Anti-Israel hatred on campus crests each year during an event called Israel
With this ominous name and programs that thrive on
ignorance and blind disregard for the facts, tens of thousands of college
students are urged to rise up against Israel – painfully evoking the types of
racist characterizations of the Jewish people which defined attitudes once heard
in Europe in the middle of the last century. Warning: this year’s display will
come to a campus near you before the end of February.
initiatives were incubated in 2001 at the first Durban Conference, proclaiming:
“no apartheid South Africa in the 20th century and no apartheid Israel in the
This battle cry sparked the BDS movement calling for boycotts,
divestment and sanctions to punish Israel, and it all evolved into an
invective-loaded campaign that found a degree of favor on campuses coast to
coast, not to mention among some labor unions, churches, media and cultural
institutions. But it is based on a lie.
Typically, those hurling these
charges against Israel hope their audiences are ignorant of the facts. In
apartheid South Africa, blacks were not allowed to use white hospitals, they
could not attend white universities and they could not participate in the South
African parliament. Visit Hadassah Medical Center today, or any other health
facility in Israel, and see Jewish and Arab doctors caring for Jewish and Arab
patients. Witness for yourself at Hebrew University or any institution of higher
learning as Jewish and Arab professors teach students of different backgrounds.
Go to the Knesset, and observe the debates involving both Jewish and Arab
Given this reality, Justice Richard Goldstone, a former
judge on the South African Supreme Court, wrote in The New York Times on October
31, 2011: “The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious
one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.” Goldstone, it
should be remembered, did not have a problem criticizing Israeli policies in the
aftermath of its 2008- 2009 military operation in the Gaza Strip. But when it
came to calling Israel and apartheid state like the old South Africa, with which
he was intimately familiar, he firmly rejected the charge, which was completely
divorced from the reality of modern Israel.
No nation has fought racism
more consistently than the Jewish people, whether through the anti-apartheid
activists in the South African Jewish community or through those American Jews
who joined the civil rights movement and locked arms with Martin Luther King
The Jewish state was founded on the very same moral outlook,
reflecting the Jewish value of “Tikkun Olam,” or repairing the world, which is
deeply held across the Jewish religious spectrum. When Israeli medical teams
rushed to international disaster zones in Turkey (1999), Kosovo (1999), the
Democratic Republic of the Congo (2008), and Haiti (2010), helping the afflicted
regardless of their race or creed, they were driven by the very same core Jewish
Moreover, no group cherishes or champions freedom of speech more
than the Jewish people. But the systematic dissemination of hate-based lies is
not what freedom is about. This crosses the line. No one has a license to lie,
manipulate or manufacture falsehoods. Make no mistake, the primary
characteristics of Israel Apartheid Week programming are terrible, unjustified
charges expressly aimed at demonizing Israel.
allegations, constantly repeated, take a toll on American opinion, despite
bedrock gut-level support for Israel which, thankfully, exists as a strong
counter- force to this mass exercise in propaganda. Studies confirm that when
accurate information about Israeli policies, society and values is provided, the
false arguments are uniformly rejected.
Our most critical challenge is to
educate the young and to begin this process during high school years or earlier
–long before they arrive on college campuses. Our students feel confident and
empowered when they know the facts and can challenge group-think favoring
Israel’s isolation, dismantlement or destruction. We are duty-bound to
engage students in creative, effective ways, through the media they best relate
to: Facebook, Twitter and other Internet communication. We must knock down the
posturing of the IAW agitators, who could not care less about promoting peace or
helping people in the Middle East. Encouraged by foreign governments that do not
share Israel’s commitment to democracy and human rights, they are the purveyors
of hatred, akin to many others who have preceded them.
Here’s the good
news. Friends of Israel are not backing off or ignoring the challenge. Important
new initiatives are already working hard to roll back the hatred. We must spare
no effort to protect full legal rights and freedom of speech for pro-Israel
students on campus. Visual communications which have the power to speak the
truth immediately and graphically are one super-critical tool required for this
Specifically, I conclude with a vitally important call to
action, as easy to do as it is effective: I invite you to watch a film of
monumental importance called Crossing the Line: The Intifada Comes to Campus.
This powerful 30-minute documentary exposes the growing anti-Israel sentiment
taking root on college campuses across North America. Once you understand the
problem, I hope you will join me in my quest to make sure all Jewish students
are educated and empowered with the facts about Israel.
If modern Jewish
history has taught our generation anything, it is that no threat to our
existence should ever be ignored. Generations to come will judge us for what we
do, or do not do, today to secure Israel’s future. I urge you to view Crossing
the Line today – in a group setting or from the comfort of your living room –
and to share it with the high school and university students in your family and
in your community.
The writer is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a former ambassador to the United Nations and a former senior adviser to the prime minister and chair of Step Up For Israel. To find out about a screening of Crossing the Line in your area visit http://www.stepupforisrael.com.