Few supporters of Israel would argue that the impending UN vote on Palestinian statehood is a positive development. But unless you are a diplomat, is there anything you can do about it?
Israel advocates on campus are putting a remarkable twist on the present situation, seizing the moment to proactively educate about Israel’s efforts for peace online, on the quads, and elsewhere. Interest in the Middle East conflict is peaked; now is the time to make a direct, persuasive case for Israel.
Here are the most critical messages Israel advocates are communicating this week:
- Peace Takes Two - Real peace can only come through negotiations and cooperation, not unilateral actions. Both sides can have peace, land, and security if the Palestinians join the Israelis at the negotiating table.
- Israelis Want Peace - Israelis seek peace, and have made painful sacrifices in order to achieve peace. Advocates can point to Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, disengagement from Gaza, multiple land offers to the Palestinians, and last year’s settlement freeze as proof.
- Israelis Need a Palestinian Peace Partner - The biggest obstacle to peace is that Israelis need a responsible partner in the Palestinian leadership. If the Palestinian leadership would foreswear terror and incitement, and recognize Israel’s right to exist, there could be peace.
- Jewish Connection to the Land of Israel - The Jewish people, like any other nation, have a right to self determination in their ancestral homeland. The Jewish people have had a continuous presence in the land of Israel for nearly 4,000 years. The obstacle to peace in the Middle East is the Palestinian refusal – and the refusal of most Muslim countries - to recognize the Jewish right to self determination.
- Israeli Democracy - Israel is a democracy, and the Israeli people value and protect human rights and personal freedoms. Every Israeli enjoys civil liberties and legal equality, including over a million Arab Muslim citizens. In stark contrast, the PLO’s ambassador to the US said this week that no Jews would be allowed in a Palestinian state.
- US and Israel: Shared Values - The United States has vowed to veto the Palestinian statehood bid because of all the reasons described above. Israelis thank President Obama and Congress for securing the real path to peace.
In recent years, Israeli Hasbara has trended toward portraying Israel “beyond the conflict.” Direct responses to “apartheid weeks” and similar demonstrations have been deemed reactive and ineffective. And the last three serious military conflicts Israel has faced – the 2010 flotilla raid, Operation Cast Lead, and the Israel-Hezbollah War - occurred during school vacations, thereby making any acknowledgement of these events on campus reactive. Israel advocates stayed away from “the conflict” whenever possible.
But as it became clear that the Palestinian Authority would pursue a unilateral declaration of statehood this September, students activists understood that they would need to make a direct, persuasive case on their campuses. They used the summer to prepare strategic and innovative campaigns.
Tactics include distributing viral videos and articles via social media, holding rallies in central locations on campus, and distributing innovative educational pamphlets. Students who have visited Israel are writing in their campus papers, putting a human face on the situation. Israel clubs are reaching out to non-Jewish groups to educate and engage them. Student advocates are mobilizing politically as well, garnering signatures for petitions thanking the US, and personally calling their elected officials.
Israel needs us more than ever, and in today’s world, each of us has the opportunity to convey a message. Every individual can get involved and make a difference.
Natalie Menaged is the Director of Education of Hasbara Fellowships, a project of Aish International dedicated to educating, training and inspiring students to stand up for Israel on campus
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