It’s difficult to fit 2 years of experience in Israel advocacy into these brief words.
When I graduated earlier this summer, I witnessed a pro-Israel movement with more success than ever before, not because we “defeated” the anti-Israel movement (notice I did not say pro-Palestinian), but rather because, apart from the occasional out of hand protest, we forgot about the anti-Israel haters, and pursued our own goals.
This is where we found what was in my opinion, one of the most important factors in our success, the space to decide where we wanted to steer conversations of Israel on campus.
We started to get out of the doom and gloom of apartheid week, terrorist vigils run by Palsoc or ignorant calls for Jews to go back where they came from (good luck with that buddy), and began to focus on our own vision of Israel as a starting point, and look where it got us.
We began taking our power back, the power to define what Zionism really means, and managed to make significant strides towards more clearly defining Anti-semitism on campus. Much to the credit of the students of the pro-Israel movement, we saw a tech trip to Israel comprised of Imperial students who for the most part were not Jewish or linked to Israel in any way, we brought 25 Israeli students draped in Israeli flags to discuss politics in the SOAS courtyard (who was it that said it would be impossible?), and furthermore we put on Israel Peace week better than ever before, stimulating both friendly and intense dialogue..but dialogue nonetheless.
Of course, there are faults within the movement that should be addressed. A major fault of this movement is that it sees things constantly in terms of victory or loss. “We were louder in the room, so we won that round” etc etc.
That is a perspective, which I am sorry to say, is too petty.
This is not a movement that should deal with who is winning, and who is losing, seeing as if we look at it in this way, we have already set ourselves up for failure.
Despite our success, do not regard this year as a victory, see it as part of a larger process, in which you can continue to spread your message further and further, reaching more people in different ways.
Add more layers and political perspectives to your message and do all you can to make it more complex. That is when you can bring forth the beauty of this movement, and contribute something from yourself to make it more wholesome.
It is not about just BDS or Politics, it is about whatever you, the students want to talk about. Whether you want to spread knowledge about Israel’s technological success, it’s economic success, the differing cultures of the Yerushalmi and the Tel Avivi, or also talk about the Politics, this is your choice, you just need the courage to bring it forth, and the work ethic to make something happen.
As a side request from me to all the Israel Society presidents, please stop filling events with pro-Israel advocates, otherwise the message is going to remain within the bubble of the convinced.
It’s nice to see friends I know, but wouldn’t it be even better to make new ones at every event? You are university students, get out of the bubble you are used to!
The final issue I believe is the need for a stronger and more bold Union of Jewish Students (UJS) when it comes to Israel. While I know the internal politics of UJS mean that they can’t always come out as incredibly pro-Israel at the risk of offending the minority of Jewish students who do not support Israel, UJS must go further to help students who are mistreated by their universities or student unions for voicing support for the Jewish State. I
have heard accounts of too many let down students who need more from UJS than carefully worded statements.
UJS, you need to be braver than these students, for these students, not hiding behind them and their accomplishments. With a real support system behind them, there is little the students cannot accomplish.
My final word is to the students whom I have both worked with, and for the students to come, both of whom I am so fond and proud of…
Remember that you are students at university. These should be some of the most interesting and exciting years of your life. Explore your ideas, discover your values, and most of all do not feel as though you carry the fate of Israel on your shoulders.
By all means, stand for what you believe is right, there is no greater experience than this, to put your heart and soul into your beliefs and see the fruits of your hard work, but pursue this movement with joy, and with grace, remembering always to be respectful.
This movement will take you from light hearted to serious conversations in a second, but even the most serious conversations about the politics of the conflict have rays of light shining through them, find those rays and express them in action.
Enjoy, and do all you can to make sure that in years to come when you look back at your memories on campus, a smile comes to your face.
This blog is entirely my own opinion, and not linked to any organisation and/or person in particular.
- Jewish News has a dedicated student section, with the Union of Jewish Students! If you have news, opinion or anything you want to share, then make sure you GET IN TOUCH: Jackm@thejngroup.com