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March 15, 2013

“So What Are You DOING About it?”… How ADL Counters Anti-Israel Activity on College Campuses

American college campuses continue to be a proving ground for various anti-Israel campaigns, tactics and messages. Last week, our blog reported on several different initiatives we’ve seen recently, including nonbinding Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolutions at the University of California, San Diego, Riverside and Irvine; Israeli Apartheid Week and, of course, university sponsorship of anti-Israel programs.

So what role did ADL play to counter these messages and advocate for Israel?

Outreach to University Administrators: ADL encouraged the Chancellors at Irvine, Riverside and San Diego to speak out against the non-binding divestment resolutions that passed on these campuses and reassure the Jewish and pro-Israel community that the universities intend to follow the UC-wide policy against divestment. The chancellors at all of these schools have commendably done so.

In a few days, Naim Ateek, the director of a “Palestinian Liberation Theology” organization called Sabeel, is scheduled to speak at Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University. Ateek frequently uses Christian imagery to demonize Israel and Zionism, including claims that Israel is engaged in a “crucifixion” campaign against Palestinians. Similarly, he has accused Israel of committing a Holocaust against the Palestinians. His appearances are sponsored by academic departments at the two universities. ADL has communicated to both universities that the school’s sponsorships of Ateek are inappropriate and that the universities should consider hosting pro-Israel speakers as well.

In the past few months, ADL staff has also met with high-level administrators at a variety of campuses to talk about how Jewish students experience anti-Israel activity on campus. We have brainstormed with them about ways to make the college campus a true “marketplace of ideas” where all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are adequately represented. Over the past 100 years, ADL has developed a reputation as an honest and credible voice for the Jewish community. ADL is therefore uniquely positioned to educate university officials about the Jewish and pro-Israel community’s perspective and encourage them to speak out against extreme anti-Israel activity and anti-Semitism.

Expressions against Divestment: ADL responded to a non-binding Associated Students Council resolution urging divestment at the University of California, San Diego, by submitting a statement against divestment to the student senators considering the resolution. The statement, read during the public discussion on the resolution, described how BDS doesn’t advance the cause of peace because it “deepens the divisions between Israelis and Palestinians” and places all the blame for the conflict on Israel. The statement also warned that the resolution targeted companies that help Israel better protect its citizens and that a call for divestment would illustrate the UCSD students’ lack of commitment to Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense.

Exposing and Educating: In this week’s edition of J., a Bay Area-based newspaper, the regional director of ADL’s Central Pacific office contributed an op-ed about how the three stated goals of the BDS movement demonstrate that the movement’s objective is to isolate Israel, not create the conditions for peace. ADL regularly exposes anti-Israel activity through op-eds, as well as our blog, website and other platforms.

Training Students: In San Diego, ADL runs a program called I-Pitch for Israel which helps train pro-Israel students on campus to lobby against divestment and other anti-Israel campaigns. Training also includes information about free speech rights and the myths and facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Several I-Pitch participants spoke out against divestment at the public discussion as well.

As anti-Israel campaigns continue to play out on college campuses across the country, ADL will stand with our partners in the local Jewish communities and with students to counter these initiatives and advocate on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people. Do you have any other ideas for responding to anti-Israel activity? Use the space below to let us know!

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November 14, 2012

Non-Binding Student Divestment Resolution Passes at UC Irvine

The student senate at the University of California, Irvine, passed a non-binding resolution last night calling for divestment from several companies that do business with Israel. The resolution, titled “Divestment from Companies that Profit from Apartheid,” requires the approval of the student government’s executive board before it may be sent to the administration for their consideration.

The resolution includes companies that have long been targeted by the anti-Israel divestment campaign, including General Electric, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar. It also includes lesser known companies, however, like Cement Roadstones Holding which sells cement to Israel, as well as Raytheon, a defense technology company. Raytheon recently partnered with an Israeli company to build the highly successful Iron Dome system that intercepts incoming rockets from Gaza.

Despite the passage of the resolution, the University of California system already has a clear policy against divestment.  In 2010, when the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at UC Berkeley put forth a divestment resolution, the UC board and President Mark Yudof issued a statement saying that the board would only support a divestment resolution “when the United States government declares that a foreign regime is committing acts of genocide.” The statement added, “The U.S. has not made any declaration regarding the State of Israel and, therefore, we will not bring a recommendation before the Board to divest from companies doing business with the State of Israel.” The statement also noted that the resolution’s sole focus on Israel “greatly disturbs us.”

Last night’s vote took place with what appears to have been deliberate secrecy and little fanfare. A Web site and fan pages on Facebook and Twitter with the handle “Irvine Divest” were all set up less than 72 hours before the vote. It seems not many were aware that the vote was taking place until after it had occurred.

Jewish Voice for Peace, the largest Jewish anti-Zionist organization in the U.S., attended the meeting, according to reports on social media. Supporting boycott and divestment initiatives across the country has become one of JVP’s primary missions. The group has sent representatives to advocate for divestment on several college campuses in the past few years. JVP also delivered speeches at two church conferences over the summer where the organizations had been considering divestment. A Los Angeles organizer for JVP, Estee Chandler, even blogged about her experience watching the events of last night unfold and described the vote as “historic.”

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June 7, 2012

Anti-Israel Group Increases Outreach to High School Students

American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a Chicago-based anti-Israel organization, is planning to host a joint conference on “Palestine activism” with the High School Muslim Student Association of Southern California (HSMSA), an inter-high school network of Muslim student organizations.

The conference is scheduled to take place on June 24 at the University of California, Irvine, a center for virulently anti-Israel campus activity in recent years. It is part of AMP’s 7th annual campaign to commemorate the “Nakba,” an Arabic term that means “catastrophe” and is used by Palestinians and their supporters to describe Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

AMP organizers say the conference is designed to help “train high school, college, and non-student activists on issues pertinent to Palestine activism.” The list of speakers invited to “educate” students on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict include several anti-Israel activists known for their use of rhetoric to delegitimize Israel.

Speakers include Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada blog; Taher Herzallah, AMP’s National Campus Coordinator and one of the 11 students arrested for shouting down Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren during a 2010 speech at UC Irvine; and Osama Abu Irshaid, an AMP board member who has previously expressed support for Hezbollah and conspiratorially alleged that the U.S. government makes decisions based on the “influential Jewish community.”

AMP targeted high school students earlier this year when it held its first high school training session in Villa Park, Illinois. The workshop was similarly organized to the upcoming conference at UC Irvine and included workshops on subjects such as the Islamic significance of Palestine, activism, and how to utilize the media.

This year’s AMP Nakba campaign consists primarily of educational and training sessions designed to “raise awareness about the occupation” and to “help bring justice and liberty to the Holy Land.” These events will be held throughout the month of June across the Southern California region, which include the cities of Hawthorne, Corona-Narco, Anaheim, Temecula, and Lomita.

AMP has increasingly made an effort to engage in facilitating student activism on college campuses and high schools nationwide. The importance of encouraging AMP’s presence among students was the central theme of the organization’s 2011 national conference, where a number of sessions were dedicated to how students can discuss the issue of Palestine in schools and on campuses. AMP’s concerted effort to engage with students has led to increased collaboration with on campus anti-Israel groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

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