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American and Israeli flags.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Turning against fellow pro-Israel advocates
By LISA ARMONY
05/13/2015
"We reject the claims in the article that we told people to stop waving Israeli flags at anti-Israel protesters, claiming that we accept anti-Jewish discrimination on campus..."
The false accusations made against Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS), Orange County, its president and CEO, Shalom Elcott, and myself in a recent FrontPage online magazine article that were repeated in The Jerusalem Post (‘Column one: Siding with the victims of aggression,’ May 8) were taken directly from a biased blog that did not report the facts. In the online media world, blogs can appear as legitimate journalism, even when bloggers disregard basic journalistic standards of fairness, balance and accuracy.

The accusation that we interfered with a Yom Ha’atzmaut [Independence Day] celebration at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) on behalf of anti-Israel protesters is based solely on a recent piece from the online FrontPage magazine. The blogger relied primarily on unnamed sources and unsubstantiated assertions to paint a misleading picture of the festival, JFFS, and Elcott’s and my activities.

We reject the claims in the article that we told people to stop waving Israeli flags at anti-Israel protesters, claiming that we accept anti-Jewish discrimination on campus and “stand with the (anti-Israel) aggressor against the (Jewish) victim.”

The pro-Israel bona fides of JFFS’ Rose Project are beyond question.

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Since 2008, the Rose Project has provided nearly $1 million to UCI and other students to learn about Israel and to gain leadership and advocacy skills. We stand at the forefront of reducing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity at UCI – a campus lauded by Israeli officials as the model for countering anti-Israel activity and producing constructive relationships. We are critical to UCI’s ongoing engagement with Israel, including the signing of more than a dozen academic agreements with Israeli universities and the routine hosting of visiting Israeli faculty. We work persistently to fight BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) on the student and faculty levels, and were integral to the defeat of several recent BDS resolutions.

The Rose Project has also provided significant funding for the leadership development of nearly every student board member of the campus pro-Israel group since its inception, and for its pro-Israel programming.

Years of experience in dealing with hostile, anti-Israel activity on college campuses has taught us several best practices. Among these, we have learned that counter protests at student events by non-student, adult members of the community are counter-productive to our efforts to build support for Israel on campus. In fact, they do little more than leave a mess behind for Jewish students to deal with among their peers after the non-students go home. That’s not to say, as Glick professes, that we “stand with the aggressor against the victim.”

Rather, as professionals who have long dealt with these matters, we have experienced tremendous success in tamping down anti-Israel hostility by implementing proven, effective strategies, rather than knee-jerk, feel-good reactions that may give a short-term emotional high but cause significant and lasting damage.

How tragic that while Israel’s legitimacy is under serious threat, some who think themselves at the forefront of Israel activism turn against fellow pro-Israel advocates with whom they disagree tactically. The bigger issue, in my view, to keep in mind is that no matter how many student government resolutions we defeat (only to have them reappear), how many demonstrations or programs we sponsor, or how much we try to legislate away delegitimization, we are collectively losing ground, particularly among the next generation.

Despite countless organizations set up to fight BDS, and the millions of dollars poured into supporting their efforts, no one has yet to find definitive solutions for defeating this poisonous, mendacious, global movement.

And we are very frustrated about that. How sad it is that rather than channel our frustration, and our collective passion, into bridging our differences in the interest of protecting our beloved homeland, some continue to rail against those who sit with them inside the tent.

The Jewish people have already borne the catastrophic consequences of turning against each other. One can only hope that we learn the lesson of our past before it is too late.

The author is the director of the Rose Project of Jewish Federation & Family Services and executive director of the Hillel Foundation of Orange County.
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