Monday, September 02, 2019

  • Monday, September 02, 2019
  • Elder of Ziyon
(parts 1 and 2)

Advice for Pro-Israel Students

If you cannot stand being unpopular or if your priority is to participate in social justice causes with groups who are hostile to Israel supporters then don't get involved in pro-Israel advocacy and hide your pro-Israel sympathies. This may seem like a contrarian advice, but not every student has the stomach for facing haters and not everyone wishes to invite tsuris for supporting those who do. Many Jewish students are in college to learn and to get a degree. Nothing's wrong with that. On most campuses, Jewish students who do not express pro-Israel sentiments publicly are not going to be harassed. Not yet, anyway. If this applies to you, sorry for having wasted your time, please skip the rest. Otherwise, read on...

- Find a support system on campus. Forget Hillel, which on many campuses is at best wishy washy, catering to everyone, including J Street U and, at worst, is an "Open" Hillel that is actively anti-Israel. Instead seek out Chabad or a strong pro-Israel student organization like Students Supporting Israel (SSI). Don't try to confront bigots alone.

-·         When confronted by anti-Israel students, ascertain whether they are good faith interlocutors or propagandists with closed minds before engaging in a discussion. Ask why they believe in what they believe. Ask where they learned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ask whether they are willing to consider opposing fact-based arguments. Ask what information, if any, would change their minds. Challenge the sources of their beliefs if they were acquired from biased media, from Arab propaganda speakers or from websites like Al Jazeera and Electronic Intifada or from anti-Israel organizations, including the Jewish ones; it is quite possible that fair-minded students have been misinformed. However, if the anti-Israel students do not appear to be open minded, if they cannot articulate what would change their opinion, then no productive conversation is possible. Label them as Jew haters either publicly or in your mind and don't waste your time on engaging them.

The brave students of Columbia University's chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) 
Win hearts and minds by appealing to emotions first. The traditional advice to rely on knowledge and reason does not work well. Until the hearts are won the minds are closed and unprepared for the required intellectual heavy lifting. The anti-Israel brigade has understood a long time ago that when appealing to the indecisive you are engaging in psychological warfare rather than in a dry academic debate. Try either to earn sympathy or to undermine the sympathy for the other side before marshalling facts and logical arguments. Don't be afraid to offend. Unless you engage on an emotional level you will not earn respect and love. As Elie Wiesel had said, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." The only way to influence the "followers" is to make following the other side appear unacceptable or at least uncool.

·         And if you are really ready for a fight then fight fire with fire. You cannot win with exclusively defensive tactics or positive—but unfortunately often tone deaf—messages when the other side is hurling endless fake accusations. During the annual antisemitic hate fest at Columbia known as Israeli Apartheid Week, I have seen pro-Israel students extolling Israel's technological advances while the other side hysterically yells false accusations that Israeli Army is killing babies with sophisticated missiles and indiscriminately burning civilians alive with white phosphorus incendiary bombs. It is hard to imagine a more tone deaf pro-Israel advocacy! Do you think that this example is atypical, extreme or absurd? Consider the recent article "Letter to Rashida Tlaib: Join Us for a Day in Israel" where "the author, an entrepreneur from California and a Zionist activist" invited[1] antisemitic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to "visit the future site of a world-class Culinary Institute in the north of Israel that will be the finest in the Middle East. It will bring people of all walks of life and religions together through a love for food." How does an invitation to a hoity-toity culinary school sound when juxtaposed against fake claims that the Palestinians are systemically starved to death in their "open air prison" while Israel is stealing their water? These are just awful, tone-deaf optics. And to what end? Would a high class cooking establishment convert unsympathetic bystanders or a staunch antisemite like Rashida Tlaib, who believes that her grandmother was dispossessed? We are conditioned to believe that we need to be the mature ones, the moderate ones, the reasonable ones. This may work fine in a controlled debate setting with fair and open minded opponents of good intentions. But it does not work in a street fight, which is what Israel advocacy has unfortunately become on campus. Do not be afraid to call out BDS supporters as genocidal terrorists, for they are not afraid of calling you "Nazis", "colonizers", "baby killers" and worse. And if you think that this is not the way to go, ask yourself why the anti-Israel climate on campus is getting worse and worse and why the anti-Israel sentiment appears to be gaining influence and popularity if the anti-Israel brigade is using all the "wrong" tactics? Ask yourself, do you prefer to win or to be a gracious loser?

·         Relentlessly expose and ridicule propaganda lies. Don't shy away from portraying the other side as bigots and haters who lie about their goals (they say that they are for human rights but want nothing short of destruction of Israel and death or the Jews) and methods (they pretend that they are want a dialogue but when approached refuse claiming "non-normalization" BDS policy).

·         Tirelessly call out inherent contradictions of intersectionality, specifically the underlying cynicism and illogic of the unholy alliance between Islamists and progressives. Don't shy away from pointing out that unlike Israel, the Arab and Muslim states are illiberal dictatorships headed by kleptocratic and despotic tyrants who massacre their own people (as is the case in Syria) and deny routinely them rights, where gays are persecuted and hung from cranes, black slavery exists to this day, women have no rights and are forced to wear hijabs, burkas and undergo barbaric FGM rituals, freedom of expression is forbidden and dissenters are hurled off the rooftops, freedom of religion is non-existent and medieval blasphemy laws are still applied, Christians, Yazidis, Jews, Kurds, Assyrians and other ethnic and religious minorities are slaughtered by genocidal Islamist maniacs, cradle-to-grave indoctrination starts in kindergartens and antisemitic sentiments are expressed by over 90% of the population, etc. Demand to know how can any liberal person support this? Attack, attack, and attack because their position is intellectually indefensible.

An excerpt of Amanda Berman formerly of The Lawfare Project explaining the importance of filing Title VI complaints during WZO-AZM Law and Policy Symposium: Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism Challenges on the American Campus Today. (The symposium is well worth watching in its entirety; the link to watch from the beginning is here).

·         Another and even more powerful option is to file a complaint against the school with the Office of Civil Rights. This is the ultimate weapon! The Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos, who recently participated in the Justice Department's "Summit on Combatting Anti-Semitism" (well worth watching: part1part2part3) and the Office of Civil Rights under the leadership of Kenneth Marcus have been actively investigating schools for Title VI violations. However, in the recent interview "At US Department of Education, Kenneth Marcus tackles anti-Semitism in all its varied forms" Kenneth Marcus stated, "So I would say that the No. 1 issue is the cases we don’t get. The fact that we are aware anecdotally and through survey data that there are many Jewish students [who] feel they are experiencing anti-Semitism, and yet very few of them are submitting complaints to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). One of the issues for us is awareness..." If you really want to bring change to your school and move the needle, this is what you should do! This is the single most effective thing you can do to fight antisemitism on campus. A number of organizations such as The Lawfare Project and Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law are there to help.

Advice for the Parents of Pro-Israel Students

First, realize that academia has been poisoned against Israel and that Jews are treated differently from every other marginalized group on campus. Not only are anti-Israel views promulgated by the very professors that you hope will educate your children, but such professors may damage your child's prospects. The student body is hostile to Israel and is infiltrated by professional anti-Israel agitators (can anyone believe that this slick 66-page BDS presentation was actually developed by students?) who are sponsored by deep-pocketed anti-Israel organizations. And the administration that is supposed to ensure fairness and compliance with Title VI is, at best, ineffective. It hides behind the excuses of "academic freedom" and "free speech." Yet we all know that similarly bigoted vitriol directed towards any other marginalized group on campus would end the career of anyone who says or does a fraction of what is directed against Israel and Jews. At worst, administrations actively encourage and participate in such anti-Israel behavior.

The uncomfortable truth is that the pro-Israel students are too few and lack the power to change the climate on campus. The pro-Israel faculty are also outnumbered and powerless despite valiant efforts. Hillel and most other Jewish organizations on campus are afraid to antagonize the administration and their donors on whom they depend. These three groups have too much to lose. The alumni have no agency on campus and, therefore, no influence, except for those who donate millions but they are only interested in having buildings named after them. Moreover, students and academics often work separately; their aversion to combine efforts renders them even less effective (for instance, even as a leader of Columbia's chapter of ACF my request to attend an AEN conference was declined because I am not an academic). To hope that the school administration will step in is like hoping that the inmates can run an asylum; every attempt at self-policing has failed. The Jewish mainstream organizations are too busy with infighting, competing for funding and worrying about their organization's brand to be effective; when they do get involved, with few exceptions, they are too timid and insist on fighting with white gloves on.

Furthermore, trying to cover every school under the sun in a reactive whack-a-mole mode is a losing strategy because it spreads our resources too thinly and fails to apply sufficient pressure anywhere. Instead, the pro-Israel organizations should focus all their combined resources on a few influential schools with well-known antisemitism history. It is better to have a few successes than a lot of failures. Making a warning example of a few school by applying maximum and unrelenting pressure to them is a more effective deterrent. It is a provent strategy under resource constraints that is successfully used by the IRS to prevent tax evasion and by the SEC to curb insider trading.

So what is a parent or an alumni to do? Based on my experience the only effective options that remain are:

·         Help create legal pressure on the schools and demand government scrutiny of the school. Work with students, other alumni and pro-Israel community to bring lawsuits or to attract government scrutiny to the school with highly Zionophobic campuses.

·         Stop donations and do so with maximum publicly! But be aware that for a large and well-endowed school like the ones in the Ivy League, it will work if you are a huge donor only and/or if you can influence other huge donors.

This may sound grim but it is an honest assessment. And we cannot hope to start winning if we continue deluding ourselves that the same old techniques that failed thus far will suddenly work.

 This was written before Congresswoman Tlaib was denied entry to Israel.

For more information about Zionophobia in academia and specifically at Columbia University and Barnard College, please visit

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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