“Israeli Apartheid Week” is an annual event on many college campuses when radical activists chant Hamas slogans, equate Zionism with colonialism, screen propaganda films against the Jewish state and shout invective about Israelis into microphones.
At Brooklyn College in New York, a flyer for the event was circulated by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) that suggests the entire Jewish state lacks legitimacy: “Come check out our recreation of the apartheid wall set up by settler-state Israel between occupied Palestine and current Palestinian territories,” the flyer says.
“Note carefully the words in the flyer,” says CAMERA Fellow Aliyah Jacobson, who heads the CAMERA on Campus-supported group Bulldogs for Israel at Brooklyn College. “This isn’t about creating a Palestinian state; it’s about abolishing the Jewish state. It assumes the whole land is occupied, which suggests Israel shouldn’t exist at all.”
“What SJP’s really calling for is the elimination of a 70-year-old member country of the United Nations,” said Jacobson.
Jacobson and her campus group believe that “Israeli Apartheid Week” is about “once again reducing Jews to a vulnerable minority position in the Middle East.”
“Given the previous oppression and ethnic cleansing of Jews in the Middle East, and the likelihood this repression would recur, SJP’s message is truly an appalling political position, all hidden beneath the rhetoric of human rights,” she said.
To combat SJP’s anti-Israel campaign, Jacobson’s group held a counter protest on Tuesday.
“There are a number of different approaches to handling IAW on campuses, but we Bulldogs for Israel believe that facing the lies and exposing incredulous support of violence must always be included in the strategy,” said Jacobson.
She and her group said they did not want SJP’s lies to go unanswered. “I would never seek to limit free speech or silence another group, but when their speech is filled with falsehood, I must respond. Free speech is appropriate, but calls for violent intifada aren’t OK, and they can’t be the only voices heard.”
‘Dare to respond’
With CAMERA’s educational materials, Jacobson’s group set up a table and got vocal so that their voices were heard, too.
“Seeing their passion,” said CAMERA campus coordinator Ben Suster, “we overnighted billboards, flyers and panels to them to help. Our materials made sure to highlight Israel actual record compared to Hamas and other authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes.”
Jacobson and her group then displayed the materials in front of the “Students for Justice in Palestine” display. They spoke with students, answered questions and objected to misinformation.
“And our materials and message were simply more effective and informative,” she said. “Brooklyn College students and even some professors came up and encouraged us. The Jewish students were particularly grateful to see us out there, not afraid to speak up for Israel.”
“Yes, there were some heated debates between SJP and our group,” she said. “But I don’t think they got the better of the argument, not by a long shot—and I’m pretty sure those who were listening would agree.”
“Life is a struggle sometimes, and things aren’t always right or in your control,” noted Jacobson. “I chose to combat ‘apartheid week’ with truth and facts, not confrontation.”
Aviva Rosenschein, CAMERA’s international campus director, said: “The lesson here is that you can’t sit back and not respond to SJP’s campaign of lies. When you dare to respond, you can win back hearts and minds on campus. The truth has power.”
“Hopefully, some eyes were opened,” said Jacobson in agreement. “I truly think they were.”