Anti-Israel movements have existed since the founding of the Jewish state, but over the past 10 years, Israel supporters have had to confront a more sophisticated anti-Israel movement than previously seen. In 2005, 170 Palestinian organizations came together for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, one that sponsors the economic, cultural and academic isolation of Israel, calling for an end to the democratic homeland.
The BDS movement and the groups that align with it have unfortunately found their stronghold on our college campuses and in our social justice movements. As we send our teens off to college this fall, we know it is essential to understand the challenges they might face.
Fortunately, our local universities have not experienced the level of anti-Israel rhetoric found at a number of colleges nationwide. But many of our college-age students will attend schools that have encountered challenging situations in the past. And unfortunately, many of them are woefully unprepared for the anti-Israel biases they might face.
Many times, students are surprised to hear anti-Israel remarks made by professors they once admired. Others don’t know how to respond when their friends demonize Israel after joining organizations hostile to the Jewish state or when groups they support pass resolutions that are anti-Israel. And some Jews admit they just don’t feel safe — especially after being harassed by other students.
Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization, is there to support college students. And, to ensure our local colleges and universities do not become a hotbed for anti-Israel rhetoric, The Associated funds Israel Campus Fellows, post-army young educators from Israel who provide a personal connection to the country. They build relationships, create educational programming that showcases Israel and provide students with knowledge and tools to address anti-Israel sentiments from professors or peers.
We are committed to making every effort to prepare students before they set foot on campus with programs such as The Associated’s Macks Center for Jewish Education-created Israel High, an after-school program in public and private high schools. Funded by the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education, the session empowers students to understand topics such as media bias.
We’ve also begun hosting programs for parents of college-age students so they can be prepared to talk to their kids about what they might encounter.
Anti-Israel movements are counterproductive to the goal of peace for the State of Israel. We must continue to educate ourselves and our children in order to make the case for Israel and continue to stand up to those who oppose her existence.
Shelly Malis and Yehuda Neuberger are co-chairs of Israel and Overseas at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.