Emerging Anti-Israel Trends and Tactics on Campus

  • October 11, 2011

Read the full, comprehensive report: Emerging Anti-Israel Trends and Tactics on Campus (PDF).

In the 2010-11 academic year, university and college campuses across the United States were host to a variety of campaigns, tours and programs designed to demonize Israel and portray Israelis as the aggressors and the perpetuators of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Much of the anti-Israel activity that takes place every year on dozens of college campuses is not new. "Israeli Apartheid Week" events and other programs supporting boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel have taken place on a consistent basis in the last few years and will likely continue in the future.

In the past year, however, some new trends have emerged. These trends include anti-Israel student groups' increasing refusal to dialogue with their pro-Israel counterparts, support for international "break the siege" of Gaza campaigns and a greater incidence of university departments sponsoring explicit anti-Israel events. These efforts, which are likely to continue in the coming school year, require carefully articulated responses and counter-programming by pro-Israel advocates on campus. 

The growing strength of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the primary organizer of anti-Israel events on campus, presents one of the biggest challenges. In 2010-11, new SJP chapters were created at Tufts University, Ohio University and the University of Vermont and there are now SJP chapters on more than 75 campuses across the country.

In addition, there are signs that the disparate SJP chapters, which are not formally unified under a national umbrella organization, are beginning to coordinate their efforts more closely. In October, a national SJP conference will take place at Columbia University. Organizers of the conference, titled "Students Confronting Apartheid," state specifically that one of the goals of the conference is to "develop coordination and cooperation between different student groups working for justice in Palestine."

Much of the increased role and organization of SJP can be traced to the efforts of American Muslims for Palestine, a Chicago-based organization that has committed its resources to coordinating campus anti-Israel activity on campus via SJP. In the past year, AMP invited representatives from many SJP chapters to two conferences and has organized conferences for regional SJP groups.

One early indication that AMP's campus efforts will continue is its 2011 Thanksgiving Weekend conference, called "A New Era for Activism," which will include an "SJP track" as part of the program.

These developments contribute to the growing efforts to delegitimize Israel on campus and present new challenges for pro-Israel groups working to present a positive message about Israel.