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Educate Students to Counter Voices of Hate
"Israeli Apartheid Weeks" are becoming an accepted norm on many college campuses across the nation, during which a series of events staged by anti-Israel activists are held and the Jewish state is equated with the racist regime of apartheid-era South Africa.
Moreover, awareness weeks devoted to Islam are also held in order to "educate" the campus. The problem is that many times these are skewed presentations that teach an alternate reality.
In an effort to counter examples of the above, the pro-Israel community has similarly initiated "Israel Weeks," as well as daylong seminars, devoted to empowering students with the necessary tools to properly advocate for Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
In a combined effort of the Center of Israel and Overseas of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Hillel of Greater Philadelphia and the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia, just such a conference will be taking place at Bryn Mawr College on Sunday, March 25.
It will draw on the six campuses that Hillel of Greater Philadelphia serves, as well as other campuses reaching as far as Lehigh University and the University of Delaware. Keynote speaker will be Charles Krauthammer, winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary and syndicated columnist for The Washington Post.
'Complexities of the Situation'
Andrew Mener, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania and chair of the student committee that helped plan the program, states that the event "will provide students with an understanding of the complexities of Israel's situation from varying perspectives -- all in one day."
The conference will challenge students to think about Israel in a new light and encourage them to ask questions. In fact, the conference agenda has been formulated after careful conversations with student leaders on all the regional campuses, with the explicit goal of providing useful information that speaks to the needs of today's college students.
Unfortunately, opposition is never too far behind and, coincidently or not, three days after this conference wraps up, Norman Finkelstein will be speaking at Bryn Mawr. Finkelstein is a Jew who willingly collaborates with neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites.
In fact, when The New York Times reviewed his book, titled The Holocaust Industry, it described it as "a novel variation on the anti-Semitic forgery, 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.' [The Holocaust Industry] verges on paranoia and would serve anti-Semites around the world."
People like Finkelstein help student campus groups such as "Jews for Justice in Palestine" gain credence as a "Jewish example" of credible criticism of Israel, and so widen the divide within the Jewish community.
Furthermore, such individuals sympathize and support radical Islamist groups like Hezbollah. As Finkelstein has written, "the honorable thing now is to show solidarity with Hezbollah, as the United States and Israel target it for liquidation. Indeed, looking back, my chief regret is that I wasn't even more forceful in publicly defending Hezbollah against terrorist intimidation and attack."
Today, those who are anti-Israel insist that they are not anti-Semitic -- only anti-Zionist. That's the message that Finkelstein helps fuel.
Students must recognize that there is never justice in terrorism. It is unacceptable that some should even speak of eliminating a living and breathing state like Israel.
However, you would be surprised how pervasive such statements have become on campus. These advocates are the ones that should be on the defensive, not those working hard for the good of the Jewish state.
Asaf Romirowsky is the manager of Israel & Middle East Affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.