding pro-Israel rallies on campus, tabling and raising funds for pro-Israel initiatives, and mobilizing their peers through petitions, speakers, leadership gatherings, and training sessions.

Students at Princeton published a petition this fall promoting peace and rejecting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Internationally renowned Israeli author Ari Shavit has kicked-off a 28-campus nationwide speaking tour with packed audiences at Yale and Brown. Pro-Israel groups at Boston University hosted a weeklong Israel Fest to show why students love Israel. Student leaders published pro-Israel op-eds at dozens of influential campuses, including Stanford. And activists at the University of Pennsylvania held a three-day pro-Israel advocacy conference.

In recent years, one of the preferred tactics of Israel haters has been to poison academia by pushing BDS resolutions through student governments. But national pro-Israel organizations quickly recognized the threat, devised strategies to defeat it, and committed resources to shutting down any hope of a sweeping anti-Israel trend. Last school year, four divestment resolutions passed but 14 failed, including at trend-setting schools such as Cornell University; Loyola University, Chicago; University of Michigan; and the Universities of California Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Davis. This academic year, an anti-Israel resolution passed only at UCLA while such resolutions failed in six other instances, including at George Washington University and The Ohio State University.

We attribute this success to the deliberate expansion of the national coalition of pro-Israel students, faculty and organizations, which is outpacing Israel’s detractors. Our data shows that the pro-Israel community operates on far more campuses than our opposition.

During the Fall 2014 semester, ICC tracked 759 anti-Israel events at colleges and universities nationwide and 1,531 pro-Israel events. The number of pro-Israel student groups also rose from 362 in 2012 to 484 in 2014. These students are disciplined, coordinated, and act strategically thanks to the leadership of a wide coalition of impressive national organizations. These groups have risen to the occasion and are enlarging the pro-Israel movement’s campus footprint.

Hillel International, Jewish National Fund, and Masa Israel Journey have placed highly trained fellows on more than 100 campuses to expand support for Israel. AEPi, AIPAC, CAMERA, Chabad on Campus, CUFI, The David Project, Hasbara Fellowships, JerusalemU, and StandWithUs sponsor critical pro-Israel campaigns and advocacy initiatives that offer students the tools they need to stand up for Israel.

The thriving pro-Israel campus movement is built upon the strength of our coalition partners, individually and collectively. Pro-Israel organizations are working together, and we are succeeding.

The pro-Israel movement at America’s colleges and universities is growing quickly and winning the battle with Israel’s detractors. Students are prepared to combat the insidious anti-Israel movement. They are energized and equipped to build bridges, work towards peaceful solutions, and advocate for the Jewish state.

That is the rest of the story.

About the Author
Jacob Baime is CEO of Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), which unites and empowers pro-Israel campus organizations, providing strategic coordination and expertise to strengthen support for Israel.
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