While the Gaza regime launched more than 200 aerial attacks against the civilian population of South Western Israel, the CAMERA organization invited me to brief campuses in North America in my capacity as the Director of the Sderot Media Center for the Western Negev, giving a first-hand account of the continuing war on Sderot and the Western Negev.
As of this 6th campus speaking tour, I have addressed more than 100 campuses in the United States, Canada, the UK, Norway, South Africa, and Australia. However, this was the first time that I was exposed to ''J Street'' on campus and witnessed the popularity it has gained with Jewish students in its efforts to denigrate and delegitimize Israel with the help of other anti-Israel campus activists.
A case in point: SMC always examines the war against Israel in the context of the official Palestinian Authority curriculum in the UNRWA camps of Gaza. At every level, a major component of this curriculum denies the fundamental right of Israel to exist.
Instead of addressing this serious problem, J Street has been campaigning on campuses to stymie US Congressional efforts to condemn this Palestinian education that guarantees there will never be a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
J Street seems to have no problem with the official curriculum of the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, where every Palestinian school child learns that all areas of the Western Negev are occupied territory and deserve to be attacked. Palestinian school children learn that Sderot is Najid, that Ashelon is Majdal, that Ashdod is Isdud, and that Beer Sheba is Beer As Seeba – the names of their villages before the Arab League invaded the new State of Israel in 1948. This is the distorted and historically inaccurate curriculum that J Street wants to continue.
J Street has mobilized an enormous campaign to stop efforts aimed at curtailing this education for war. They refuse to address the fact that PA and UNRWA schools are constructed with US taxpayers'' funds through USAID (United States Agency for International Development). This means that J Street is in favor of continuing the curriculum teaching young Arabs that the State of Israel has no right to exist.
J Street managed to get a superficial kind of credibility at the Universities with the appearance of former Israeli Intelligence chief Ami Ayalon, who now speaks on behalf of J Street on American campuses.
Ayalon, echoing J Street and the PA, offers the simplistic solution that there will be peace if only Israel were to get rid of Jewish communities in Judea and the Shomron and allow an independent Arab foothold in Jerusalem.
SMC also saw another new threat from Jewish students on campus known as BDS (Boycott-Divest-Sanction) that supports boycott against Israeli goods, adding fuel to the fire of delegitimization that are already turned against Israel.
With J Street and BDS constantly in their face, many Jewish students are overwhelmed and prevented from even thinking about an objective examination of the facts. As many others have pointed out, college campuses these days more and more remind us of what took place on college and university campuses in Europe during the 1930s. Those who''ve studied this difficult period of Jewish life have every reason to be alarmed.
Another case in point: A few months ago, Michigan State University hosted a program called "I heart Hamas." Apparently this campaign left an impression on students there. During my presentation at the same University, sponsored by the ZOA, on how children of Sderot have suffered traumatic stress under the Hamas attacks from Gaza, a J Street student said that, in his opinion, Hamas turned to terror only because of Israel''s naval blockade of the Gaza coast. According to this student, only Israel is to blame for Gaza terror.
Does this student realize the magnitude of Israel''s security challenges on its border and that no other democracy in the world is fighting terrorism on their own borders?
Does this student understand what it means when a terrorist hides among women and children when he fires rockets from behind the cowardly human shield of the civilian population in Gaza?
Has this student read the Hamas Charter, which explicitly calls for not only the destruction of the State of Israel, but the destruction of the Jewish people?
One can feel very hopeless speaking on campus today, trying to educate even the Jewish student public on the roots of the problem. Getting students to pay attention to anything can be a difficult problem, but the situation is made worse by the torrent of misleading reports coming from the mainstream media.
The world''s major media outlets put a disproportionate focus on the people of Gaza, as if the Hamas regime is the underdog. It seems that most reporters and analysts specialize in producing inaccurate and incomplete accounts of the situation in Gaza.
This unbalanced reporting is so pervasive that it has brought about a strange situation where those who are otherwise well informed are totally unaware of even the simplest facts about Israel and Gaza. Most people have no idea about the sobering reality that, in the past decade, rockets and missiles have been intentionally fired - non-stop - towards civilian populations.
Yet there was a silver lining to this trip.
A successful Israel advocacy campaign was conducted for the first time at the University of California at Irvine, one of the most anti-Israel campuses in North America. At UC Irvine, a program created by the David project and the campus Hillel associated with the ''Israeli fellow'' Itizk Yarkoni (Who worked at the Sderot Media Center for two years) focuses students'' attention on how to respond to the increasingly hostile anti-Israel campus organizations. In this program, students learn how to respond to Israel''s critics with facts, using the social media tools necessary in today''s world to stand up and speak out against those who seek to delegitimize Israel.
SMC intends to do everything possible to help expand projects such as the one at UC Irvine. We believe that widespread education and communications efforts can bring about meaningful change.