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Working for peace in 5776

On building bridges despite groups like SJP who reject any opportunity for dialogue with pro-Israel students

The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have always been one of my favorite seasons of the Jewish calendar. It is during this short period that Jews are commanded to first ask forgiveness of our fellow human beings before, on the Day of Atonement, asking forgiveness of G-d. We have to atone for wronging each other before we atone for wronging G-d.

The timing is far from accidental. Our tradition teaches us the immense value of the involvement of each one of us in making the world a better place.

That same notion animates most college students I meet. They have a strong desire to make meaningful contributions that enhance the lives of all human beings.

As the Jewish new year brings with it a new school year, pro-Israel students across the country are putting this idea into action.

They are fostering dialogue with students from all walks of life. They are supporting programs that build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians. They are raising funds for Innovation: Africa and Save a Child’s Heart, groups that every day are saving lives beyond Israel’s borders. They are traveling to the Middle East to engage directly with people of diverse backgrounds.

Pro-Israel students are not just talking about peace. They are working for it.

Sadly, not all students subscribe to this approach. Pro-Israel students will again this year confront an intransigent anti-Israel movement led by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). SJP abides by a formal policy of “anti-normalization.” This means they reject any opportunity for dialogue with pro-Israel students. They demonize and work to silence supporters of Israel. They stand before student governments, peddling half-truths and mistruths about the Jewish state. They firmly and vocally oppose the very existence of a Jewish state of Israel. This is not the path to peace.

I’m reminded of the old bumper sticker that read, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” As SJP and its allies refuse to even consider engaging in civil discourse, they are clearly part of the problem.

This creates a difficult, emotionally charged atmosphere on campus. And thanks to the incredible work of a broad coalition of national pro-Israel organizations, our students are confidently prepared to confront and defeat the vicious attacks that will come in the months ahead.

But still, as we close this special period of days on the Jewish calendar, my mind fixates on a desire to find common ground, to repair the world, and to work for a common future defined more by harmony than hatred.

Pro-Israel students are waiting with their arms wide open. Where is SJP?

My prayer for the year ahead is that our adversaries soon acquire the courage to come to the table, embrace dialogue, and join us in working for a better tomorrow.

Until that day arrives, pro-Israel students remain confident and committed. They will continue sharing the real Israel with their campus communities. And, in whatever battle may come, they will prevail.

Jacob Baime is Executive Director of Israel on Campus Coalition. This post first appeared on Medium.

About the Author
Jacob Baime is Executive Director 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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