How can Jewish students fight antisemitism on campus?

"It is clearer than ever that we have a myriad of challenges and that as young activists we are particularly responsible for adapting creative and innovative strategies to confront them."

Temple University campus  (photo credit: FLICKR/BRENDAN O'KANE)
Temple University campus
(photo credit: FLICKR/BRENDAN O'KANE)
In 2020, in a global survey by the Anti-Defamation League of 1 billion people, more than 40% stated that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own countries. It also revealed that 33% of the population believes Jews do not care about what happens to others.
How can we, Jewish students, be expected to find a balance between fighting antisemitism, defending the rights of the Jewish people to self-determination and safety, and criticism of Israeli political actions, when facing an international community with such preconceptions about Jewish allegiances?
It is clearer than ever that we have a myriad of challenges and that as young activists we are particularly responsible for adapting creative and innovative strategies to confront them.
When it comes to Israel, I firmly believe that we must never apologize for defending Israel’s right to exist and self-determine its future. This does not mean that we cannot be critical of specific policies, but at the end of the day, the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora must be a love story. And while all love stories have their highs and lows, they must be built on trust.
This is the love story of a people to its past, present and future.
A Jewish person, wherever they may be, will always have a connection to Israel.
Because of that connection, we, as Jewish students, will almost always be asked to defend  Israel’s actions, and this is undoubtedly a challenging position recognizing that we personally don’t always agree with those positions.
In recent decades, campuses have taken over the United Nations as the place with the most rabid bias against the Jewish state. From one-sided panels, cancel culture activism, boycott movements to fear of and outright aggression toward Jewish students, the space of advocacy for the pro-Israeli student has been transformed into a land mine.
The question then is: How do we change the narrative? How do we get back ownership of the dialogue that concerns Jewish students more than anyone else?
For us at the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS), the answer is quite simple. Take the fight to where it matters most: the safety of our students.
Since 1924, WUJS and its members have worked relentlessly to fight antisemitism and anti-Zionism altogether. Over the last decade, through numerous different actions, following strong and innovative activists, Jewish students have claimed back the space of such topics, allowing our visions and definitions to get into the discussion space, with three parallel tracks.
The first one is coalition building.
The world has gotten used to disregarding minorities. Our history has taught us how dangerous this can be, which is why we encourage Jewish students to stand up and support the smaller groups who may struggle on campuses and outside – both Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
The second one is education.
We often forget that the main role of campuses is to educate. When fake propaganda, biased campaigns, or even one-sided conferences are allowed to take place, silence is not an option. As students, we must find our places inside those rooms, speak and share ideas, force a discussion between two sides. That is the essence of educating. We need not necessarily agree, but we must ensure that we are heard.
The final one is pride.
Never apologize for our pride in being Jewish. Take pride in fighting for the values you care about, from Zionism to racism, antisemitism to climate change. Over the last few years, our student leaders have engaged in dialogue on hundreds of campuses across Europe, Latin America, Australasia, Israel and Africa. As a result of our efforts, numerous universities officially endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliances working definition of antisemitism, a move which we believe will protect Jewish students on campuses against growing threats. Some have even banned BDS as a movement, allowing honest and open debate about Israel in an environment that is fair and free of dangerous biases.
Our message today is that no Jewish student should have to walk against the winds alone. Our unity as a community will continue to fight for the rights and the safety of Jewish students all across the globe.
The writer is president of The World Union of Jewish Students.