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For the most part, last year was a good year for the pro-Israel camp. BDS fails galore. And yet it was a terrible year for Israel on college campuses. Besides the academic boycott, there was the University of Michigan mock evictions as well as the continued activity of a Palestinian student organization president threatening the lives of Israelis with impunity. In fact, college campuses seem to be the only place where BDS has actually gained any traction.
So as we enter another Israel Apartheid Week, we need to examine what we in the pro-Israel camp can be doing to promote the just side, since there are clearly forces at work to undermine our efforts. Unfortunately, the greatest threats are coming from within, from students who are being seriously misguided by what they believe is their own free thinking but that is clearly coming from somewhere else.
Possibly one of the biggest threats is coming from J Street U, the university branch of J Street. The way they are presenting themselves is an organic movement of students who want to promote peace and the two state solution. J Street U president Jacob Plitman cites the Vassar “Open Hillel” case to argue for more student involvement, which he believes is representative of greater Jewish sentiment. He calls for Hillel to be “donor-backed and student-led.”
Well, just follow the money and you’ll see exactly where that will get us. J Street U is being financed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, an extreme leftist non-Jewish philanthropic organization. The accusation Plitman makes that Hillel is being corrupted by donor money can easily be thrown back at him. To say J Street U is a purely organic student movement is laughable.
It’s true Jewish students are not hearing both sides of the story. Most Jewish students are public school raised and go to secular universities. As a recovering Social Studies teacher of seven years I can testify to how skewed the curriculum is against Israel. It requires a whole article by itself. Hillel does not represent the strongest pro-Israel opinion, but on many college campuses it’s all Jewish students have. Every other message they will receive is patently anti-Israel. The only way for Jewish students to hear both sides of the story is for Hillel to stand strong on their policy.