On September 20, Hadassah members attended a parlor meeting at the home of Sharon and Eric Goodman to listen to an update on the activities of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions Movement (BDS). Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) Director Matt Goldberg began with a history of the BDS movement and discussed why the movement is inherently anti-Semitic. He described the tactics used on college campuses and listed businesses that are targeted.
The discussion shifted to advocacy and action that can be taken to combat this anti-Israel movement. On campus, students can look for allies in other minority groups such as African-American and Hispanic groups, and use the common language of civil rights to frame Israel as a place where justice prevails for people of all religions.
Hillel can partner with environmental organizations and promote Israeli sustainability in solar energy and water power. Israeli advances in computers and engineering can entice groups with high tech interests and promote the Start-Up Nation model. LGBT students will appreciate that Israel is a gay-friendly country. The ROTC will connect with the IDF and strong military culture.
Israel advocates can also be proactive by contacting university presidents or promoting travel to Israel for administrators. They can craft anti-BDS legislation and work with student government using the language of academic freedom.
Since the general population often knows very little about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, advocates can become better educated and research facts and information that cannot be disputed. They can also frame Israel as a country with similar values as the United States, such as freedom and democracy and the common goal of fighting terrorism in the world.
Supporting campus organizations that promote Israel can help to counteract anti-Israel student groups. Campus Maccabees, CUFI, Stand With Us, and The David Project are effective organizations that educate and empower students to be thoughtful and persuasive advocates. Israeloncampus.com is a website that can be searched to find out current university status regarding friendliness towards Israel.
The final element of the discussion centered on how to effectively promote pro-Israel sentiment among students before they reach college campuses, and what approach will empower young people to be prepared to engage in thoughtful and rational conversations with their peers. Sylvia Goodman, the hosts’ high school age daughter, made insightful remarks regarding what it feels like to be Jewish in a small community. She also addressed how often adolescents are unprepared to defend not only their religious identity but a global perspective that is often misrepresented and targeted. Training students in high school to be advocates by educating them on Israel and encouraging them to visit Israel to gain knowledge and a personal connection to the land will help when debating sensitive subjects with other college students.
Locally the JCRC monitors pro-Palestinian groups on the Louisville area college campuses. In general, BDS is considered to be vocal but ineffective. As a movement dedicated to the eradication of Israel as a country, it will never achieve support from the mainstream population. It is important to be vigilant, and to promote and support Israel as a sovereign nation and the Jewish homeland.
Hadassah offers educational opportunities to its members through the online seminar series, “Defining Zionism in the 21st Century.” Available at Hadassah.org archives, these seminars include a session on “Zionism and Combating BDS.” Hadassah also offers the Influentials to Israel program, which sends legislators to visit Hadassah projects in Israel and see firsthand the positive work Hadassah performs.