According to a recent study conducted by the “Brand Israel Group,” support for Israel among Jewish college students has dropped 27% in the last 6 years. This mirrors a smaller but still significant drop in support among Americans generally, from 76% to 62%. According to Fern Oppenheim, the founder of the Brand Israel Group that conducted the survey, the source of this drop is the perceived lack of shared values between college students and the Jewish state. The same study found that 1 in 3 Jewish students reported anti-Semitic incidents on their campuses. Of these, 59% said that the incidents were related to anti-Israel attitudes. To explain this, Oppenheim blamed a political “atmosphere” on campus that divides the world into oppressor groups and victims, Israel being a symbol of the former.
“We are allowing Israel to be defined by its detractors,” Oppenheim warned, which is unfortunately true. But her proposed remedy to step up efforts to brand Israel as not only a tolerant society but, in fact, the helper of victims, even of its enemies is flawed. To support her strategy, Oppenheim offers the case of Ismail Haniyeh, a leader of Hamas, the terrorist organization sworn to destroy Israel and exterminate its Jews. Oppenheim observes that Haniyeh sent his ill granddaughter to Israel to receive medical treatment because he knew “Israel is too decent to turn her away,” and says: “People need to know this.”
Perhaps they do. But this is clearly not the solution to the problem. If it were, Ismail Haniyeh would have left Hamas and joined Israel’s supporters. Re-branding Israel alone is not the answer to a propaganda war, based on genocidal lies, whose goal is Israel’s destruction. The only viable solution is to do what Jewish organizations have so far refused to do: brand the American supporters of Hamas and the campus promoters of its lies as terrorist enablers and allies.
The strategy of merely promoting Israel’s good deeds, while pretending that Hamas’s American supporters are merely misinformed, is failing for a simple reason: If you are accused of stealing other people’s land, imprisoning them in Gaza-size ghettos, and segregating them by race, the fact that you are sending humanitarian missions to Haiti and other needy cases or providing medical care to your mortal enemies is not going to exculpate you in the eyes of people who have been seduced by Palestinian lies. In their eyes, you are still the oppressor and these good deeds are merely efforts to obscure that evil fact. That is why lesbian leftists at the “Dyke March” in Chicago banned rainbow flags with the Jewish star – even though Israel is the only country in the Middle East where a gay pride parade can be held. They see Israel’s acceptance of gays as “pinkwashing” – a fig leaf provided by one victim group to cover up its crimes against another. The left even has a term for this: “intersectionality.”
The only way to counter such malicious attacks is to brand the campus allies of Hamas for what they are: supporters of genocidal lies and a terrorist war to obliterate the state of Israel and kill its Jews. These American allies of Hamas terrorism include Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Students Association, Jewish Voice for Peace, and assorted leftwing groups who support them.
Students for Justice in Palestine, the leader of this anti-Israel, pro-Hamas coalition was founded in 2001 by Hatem Bazian, a Fatah activist at the time. He created it as an ancillary support for the suicide bombing Second Intifada, launched in that year. The chief funder of SJP and orchestrator of its campaigns is a well-established Hamas front, American Muslims for Palestine. Hatem Bazian is the chairman of the AMP board. Since Hamas is a terrorist organization, Students for Justice in Palestine and its campus coalition are clearly instruments of its terrorist campaigns. They do not themselves plant bombs but they support the terrorists who do and spread their political propaganda, much the way the Irish political party Sinn Fein was a working partner of the terrorist Irish Republican Army.
Stigmatizing the campus supporters of terrorists would effectively neutralize the attacks on Israel. It would provide the basis for a campaign to pressure American universities to withdraw their recognition and funding from these groups. It would discredit the lies that fuel their campus campaigns and inspire the anti-Semitic attacks that have reached epidemic proportions.
The David Horowitz Freedom Center has conducted campaigns that employ this branding principle for ten years at over 100 campuses. But ours has been a lonely voice. At virtually every campus where we have organized events, our efforts have been undermined by Hillel and Students for Israel groups who smear us as “Islamophobic” and “racist,” though we are neither, and who come to the defense of Students for Justice in Palestine as though they were victims and not aggressors. In other words, these Jewish groups prefer to join hands with an organization supporting a genocidal war against Jews, in condemning (in my case) a Jew who doesn’t mince words in opposing our enemies. If Hillel and groups that care about Israel’s survival would instead turn their guns around and brand Israel’s enemies for what they are, the tide of anti-Semitic hatred on campus would begin to reverse itself, and support for the Jewish state would surely grow.
David Horowitz is the founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center and a best-selling author of numerous books, including Radical Son (1997) and Islamo-Fascism and the War Against the Jews (2015), which contains accounts of his campus campaigns.