Qassam rocket
Qassam rocketFlash90

The campus challenge is not simple in the fight against anti-Semitism. One university, the University of Maryland, is not content with condemning antisemitic phenomena, but is launching a new course in collaboration with the Ashkelon Academic College, which will deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The course will introduce students from the United States and Israel to a complex life under the threat of rockets from the Gaza Strip that they experience in Ashkelon and other southern cities. Dr. Eli Friedman, Director of the Office of International Relations and Lecturer in Communication at the College's Multidisciplinary Department, talks about the course he will lead and its goals.

This is a course in communication and public diplomacy in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict and is combined for students from Ashkelon and the University of Maryland. They will learn together about how the conflict is presented in different communication channels, the emphasis will be on social communication and global communication. "I very much hope that the experience of students living in the South will be a learning experience for American students," says Dr. Friedman.

Would such familiarity and dealing with media coverage not depend on the agenda presented in the course itself? Will this agenda necessarily be different from what is already familiar to students in Maryland? "Indeed, there are different angles that depend on how things are presented, and I hope to present a number of angles, not just pro-Israel, and let students deal with them. The final project of the course will be a joint podcast for students from Israel and the United States. Beyond that, the very multicultural experience will give all participants additional angles beyond the narrative to which they are exposed, "Dr. Friedman replies.

"I intend to teach tools for analysis, like framing and setting an agenda, to see how the media tries to present things and give critical tools to get to know the different agendas, respond and get to know the different motives of the media."

About the American interested in the course, Dr. Friedman says: "The course is delivered within a unit for Israeli studies and it is interesting that the students there come from a wide variety of backgrounds, not just Jewish students. It will be a difficult struggle to contain many different opinions. He further notes that in a reality where antisemitism is on the American campuses, the course seeks to "break stereotypes and deal with misinformation on US campuses. "

In the future, Friedman hopes to create real meetings between students in Israel and their colleagues in the United States, after the first phase of the course which will be delivered via zoom. Friedman clarifies: "I do not disqualify a student according to his views. We do not allow incitement or calls for violence, but part of the challenge in the course is to have a respectful dialogue understanding that there is a wide range of opinions. We are not surprised by some that sign up to ruin the course, but we will welcome different opinions and even criticism of Israel. This is part of the essence of the academy."