Zionist university students in the United States, whose campuses have been overwhelmed by anti-Israel propaganda and hate messages, are changing the distorted view of Israel through the StandWithUs organization.
The brutal and primitive murder of 14-year-olds Kobi Mandel and Yosef Ishran by Arab terrorists in May, 2001, catapulted Los Angles couple Roz and Jerry Rothstein into action to form the StandWithUs group. "I was finished with waiting," she recalls. "I thought of the barbarism that had to be there, and the training of Palestinian kids in society that led to it. As a child of Holocaust survivors, looking at the Arab media, the training of the small Palestinian children resembles the indoctrination of Nazi youth."
The Rothsteins had no intentions of creating a coast-to-coast activist operation when it gathered 50 Jewish rabbis and leaders in their living room after the murder. Their first initiative was to convince the Los Angeles Times to speak with them about the anti-Israeli bias in their articles and presentation of photographs.
StandWithUs began to deal with the intense campus onslaught against Israel after Arabs launched the Oslo War, also known as the second Intifada. The challenges students faced came in the form of professors teaching anti-Israel views as well as a strong and vocal anti-Israel student presence. The organization now has offices across the globe including locations in Los Angeles, New York, the United Kingdom, and Israel.
The group's forums on campuses have given Jewish students a support system to express support for Israel and to debunk the anti-Zionist venom that often is hurled at them. One recent Israel in Focus gathering in southern California drew more than 200 activists from the United States, Canada and Mexico. George Washington University student Harry Baumgarten commented, "I feel that...I am a part of a greater network I can turn to for support when confronting issues on my campus."
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman's address to the group helped make the students realize they are not alone. "It left me breathless and impressed," said Baumgarten. "Just hearing someone’s voice who still commands so much respect for Israel in a time when so few people do was such an excellent way for us to start out."
Roz Rothstein, citing the significance of amalgamating Zionist students, added, "It’s not just about how this Intifada affects Israel. It’s about how the Intifada has affected Jews around the world."
She emphasized that StandWithUs is not a political organization and is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.
The groups' non-partisan efforts are focused on the seemingly eternal built-in bias among the media
The training of the small Palestinian children resembles the indoctrination of Nazi youth.
and academics against Israel. StandWithUs launched a poster campaign in Washington's subway system in response to an anti-Israel campaign of photographs showing an Israeli tank aimed at Arab children. StandWithUs countered with pictures of Arab children holding machine guns.
"You have to counter it because otherwise they feel they won because theirs is the only message," Rothstein said.
In Europe, the group is fighting the growing anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli atmosphere and trains Israelis in its Jerusalem office, teaching them how to work with overseas students faced with rabid anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
One of the initiatives of StandWithUs is the X-Ray Project, a photography exhibit which uses actual X-rays and CT-scans from the two largest hospitals in Jerusalem to show the effects of terrorism on a civilian population. The exhibit shows X-rays and CT-scans of patients who survived suicide bombings in Israel, displaying nuts, bolts, and nails, lodged into victim’s bodies by the force of the bomb.
"This exhibit effectively conveys the horrors of terrorism. It is a must see for health workers as well as lay people. It might even move those who, in the past, have been reluctant to condemn terrorist attacks that have targeted Israelis, according to Harvard Medical School Dr. Jonathan Rhodes.
One of the most subtly vicious epithets against Israel is the use of the word "apartheid". StandWithUS explains to students, "Apartheid was the official policy of the white minority in South Africa. Under this system, the Black majority was prevented from voting and gaining access to political power. Israel, a Jewish majority country, is a fully democratic country that ensures the political and human rights of all of its citizens. Arabs that live within Israel are citizens with full rights.
"The Arabs in the West Bank are not Israeli citizens [because] After the Oslo accords and prior to the wave of violence started by the Palestinians, nearly all of the Palestinians in the West Bank were under the direct jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA)
It notes that former President Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid " unjustly compares Israel to an Apartheid state."