Anti-Israel Activity on Campus, 2011-2012: An ADL Annual Review

  • October 26, 2012

Read the full, comprehensive report: Anti-Israel Activity on Campus, 2011-2012: An ADL Annual Review (PDF).

"Boycott the apartheid state of Israel!"

"The Israel lobby...leverages its access to Congress and the executive branch to gain tacit American support for Israeli actions....and to stifle any debate about American support for Israel."

"'Never Again' includes Palestinians!"

In the 2011-2012 academic year, these and other expressions of animus toward the state of Israel and its supporters were espoused on hundreds of university and college campuses across the United States. 

Anti-Israel activity takes a multitude of forms on campus, ranging from opinion pieces in campus newspapers and speaking engagements to more well-planned weekend or weeklong conferences and long-term campaigns.  

The 2011-2012 academic year began with a flurry of anti-Israel activity. Some students used the popularity of the Occupy Wall Street movement to spread their anti-Israel messages. Others expressed solidarity with the Palestinian Authority's unilateral declaration initiative at the UN General Assembly. And in October, hundreds of students participated in a national student conference at Columbia University to strategize about anti-Israel initiatives and form a national coalition.   

Before long, however, many anti-Israel student groups turned their attention to some of the more traditional strategies and campaigns employed by the anti-Israel movement. These include vocal disruptions of pro-Israel events on campus; Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns; calls for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and more. 

In the absence of any significant Israeli military action in the Palestinian territories over the course of the year, which often leads to reactive demonstrations from student groups, some new anti-Israel initiatives developed on campus.  

Two new strategies were particularly ubiquitous: concerted efforts to promote the allegation that Israel exploits its progressive LGBT values as a way to distract attention from the occupation, a term known as "pinkwashing," as well as intense outreach by anti-Israel groups to Hispanic student groups under the pretext of alleged similarities between the hardships faced by immigrants and Palestinians. Both of these new trends represent an effort by the anti-Israel movement to couch their agenda in terms that will appeal to a broader base of support, in this case the LGBT and Hispanic communities on campus. These new initiatives increase the potential for more students to be exposed to hostile narratives about Israel.  

In addition, a marked increase in anti-Israel programs receiving sponsorship from university institutions provides undeserved level of credibility to biased and divisive events. In the past year, university departments provided sponsorship to at least ten anti-Israel events and conferences, including a major "one-state" solution conference at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in March 2012.  

While these trends are striking and significant, and anti-Israel groups on campus are increasingly organized (in the past year alone, at least ten new Students for Justice in Palestine chapters formed on college campuses), their programs and initiatives do not generally attract a large segment of the student population.  

Only a small percentage of college and university campuses endure frequent anti-Israel programming throughout the school year. Furthermore, university administrations across the country have consistently demonstrated a commitment to rejecting more extreme manifestations of anti-Israel activity, including support for terrorism and anti-Semitism, as well as rebuffing student-led divestment campaigns against Israel.  

And, perhaps most importantly, pro-Israel groups organize meaningful programs presenting a pro-Israel narrative and countering biased messages from anti-Israel groups on campus.