This week marks a substantial change in the overall tone on campus with regards to attitudes towards Israel with Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), arguably the worst week of the year on campus for Jewish students, about to take place. The week will bring out visible tensions and divisions on university campuses, creating feelings of widespread discomfort and uncertainty for Jewish students.
IAW is an annual week-long sequence of lectures and rallies set against the Israeli “occupation” of Gaza and the West Bank. Its mandate states “the aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.”
IAW began in Toronto in 2005 and has since spread to far too many campuses across Canada and around the world. The BDS movement exists to delegitimize Israel. It is a global campaign with the shortsighted aim of placing economic and political pressure on Israel in hopes the State of Israel will comply with the goals of the movement.
What BDS means is that there will be some students outwardly attempting to convince others to boycott Israeli goods. How can we ever forget, for example, last year’s episode when a group of students tried – and failed – to ban the sale of Sabra hummus on campus? IAW predictably brings hateful rhetoric aimed at discrediting Israel as a legitimate and moral state.
There are many ways to get involved in combating IAW’s aims and the BDS movement. Education is the key when it comes to combating anti-Israel rhetoric on campus, as knowledge is crucial to the confidence and authenticity required to address these issues.
The Israel Awareness Committee holds various events that help educate students on all things Israel, fostering confidence and pride. It is a non-denominational group that encourages debate, discussion and dialogue about Israeli society, culture and politics. The committee represents a wide range of political views and backgrounds, and its events are held throughout the school year.
There are programs like Birthright Israel, an amazing initiative designed to provide young Jewish adults with the opportunity for a free two-week educational trip to Israel. It is designed especially for those who have never been to Israel and wish to gain a deeper understanding of the country and its overall situation. When the latest round of Birthright registration opened last month, there were a record number of applicants from Ottawa in the first 24 hours.
Students should not be fearful of voicing their opinions on campus. No student should feel at risk while on their university campus. It is important, though, to remind students that we must be sure we are making educated, well-supported remarks.
Students wishing to pursue active involvement in pro-Israel engagement should contact the student executives of the Israel Awareness Committee. They are incredibly friendly, and would love to chat! They can be reached through Hillel Ottawa – http://hillelottawa.ca – or via the Israel Awareness Committee’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OttawaIAC.