What if we all worked together on campus?

School is resuming, and I am eagerly awaiting resuming pro-Israel campus advocacy. HasbaraYork is coming back to another year with a particularly energetic team, a base of active student membership, and plans to fill the year with a diversity of pro-Israel programming on campus (if a club, any kind of student club, is meeting during the summer, its usually a sign of a productive, active year looming).

However, even with the excitement of the coming semester, and anticipation of the upcoming gatherings, confrontations and meaningful experiences, I still know that there will be scores of Jewish students who won’t bother. They’re ‘too busy’ or ‘not political enough’ to think that they could ever possibly make a difference. This needs to change.

I truly believe that when students with a Jewish neshama see the hatred on their campus, be it the wall of lies put up by Students Against Israeli Apartheid, a protest by students calling on their school to divest from Israel, or even just an event flyer inviting students to hear an anti-Israel speaker, they recognize it for what it is – a threat. Jewish students see this, see the students who propagate this filth, and see the passionate hatred lit up their eyes, and say to themselves “this disturbs me, and I wish there was something I can do”. Only the most removed Jewish student with an unfortunate disconnect from Jewish society here in the Diaspora can see a “BOYCOTT APARTHEID ISRAEL” sign with a star of David crossed out and not feel the slightest arousal of concern.

In the past I have critically generalized campus Jewry in North America as “apathetic”. After some reflection I have realized that this word is not an accurate characterization. In my situation, and as told to me by fellow campus advocates elsewhere, I do find fellow Jewish students to be relatively inactive, not willing to put in the effort to join pro-Israel student campaigns.

However they do care, meaning they are not ‘apathetic’, so in recognizing the problem and not doing anything, they are ‘inactive’. I, understandably, seeing the vitriol on campus is daunting, even frightening, and the hassle of ‘getting political’ can turn off any student navigating the stresses, tedium and pleasures of the post-secondary experience.

Jewish students need to know that getting involved is actually quite easy. You don’t have to commit hours and hours to designing and leading pro-Israel programming. You don’t need to know every fact about the conflict to advocate. There are so many ways to contribute, to do your small part against hatred.

I would estimate that my group completed at most 100 hours of ‘tabling’ our club in the halls of campus this last year, and it was a relatively active year. With at least two people at the tables at all time (a rule we sadly have for safety purposes), I would say we put in about 400 man-hours of tabling this year. But honestly you don’t even have to sign up for a tabling shift: just come! Just come if you see the table, stay for 10, 15 minutes and engage in a dialogue about Israel, talk about how you feel, about the campus environment, about your last trip, about friends from over there. Just stand by the table and contribute to the traffic, make it look busy, inclining others to come too. Anything! And if you feel up to it, take a shift at the table. We break them up into 60-minutes. What if we all worked together on campus, and all 4,000 students take it upon themselves to advocate for Israel for just one hour out of the year? We’d be informing many, many more students about Israel, showing the human face of our spiritual capital here in Canada, and educating students in the middle-of-the-road about the racism of BDS and our marginalization on campus. We would have 4,000 hours of Israel advocacy!

Its a nice thought, right? How about this:

At York University, the virulently anti-Israel block of Marxists “Student Action”, who have, amidst consistent accusations of cheating during elections, who have held power over the student union for an uninterrupted decade, is returning to its eleventh year of power. The president, who ran chiefly on a platform of “divestment” (the D in BDS), with a facebook page clearly highlighting his anti-Israel radicalism, will likely be making sure that the York Federation of Student is diverting more resources to advancing Israeli Apartheid Week than ever before.

Could you imagine if every Jewish student took just two minutes out of their year, to bring their student ID cards to the polls in February and vote for the opposing slate that doesn’t treat Jewish and pro-Israel students like excrement? With at least 4,000 Jewish students, even half of those votes would probably be enough to win the majority of voting constituencies and unseat the BDS radicals. We would have a new student union, one that doesn’t directly sponsor BDS workshops (and other Marxist garbage) with our own union dues, by April!

The ‘other side’ has gotten this far in part because we have allowed them to. The anti-Israel students are on average much more dedicated, passionate and politicized. They have made their voices the loudest. They have taken over student unions and maintain their hold by voting in the radicals. They have organized their way into control of what should be open and communal student space. Despite this, you CAN fight back.

You don’t have to sacrifice anything to stand up. If you are heading to university this year, either as a first-year or heading back as a returning student and you want to make an impact on campus, just send an email to your pro-Israel group, and say ‘I can’t do a lot, but what can I do to help?’

About the Author
Willem Hart is a social science and Jewish studies student at York University in Toronto. He is an active member in the pro-Israel scene, and a lifelong disabilities service worker and advocate.
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