Responding to hate campaign: Pro-Israel students across the United States and Canada have launched a campaign to communicate messages about the Jewish state’s peace efforts, while countering a notorious anti-Israeli initiative, Israel Apartheid Week.
Known as Israel Peace Week, the new campaign is being hosted at nearly 50 North America universities.
The initiative also focuses on existential threats to Israel, and the values and accomplishments of the democratic Jewish state in an otherwise despotic Middle East. The innovative campaign counters an anti-Israel initiative known as Israel Apartheid Week that has been held across university campuses and urban communities since 2005.
Israel Peace Week was conceived of by a group of 5 student leaders – one each from Johns Hopkins University, Boston University, University of Rochester, University of Cincinnati and University of Ottawa – during their participation on the Hasbara Fellowships activism training program in Israel.
The initiative aims to focus on a few basic messages, agreed upon by virtually all members of the pro-Israel movement, and communicate them to the campus community during the week preceding Israel Apartheid Week. The messages highlighted during the campaign include Israel’s desire for peace, the absence of a reliable Palestinian peace partner, and the Jewish state’s spirit as a model of democracy, human rights, and innovation, despite its neighborhood.
Non-Jewish groups offer support
Many of the campuses hosting the IPW campaign this year are elite schools such as Columbia University, Harvard University, Tufts University, Yale University, Emory University, UCLA, Tulane University, and George Washington University.
The movement is primarily student-led, with organizers using a detailed primer that includes messaging, strategies, sample schedules and ideas. Hasbara Fellowships is providing print materials and campaigns, as well as on-the-ground professional support. Other organizations are also lending resources and funds.
While programming varies at each campus, all schools devote at least one day to highlighting Israel’s efforts for peace. One day or program focuses on threats Israel faces – from a nuclear Iran to terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah that ring Israel’s borders.
Finally, many schools are highlighting Israel’s accomplishments “beyond the conflict” – civil liberties and human rights; advancements in hi-tech and eco-innovation; and a commitment to “tikkun olam.” In many instances these events are being co-sponsored by non-Jewish groups on campus with which pro-Israel student leaders have built strong relationships based on shared values. Student leaders have also reached out to campus media to widen their audience.