American college campuses continue to be a proving ground for various anti-Israel campaigns, tactics and messages. Last week, our blog reported on several different initiatives we’ve seen recently, including nonbinding Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolutions at the University of California, San Diego, Riverside and Irvine; Israeli Apartheid Week and, of course, university sponsorship of anti-Israel programs.
So what role did ADL play to counter these messages and advocate for Israel?
Outreach to University Administrators: ADL encouraged the Chancellors at Irvine, Riverside and San Diego to speak out against the non-binding divestment resolutions that passed on these campuses and reassure the Jewish and pro-Israel community that the universities intend to follow the UC-wide policy against divestment. The chancellors at all of these schools have commendably done so.
In a few days, Naim Ateek, the director of a “Palestinian Liberation Theology” organization called Sabeel, is scheduled to speak at Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University. Ateek frequently uses Christian imagery to demonize Israel and Zionism, including claims that Israel is engaged in a “crucifixion” campaign against Palestinians. Similarly, he has accused Israel of committing a Holocaust against the Palestinians. His appearances are sponsored by academic departments at the two universities. ADL has communicated to both universities that the school’s sponsorships of Ateek are inappropriate and that the universities should consider hosting pro-Israel speakers as well.
In the past few months, ADL staff has also met with high-level administrators at a variety of campuses to talk about how Jewish students experience anti-Israel activity on campus. We have brainstormed with them about ways to make the college campus a true “marketplace of ideas” where all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are adequately represented. Over the past 100 years, ADL has developed a reputation as an honest and credible voice for the Jewish community. ADL is therefore uniquely positioned to educate university officials about the Jewish and pro-Israel community’s perspective and encourage them to speak out against extreme anti-Israel activity and anti-Semitism.
Expressions against Divestment: ADL responded to a non-binding Associated Students Council resolution urging divestment at the University of California, San Diego, by submitting a statement against divestment to the student senators considering the resolution. The statement, read during the public discussion on the resolution, described how BDS doesn’t advance the cause of peace because it “deepens the divisions between Israelis and Palestinians” and places all the blame for the conflict on Israel. The statement also warned that the resolution targeted companies that help Israel better protect its citizens and that a call for divestment would illustrate the UCSD students’ lack of commitment to Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense.
Exposing and Educating: In this week’s edition of J., a Bay Area-based newspaper, the regional director of ADL’s Central Pacific office contributed an op-ed about how the three stated goals of the BDS movement demonstrate that the movement’s objective is to isolate Israel, not create the conditions for peace. ADL regularly exposes anti-Israel activity through op-eds, as well as our blog, website and other platforms.
Training Students: In San Diego, ADL runs a program called I-Pitch for Israel which helps train pro-Israel students on campus to lobby against divestment and other anti-Israel campaigns. Training also includes information about free speech rights and the myths and facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Several I-Pitch participants spoke out against divestment at the public discussion as well.
As anti-Israel campaigns continue to play out on college campuses across the country, ADL will stand with our partners in the local Jewish communities and with students to counter these initiatives and advocate on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people. Do you have any other ideas for responding to anti-Israel activity? Use the space below to let us know!