LOS ANGELES – Among the negative fallout around the world following Operation Protective Edge this summer has been an uptick in anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment on college campuses across the United States.
In California, several colleges prepared for anti-Israel events in the lead up to Rosh Hashana.
The strongest, best organized anti-Israel campaign took place at the University of California Berkeley in Northern California on September 23, the day before Rosh Hashanah Eve.
Dubbed, the ‘Day of Action,’ it was organized nationally by American Muslims for Palestine and seven American professors, two of whom are professors at Berkeley. The Berkeley ‘Day of Action’ included four groups: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the Muslim Student Association, the Pakistani Student Association, and the Afghan Student Association.
One of those professors is Hatem Bazian, a professor of Arabic in UC Berkeley’s Department of Near Eastern Studies.
On his Facebook page he lists the Day of Action activities as follows: “International Day of Action on College Campuses “Free Palestine and End the Siege on Gaza “A call for activists and organizations on campuses across the world to organize massive protests on every college and university campus. Make Free Palestine and Ending the Siege on Gaza part of campus education by holding teach-ins, rallies, set-ins, civil disobedience, and push for BDS activities.
“No to Academic Complicity with Israeli Occupation
“No to Study Abroad Programs in Israel
“No Investments in Apartheid and Occupation Supporting Companies
“No to University Presidents’ Visits to Israel
“No Campus Police Training or Cooperation with Israeli Security
“No Joint Research or Conferences with Israeli Institutions
“No Cooperation with Hasbara Networks on College Campuses
“No to Targeting Faculty for Speaking Against Israeli Crimes
“No to Administrative Limits on Free Speech Rights of Palestine Activists
“No to University Coordination and Strategizing with the ADL, JCRC, AJC, Stand With US, ZOA, Israeli Consulate to Limit Students Pro-Palestine Constitutionally Protected Activities.
“Free Palestine, End the Siege on Gaza and Build the Movement on Your Campus!”
Twenty-year-old Michaela Fried is a third-year student studying economics at UC Berkeley. She is also the president of Tikvah – the Zionist organization on campus. She told The Jerusalem Post
that Bazian’s political views and actions have “made his classes very uncomfortable and hostile for Jewish students. It’s apparent that he influences other faculty and students in his department, which creates an overall uncomfortable atmosphere for Jewish or pro-Israel students in the Department of Near Eastern Studies.”
In an effort to combat the anti-Israel sentiment on campus, Fried was one of the authors of a recent bill asking the student government to support the free flow of ideas and academic collaboration with Israel. However, the bill never made it past the external committee.
Over at California State Polytechnic University Pomona in Southern California, 22-yearold, Israeli-born Doron Feuer (who moved to the States when he was eight) is an industrial engineering student. He was instrumental in reorganizing Hillel on campus and he is currently starting up the university’s first official Israel advocacy group – Broncos for Israel (www.facebook.com/BroncosForIsrael).
Feuer told the Post the idea arose from the post-Protective Edge backlash. “We realized that a lot of the focus [would] be on the Palestinian plight and the disproportionate number of casualties, so we decided that, rather than avoiding the topic and trying to talk only about positive things that Israel does… we wanted to really try and show that it’s not a conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but one between Israel and terrorists. Furthermore, Hamas is not good for the Palestinians, and once people start to realize that, maybe we can have productive conversations, rather than BDS campaigns that tear our campuses apart.”
Eytan Davidovits is the president of Bruins for Israel at the University of California Los Angeles, and Jeremy Ginsberg is the president of Gauchos United for Israel at the University of California Santa Barbara. Neither school resumes classes until October 2. But while they won’t have to confront the ‘Day of Action’ protests, both organizations are very busy throughout the year dealing with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish backlashes.
Davidovits, a senior studying economics at UCLA, said the Jewish student body has tried to be as proactive as possible.
“At the beginning of last year, a resolution was brought forth by Avi Oved that aimed to invest in Israeli peace initiatives. Even though this ultimately failed, it set the stage for the upcoming year. We also organized the West Coast student conference that brought together the boards of pro-Israel groups around California to help put together a more organized front.”
At UCSB, Ginsberg, 20, who is studying for a double bachelor of arts in history and global studies, said Gauchos United for Israel hosts pro-Israel speakers and counters anti Israel activity, as well as hosting Israeli events and celebrations. “And we ensure Israel is given a fair shot in our college newspaper,” he said.
At UC Berkeley, Fried said, “While we often take part in counter-protests and demonstrations, it has been the vision of Tikvah that we focus on the Zionist education and Jewish identity of Jews at Berkeley. We believe that pro-Israel activism is not effective unless our activists truly realize their connection to the Jewish people and the connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.”
And at Cal Poly Pomona Feuer says “[Jews on campus] are in a unique situation where there is a decent-sized anti-Israel population on campus, but they are fairly disorganized and inactive except for once or twice a year. We are using this to our advantage by trying to really connect with as many people as we can before they get organized and turn our campus into something we don’t want to see.”
All four representatives also spoke openly about what it’s like to be a Jewish student on campus these days. “For me, these hateful trends are empowering,” Feuer said. “[It’s bringing our students together and uniting us in ways that we couldn’t have done in any other way. We saw the same effect this summer when all of Israel was united during Protective Edge. For better or worse, these things make us band together and stand up for ourselves.”