A year and $72 million later, still nothing

Are the funds to fight BDS in the wrong hands?

By ELISHA LEVY
November 5, 2018 22:15
4 minute read.
Anti-BDS poster

Anti-BDS poster. (photo credit: JWG LTD)

 
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It has been almost a year since Israel budgeted $72 million for anti-BDS projects funded by the government and Jewish donations. These resources were meant to launch a new organization that would oversee the fight against boycott attempts through public diplomacy.

I remember reading the news a year ago. Initially, I felt excited at the prospect that the Israeli government had finally acknowledged the need to tackle BDS. My subsequent reaction, however, was doubt on how the money would actually be used. Would it fall into the right hands or would this money be wasted by people who are, to put it bluntly, well past their sellby date? The task at hand requires more than a middle-aged man with a thick Israeli accent standing in front of multiple classes of bored kids, meticulously plowing through a PowerPoint presentation sharing stories of his time in Lebanon. Gone are the days where it is enough to show an Israeli history movie as the last activity of the week on a late Friday afternoon. These old-school methods have failed to educate the adults of the future on the very basics of Israeli current affairs. We have to do more.

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You may ask why it is important to know all this “stuff” about the Israel/ Palestine conflict. How can we merit the name “Startup Nation” and be so far behind our opposition? As Jews in the Diaspora, we share summer stories and pictures of our trip to the “Holy Land” on Instagram, yet we can’t string together even a few basic answers to fundamental Israel-bashing tactics. It’s a farce. All we can talk about these days is “the rise of antisemitism.”

I don’t claim to hold the cure to the disease, but I can suggest a starting point. There are two elements to this equation. 1) As advocates, we must capitalize on the obsession with technology and understand the short attention span of the new generation. 2) Average Jews in the Diaspora must also be players.

Too many regard Israel education as unnecessary. This begins at Jewish the schools and scales all the way up to the hierarchy of the Israeli government. Just imagine every Jew understanding the reasons why Israel is not an apartheid/ racist state. At the protests and forums within campuses, the emotional plea of the BDS movement would not succeed among groups of people who are proud educated supporters of Israel.

BDS claims take less than a minute to debunk. There is a common misconception that one needs to endure many hours of lectures on the topic and that the debate cannot be handled by just anyone. “You must be trained in advocacy” is a mantra, unfortunately, too often accepted by the Jewish community. We must reject this attitude and shift away from this approach.

Destroying the BDS “movement” can start with a simple challenging of the term “BDS movement.” If it sought to boycott divest and sanction generally, it would fail at the first hurdle – the subject of human rights. The rule when analyzing human rights is to start with the worse cases first. If there were a general international BDS movement truly concerned with human rights, Israel would be somewhere around 196th on its list of priorities. 

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The most difficult task is making the key information accessible to the average Jewish student, positioning them to enjoy the experience. This should not be a difficult experience; it should be enlightening. When I was given the tools to stand my ground, I felt that an awkward cloud was lifted; I was able to be a proud Zionist and fit into any social environment.

This is the opinion of a 23-yearold who has experienced today’s campus environment. Unless the response is enjoyable and delivered at lightning speed, it won’t make the required impact. We live in a generation where you can do almost anything instantly and it’s getting harder to engage people’s attention. This is something students of campuses or recent graduates well understand. 

As an Israeli citizen who is passionate about advocating for Israel, my suggestion is provide the right people with the tools to educate. Create a community of advocates who understand the social climate on the ground in the US and worldwide. Allow us to create change. Make it easier to become an official advocate for the country without going through five years of grueling cadet training, where from what I hear, by the time people come out they are too old and have lost the fire to create change.

The writer, a former IDF soldier and spokesman is an Israel advocate who co-hosts a podcast “Israelawoke” with Hen Mazzig, catering to millennials on campus, focusing on how to fight BDS in today’s campus environment.

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