Incitement against Israel on American campuses is reaching new heights. This month, the pro-Palestinian group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) invited students from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) to attend a new course where they can learn the basic fundamentals of boycotting Israel.
According to Hadas Buskila, a Jewish Agency campus emissary, the “Divestment 101” course does not at present provide any academic credits, but the phenomenon is still worrying enough, and spreading.
The invitation to “Divestment 101” posted to Facebook read:
“Join SJP for its first info session on Divestment from the military occupation of Palestine. We will be discussing what Divestment is, tactics on how to make Divestment successful, and why Divestment is necessary for justice to prevail in Palestine/Israel.”
UC Davis is located not far from San Francisco, and is one of the leading universities in environmental, agricultural, veterinary and oenological studies. The total number of students is about 40,000, out of which an estimated 5,000 are Jewish.
Buskila said the atmosphere on campus is tense and constantly being fed by news pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict. “Anti-Israel speakers come to campus regularly at the invitation of the anti-Israel movement. On top of that, there have recently been a number of anti-Semitic incidents on campus,” she reported. “Everyone feels they must choose a side. Nearly everyone taking Israel’s side are Jewish.”
But the pro-Israel camp has had its successes. According to Buskila, UC Davis has been trying for the past 18 months to instigate new boycotts against Israeli companies, but has thus far failed thanks to the efforts of the pro-Israel student movement, which is now planning to launch a new initiative to teach fellow students about the real Israel.
But it remains an uphill battle. In the coming weeks, universities across America and around the world will host “Israel Apartheid Week” events designed to portray Israel as a racist and oppressive state. Anti-Israel demonstrations and rallies on dozens of campuses will raise support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
At the forefront of this struggle are young Israeli post-graduate students like Buskila, who are taking a moment out of their race after a career to join the Jewish Agency’s mission on North American campuses.
After accepting the post of chairman of the Jewish Agency, former Israeli government minister Natan Sharansky quickly identified university campuses as the central arena where the delegitimization campaign against Israel is being waged. Since then, he has worked to dramatically increase the number of Jewish Agency emissaries on campuses around the world, and has personally spoken at numerous universities and colleges.
These Israeli-born emissaries typically serve in that role for a period of one or two years, during which they work to strengthen the connection between fellow Jewish students and the Jewish state. They also engage both Jewish and non-Jewish students in order to provide a more balanced and genuine view of Israel.