UN aftermath creates ripple effect across campus

Recent events at the United Nations offered pro-Israel students an opportunity to engage fellow students on campus.

November 10, 2011 11:59
4 minute read.
General Assembly

General Assembly. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The recent events at the United Nations offered pro-Israel students an opportunity to watch history unfold in real time: they saw the Palestinian Authority (PA) bring its unilateral bid for independence to New York, and they saw President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu deliver speeches decrying the effort.

Although PA President Abbas' proposal was not submitted for a vote, the events of late September made indelible impressions on many student activists on all side of the debate. Those impressions have fueled extensive campus activities in the aftermath of the UN session. Israel Campus Beat checked in around the country to see how pro-Israel students are building on recent headlines to raise awareness and understanding.

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At Arizona State University (ASU), the pro-Israel Sun Devils for Israel distributed cake under the banner of a “Piece for Peace” as part of their effort to promote the Real Partners. Real Peace campaign for dialogue between responsible partners.

The cake giveaway looked a lot like similar efforts to highlight the need for a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. However, the event spawned a unique discourse between members of Students for Justice in Palestine and Sun Devils for Israel; the two sides partook in dialogue as they tried to understand each other's perspectives.

ICB reporters Sara Macias and Melissa Rauch witnessed the exchange, and they described it as unprecedented for ASU. On a campus where the annual Israel Apartheid Week events invariably include strident attacks on Israel and many pro-Israel events are bombarded with loud anti-Israel rhetoric, this was a positive stride toward respectful interaction.

Other students around the nation have seen similar effects as they seek to raise awareness and promote their pro-Israel organizations and messages.

Crystal London, a junior at Roberts Wesleyan College in Upstate New York, noted that the events at the UN had a ripple effect among the members of her CUFI on Campus group.

“It was imperative to see people walking out (during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech) showing their distaste," she said. "It was very encouraging to see this at the UN”

The UN General Assembly meetings coincided with Roberts' homecoming weekend, and CUFI on Campus members seized the opportunity to educate their peers.

“While we were spray-painting kids' name in Hebrew on t-shirts, we were able to talk to them about what was going on in the UN and to express our support for Israel,” London said.

In the aftermath of the UN debate, Roberts' CUFI group plans to raise its profile even more. At their most recent meeting, late last month, participants used YouTube videos and Facebook posts to assess what transpired at the UN during the General Assembly meetings.

For some students, this was the first time they actually paid close attention to what had been said at the UN When the group heard President Abbas' speech, one of the students in the room, Cameron Duncan, voiced concern. “Does anyone know this even happened?” he asked.

Raising awareness among activists, as well as the general campus community is key to the efforts of all pro-Israel campus groups. At Johns Hopkins University, MZ Grinspoon intern Rebecca Rubenstein described an ongoing effort to focus attention on recent developments.

"We tabled at a high-traffic area on campus, giving out information about Israel and why direct negotiation is the best way to achieve peace," she said, adding that the group gathered more than 100 signatures for the Real Partners. Real Peace petition in two days.

“We also hosted Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, who spoke on the Palestinian UN statehood bid," she continued. "We are continuing to hold events showcasing what Israel has done to achieve peace and what it continues to do.”

Across the country, students are engaging in the subject and developing opinions on the importance of Israeli-Palestinian peace and how to achieve it.

Speaking to ICB, University of Texas, San Antonio (UTSA) senior Hassan Kheleel Barzani endorsed efforts to reach a negotiated settlement based on a two-state solution. As a part of the American-Kurdish community, he said, he can relate to the complexity of the issues: "Kurdistan and Iraq have many problems that Israel and Palestine have in common,“ he said.

Barzani believes that recent events at the UN do not bode well for Israel but he also fears they have negative implications "for the Kurds, the Middle East and America's relationship to other nations worldwide.”

Barzani noted that UTSA's CUFI on Campus group, in which he is active, tailors its programming to the diverse campus community, which includes many Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern students. Plans include organizing an Israel 101 program to raise awareness, a Feast of Tabernacles program, a Night to Honor Israel (with Glen Beck) and more.

As in any national roundup of activity, this account includes a wide and varied range of programs and outcomes. The ripple effect of the UN proceedings continues to play out in different ways in different settings, but the common denominator lies in efforts to raise awareness, inform and foster dialogue.

Israel Campus Beat is the premier student-written online publication providing up-to-date reports and insights on the North American campus Israel scene.  Visit http://www.israelcampusbeat.org/subscribe for the latest Israel trends and events on campus.

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