By Zahava Fertig
Tuesday, May 31, was a day that will go down in history. Midreshet Shalhevet’s Committee for Israel Action (CIA) student representatives–Zahava Fertig, Rachel Fishbein, and Sarah Austin–accompanied by teacher and club leader Mr. Simcha Bader had the incredible opportunity to be a part of 1,500 pro-Israel activists, students, and representatives of Jewish organizations coming to the United Nations for an international summit to battle the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, the largest gathering to date. “Look around you,” Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told attendees. “This is an historic moment in the UN.”
It was chilling standing in the General Assembly waving Israeli flags and singing Hatikvah not even 70 years after Israel became a state. “I think it’s great just to bring everyone together to talk about this issue,” Rachel Fishbein said. “It’s exciting to have all these people in one room fighting for something important especially in this room. I’m amazed that the UN is allowing this conference to take place here.”
The conference, “Build Bridges not Boycotts,” united over a dozen Jewish organizations such as Stand With Us and CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) to discuss how we can all combat BDS on campuses as well as using law to invalidate BDS arguments.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the opening session via video. In his opening speech, Ambassador Danon said that the BDS phenomenon amounted to “modern-day anti-Semitism,” and that those who wanted to fight it “must unite to reveal its true face and put an end to its ideology of hatred and lies. Together, we will defeat BDS.” Also addressing the General Assembly, speakers included Vice President of the Israeli Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubenstein, Chief Legal Counsel of the American Center for Law Jay Sekulow, and President of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder, to name a few.
During the afternoon, we had the opportunity to hear from a panel of speakers from all over the world and from many different organizations. Each speaker gave ideas and solutions for how we can battle BDS on American college campuses. David Sayble, global CEO of Y&R said, “We need to stop talking to ourselves.” He meant that one of the ways we need to eradicate BDS is by understanding our audience and understanding how to speak in a way that people will listen.
“We were really struck by how many ways the law can be used to combat BDS,” said Sarah Austin. The day was captivating for the students as well as very informative. We really learned how to become active on college campuses in the fight against BDS, a skill we will certainly need in the next few years.