Is it possible to create a grass roots organization just by describing the need? I don't know, but it is worth a try.
Ilana Diamond, a student at the University of Texas, described the problem in her article about campus Israel advocacy, It's lonely being pro-Israel on campus
. Groups like the International Solidarity, Palestine Solidarity Committee and Campus Anti-War Movement to End the Occupation flood campuses with vitriolic propaganda comparing Zionism to Nazism and Gaza to Auschwitz.
At the University of Texas, a group called Texans for Israel has provided at least some replies to the Palestinian extremists, but they are not likely to be the sort of replies that will be acceptable to most students. Similarly, a student in Ohio wrote to us that in despair at the lack of campus support for Israel, he started a ZOA chapter on his campus, but ZOA is probably not going to present an image of Zionist that will inspire most American students. There is really no nation-wide, non-denominational, middle of the road campus group set up to answer the Palestinian extremist groups. The Hillel organization is mostly interested in purveying Jewish education to Jews. Most of the campus Israel advocacy groups are either identifiably Jewish or identifiably neoconservative, but most students are not Jewish and not interested in neoconservatism.
Surveys show that a majority of Americans, Democrats as well as Republicans, support Israel. This should be true on campuses as well. They may not support the occupation, and they probably aren't Jewish. If they are Jewish, they are probably not orthodox Jews. They are not necessarily in tune with the political views of Front Page magazine or the ZOA. But they believe that Israel has a right to exist, they may be aware of the suffering of the people of Sderot
. They are probably alarmed by Iranian threats to wipe Israel off the map and Hassan Nassrallah's genocidal plans for the Jews. They must be the majority, yet there is no organization to represent them!
The Union of Progressive Zionists (UPZ) could have at least partly filled the need. Diamond writes, however, that she doesn't expect them to be of much help, and her expectations will probably be fulfilled. UPZ chose to focus on protesting the occupation and joining the chorus of critics of Israel. In theory, they are the natural enemies of groups like the Palestine Solidarity Movement which want a one state "solution" - elimination of Israel. In practice, UPZ seems to provide a safe place for Jewish critics of Israel to voice their criticism and their beliefs in the possibility of peace. A place where they need no fear of encountering actual Arab and "peace activist" opinions about Jew
s and Israel
, of hearing slogans like "Palestine is our land and the Jews are our dogs," (filastin arduna wa'al yahud kilabuna
) or having to deal with people who think the Jews control the world and that the protocols of the elders of Zion are the real McCoy. That might somewhat dampen their enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause. Even if UPZ were everything we would want it to be, it still couldn't do the whole job. What is needed is an organization that doesn't necessarily have "Zionist" right on the label.
It is obvious from the above must be a market for a North American campus Israel support group that can include students of every political opinion and every every religious persuasion. But we know that in the real world, grass roots movements don't just happen. Someone has to make them happen. Zionist leaders in North America and those who are sympathetic to the cause of Israel should understand that they have to be that someone. Ami Isseroff
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