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Turning “no” into “yes” on college campuses

By Rachel Bandler
9/1/2014, 8:09 PM

I will never forget my first anti-Israel encounter at college.

I was a freshman at MIT, walking down the hall when I noticed a giant sign accusing Israel of intentionally killing Palestinian babies. I could not believe students were able to get away with writing such blatant lies!

So I quickly printed out pro-Israel fliers and asked some Jewish upperclassman to help me distribute them, only to find out later that the students who offered to help me were actually throwing the pro-Israel posters in the garbage because “they didn’t want to offend anyone or be confrontational.”

I felt alone and betrayed, but at the same time the whole ordeal motivated me to continue standing up for Israel at MIT.

Although Operation Protective Edge is over, sadly the anti-Israel hatred isn’t, especially on US college campuses.

Last week Hatem Bazian, founder of “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP), called for an “International Day of Action” on September 23rd to say “No to Study Abroad Programs in Israel, No to university presidents’ visits to Israel, No Joint research or conferences with Israeli institutions,” among many other “no’s,” which together call for a total academic and cultural boycott of Israel.  

SJP has more than 80 chapters at American universities, which means a lot of students are going to find themselves up against intense anti-Israel hostility this semester.

While hearing lies about Israel can be infuriating, sometimes we get so wrapped up in countering anti-Israel propaganda that it’s easy to spend all of our time disproving lies instead of spreading truth.

Its time we proactively take a stand against those who try to harm Israel.

How many of us have gotten involved to proactively prevent BDS, and not just fight it once it already arrived on campus? Western Washington University was the first campus to pass an anti-BDS resolution this year, taking preemptive action before BDS had the chance to arrive on campus.

Hopefully many more campuses will follow Western Washington University's example, but passing formal anti-BDS resolutions is only the first step.

If your university doesn’t have a study abroad program in Israel, reach out to the administration and try to start one! It can be as simple as going to your school’s foreign exchange office and asking them to help place you in Israel for a semester or summer – a study abroad program can start with one person. Israel’s universities and research institutions are some of the best in the world, making the case for studying in Israel easy.

If your university’s president has never been to Israel, try and organize a trip! If your university is hosting a conference, invite an Israeli university to attend!

There are organizations to help students achieve these goals. StandWithUs (SWU) is one amazing organization that helps college students fight anti-Israel hatred on college campuses, and was instrumental in helping Western Washington University pass their anti-BDS resolution. StandWithUs offers training, guidance, and resources for pro-Israel students, and really makes you feel like you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help because together, we can turn every single one of SJP’s “no’s” into a yes.

It’s time we stop playing defense.