Jerusalem U documentary explores anti-Semitism on US campuses

One thing that many students repeatedly stressed in the film is that most of the time on campus, everything is fine.

Poster from  Crossing the Line 2 (photo credit: PR)
Poster from Crossing the Line 2
(photo credit: PR)
NEW YORK – College is hard.
Between classes, student loans, parties and extracurricular obligations, who has time to recognize that there’s a systematic and widespread campaign on college campuses to demonize Israel and promote a generation of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) supporters? This is what the producers of Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus had in mind when they collaborated with Jerusalem U to make a follow-up to 2010’s Crossing the Line, which also tackled the portrayal of Israel on US campuses, but was in need of an update, the makers said.
“Over the past five years, there’s been new and more sophisticated and aggressive strategies,” said Raphael Shore, the film’s producer. “The problem has increased, and we felt it was necessary to update and show what’s happening.”
“There’s a variety of new tactics that didn’t exist five years ago,” said Shoshana Palatnik, who directed the film, pointing to the growing BDS movement, groups like Students for Justice in Palestine becoming more organized and opening new chapters, events like Israel Apartheid Week launching, and the general growth of social media which has contributed to what seems to be a proliferation of anti-Israel activity.
The ultimate goal, said Palatnik, is both to reach out to parents and school leaders, and to the students who are in the “middle ground” – who might be apathetic, or who don’t realize that if they want to speak out, resources are available.
“We want them to be able to recognize anti-Semitism,” said Palatnik.
“There is room for legitimate criticism of Israel, but one has to be able to define and recognize when the line is crossed, and that’s what the film is trying to do on an educational level.”
One challenge in making the film was finding Jewish college students who exist in this middle ground who were willing to speak publicly. Usually these are the ones who try to make as few waves as possible. Palatnik said she insisted on finding these moderate voices to avoid making the film too extreme.
One thing that many students repeatedly stressed in the film is that most of the time on campus, everything is fine.
“One of the things we stressed in the film is the idea that campuses are still a safe place for a Jewish person,” Shore said, adding, “I found that even if there were students who did support Israel, they were hesitant to go on the record because of the potential for backlash or criticism.”
“We’re not making this into a fearful situation,” Palatnik added. “A lot of students said, ‘I just want to emphasize that usually everything is fine.’ But at times with high pressure, students feel intimidated.”
“We’re so impressed by the ones who do stand up,” said Shore. “They’re a rare breed in the face of all this intimidation.”
The film also features two students from Ohio University, who were among a group of four who were arrested last fall for speaking out at a student senate meeting against the student senate president, who had participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by pouring “blood” – a mix of tomato juice, water and red paint – on herself and calling for OU to divest from Israel.
“As soon as I read about this, I said we have to interview them,” Palatnik said.
The half-hour documentary premiered in New York on February 25 and was posted on online for free on the same day. Shore also said Jerusalem U is aiming to hold a “couple hundred” screening events for Crossing The Line 2 throughout 2015.
As of this writing it has received close to 31,000 views on Youtube.