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Engaging with Israel on campus starts with relationships

 

Corrado’s keeps Israeli products on the shelf

Alerted last week that specialty food store Corrado’s in Clifton had allegedly agreed to pull Israeli products off its shelves, the local Jewish community took immediate action.

“I received two dozen e-mails in two days,” said Frank Corrado, one of the owners of the 60-year-old business. “They said things like ‘How could you?’ or ‘Shame on you.’”

In fact, said Corrado, there was never any boycott.

“We don’t discriminate against anything,” he said. “Our employees and customers are from all over the world. We try to carry products that will make our customers happy.”

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This poster, which appears on a variety of anti-Israel Websites, urges consumers not to buy dates grown in the west bank.

Corrado is based in the family’s Wayne store. The incident that led to charges of boycott took place at the company’s Clifton facility.

When he began to receive the e-mails, said Corrado, “I thought, ‘What the heck is going on?’”

Speaking with cousins who operate the family-owned store in Clifton, he learned that last week, a customer “started making a scene — jumping up and down screaming — because we were carrying ‘Jordan Valley Dates — Product of Israel.’”

According to Corrado, the customer said the store “was not listening to the laws.”

“My cousin said, OK, we’ll take it off the shelf, to get the guy out of the store.” The product was put back on display after the man left, said Corrado.

When the customer returned and started screaming, “my other cousin said OK, we’ll do it.” Again, the products were returned to the shelf when the man left.

Apparently, the customer in question, identified as Dennis Y. Loh in a note posted on usacbi.wordpress.com — the Website of the U.S. Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel — thought his demands had been met.

Titling his post “BDS Success” (BDS stands for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement against Israel), Loh — whose signature cited the group Creative Nonviolent Resistance against Injustice — wrote that Corrado’s had agreed to stop selling the dates, which he identified as a product of Israel.

Loh also suggested that several Middle Eastern store employees were in sympathy with his cause but that “[s]adly, they told me that the wholesaler of the ‘Made in Israel’ products was a Palestinian Arab.”

Corrado said he has responded to each of the e-mails he received from the Jewish community after Loh’s posting.

“I told everyone, if a government official came in and said we were not doing the right thing, we would comply.” In addition, he said, “If it’s illegal, how did it get into the country?”

This is the first time such a thing has happened at the store, he said, adding that he doesn’t know anything about a boycott.

“He was swearing that there’s a law [but] I’m not going to just listen to a customer that comes in. My cousin should have said, ‘If this is the law, have a government official come and explain it to us,’ but he just wanted to get him out of the store.”

Corrado said he’s “flabbergasted,” and that the store has brought in attorneys to deal with the matter. “We definitely want everyone to come shop here. There’s no discriminating, no boycotting.”

This is not the first time BDS has targeted a local store for carrying Israeli products.

Last year, a group called Don’t Buy Into Apartheid threatened to boycott food retailer Trader Joe’s in Paramus. The group’s protest was met by a counter-protest of Jewish activists, organized by Bob Nesoff, president of the New Milford Jewish Center.

“Our message is simply, ‘If you are going to try to harm Israel, we are going to do our best to help Israel,’” said Nesoff at the time. “They’ve got to know that Jews and friends of Jews in Israel are not going to sit back and take it on the chin.”

Trader Joe’s stood up against the boycott campaign, earning praise from the Anti-Defamation League.

 
 

Be prepared

Educators help freshmen advocate for Israel

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Hasbara has brought more than 1,800 students to its biannual training workshops in Israel and is on more than 250 campuses throughout the United States and Canada. Hasbara also provides a variety of options to help extend the knowledge about Israel on campus, through various training classes, film screenings, and speakers for student organizations.

Area teens heading to college may encounter anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attitudes and behavior there — and educators and youth leaders have ways to manage an often overwhelming experience.

“For freshman going to college, it can be a very surprising experience, especially if you come from a tight-knit Jewish community, or a Jewish school,” says Andrew Getraer, the executive director of Rutgers University Hillel in New Brunswick. “Most high school students have never had to deal with such a variety of opinions and events, especially ones that may directly challenge their own.”

Getraer notes that while recent news like that of the Gaza flotilla raid is hard for government officials and adults to digest or respond to, “imagine how hard it is for 18-year-olds to hear Israel attacked on their own campus, just as it’s attacked on television news channels.”

Student groups often sponsor events condemning Israel, as The Jewish Standard has reported. Israeli Apartheid Week, for example, was held for its sixth consecutive year in March, on many campuses. According to the IAW website, the goal of the event is to “educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.”

IAW often invites speakers who are known for their virulent anti-Israel sentiments and critiques. Michael Cohen, a Wayne resident who is entering his junior year at Boston University, said of a speech by Noam Chomsky, a persistent and harsh critic of Israel, during IAW at his campus, “Growing up in a relatively sheltered community that had a large Jewish presence, I never experienced anything like it. I was shocked.”

The most effective way to respond to such attacks, according to Lauren Krol, director of the Young Professionals of Hasbara Fellowships, is for students to learn, and for advocacy groups to educate them, “about Israel’s true nature, as a democracy and a peace-seeking nation.”

The organization, founded in 2001, aims to establish successful Israel advocacy on campuses throughout the United States and Canada. It provides information, fact sheets, and educational videos on its website, www.israelactivism.com.

IAW was a hot topic during Hasbara’s workshop last winter. Students taking it wondered why there wasn’t a more united response across campuses. The result, according to Krol, was “Israel Peace Week.” In 2010, this program made its way to more than 30 different schools.

Krol encourages supporters of Israel to keep in mind that “they are on the front line; they should use every opportunity they have to get across a positive image, and they must always remember the bigger picture.”

Rutgers’ Getraer explains that situations on some campuses are more difficult for Jewish students than others. “Any campus might have a wide range of opinions,” he says, “and some may be anti-Israel — this can be very upsetting or confusing for many students.”

At Rutgers, he says, students are encouraged to tell Hillel about hostility in their dorms, in class, or on campus, because it can help.

Another simple recommendation, he said: Pick a school with a Jewish community. “We have over 5,000 Jewish students,” Getraer says of Rutgers. “If students feel threatened, they always have a place to go.”

Northern New Jersey Hillel — part of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey — runs Jewish student clubs at Bergen Community College (Paramus), Fairleigh Dickinson University Metropolitan (Teaneck) Campus, Ramapo College of New Jersey (Mahwah), and William Paterson University (Wayne). Director Rabbi Ely Allen explains that these local campuses do engage in classroom discussion and debate, but that overall, organized events like IAW are not as great a problem as on other campuses.

Allen says that college students are “in much better shape [to respond to anti-Israel attacks] because of Israel advocacy organizations that are partnering with Hillel; there are more and more of those organizations, which is definitely a big plus, because we all need to work together.”

 
 

Ethnic identification, good and bad

 

Area shops for Israeli goods in response to calls for boycotts

_JStandardLocal
Published: 10 December 2010

On Tuesday, Nov. 30, StandWithUs, in partnership with the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce, declared BIG (Buy Israel Goods) Day to counter anti-Israel activists in New York City who planned to demonstrate and call for boycotts of Israeli products. Schools, synagogues, and organizations around the tri-state area and across the country mobilized and participated in this day. People bought a range of Israeli goods, from Ahava beauty products to Wissotzky tea, from Israeli wines to Dorot Herbs. “The idea of this day was to show those who call to boycott Israel that there will be a larger call to buy Israeli products and invest in Israel,” said Avi Posnick, East Coast regional coordinator for StandWithUs.

target='_blank'>www.BuyIsraelGoods.org includes a locator of stores that carry Israeli products.

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Gale Bindelglass buys Israeli products at her local supermarket. standwithus

The Jewish Community Relations Council of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey mobilized the community. Gale S. Bindelglass, co-president of Women’s Philanthropy of UJA-NNJ, said, “Our family loves Wissotzky Tea, made in Tel Aviv. It was a pleasure to buy my tea on BIG Day, I made the purchase at our local Shoprite of Oakland; they carry a variety of Israeli products, including produce.”

Joy Kurland, the director of the JCRC, added, “Clearly, the success of the BIG campaign demonstrates the importance of community mobilization and its effectiveness in countering efforts aimed at the delegitimization of Israel. Our regional JCRC looks forward to continued collaboration with StandWithUs in the implementation of future proactive Israel advocacy initiatives.”

The Frisch High School in Paramus organized a BIG day at school. Students sold Israeli snacks during breakfast and lunch and in a few classes. They sold Elite chocolate bars (the first to sell out), Klik chocolate bars, Chanukah gelt, and Bissli. According to Frisch student Eric Tepper, “The main point was to educate.” Students and administrators also wore “Buy Israel Goods” buttons provided by StandWithUs.

Throughout New Jersey, communities and organizations helped to mobilize their communities to take part in BIG Day.

Stores reportedly sold out Ahava products wherever they were protested in Maryland, Denver, Arizona, Philadelphia, and other sites. BIG even stretched across the miles to London, with Jews and non-Jews participating.

“This was a huge success,” said Posnick, “and it will happen again. This day was part of a larger BIG Campaign that StandWithUs is launching. The BDS movement planned Nov. 30 to target Israel, forgetting that this day coincides with the beginning of Chanukah when the Maccabees triumphed over those who wanted to destroy Israel.” (BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.) He added, “We must remember that the BDS movement advocates destructive rather than productive measures and undermines hope for peaceful co-existence. Its only goal is to defame, cripple, and damage Israel.”

More information about this campaign can be found at http://www.standwithus.com. The website

 
 

Palestinians gain ground in PR, diplomatic war

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, center, hosting a luncheon for Israelis in the west bank city of Ramallah, on Dec. 19. Issam Rimawi/FLASH90/JTA

In the long-running Palestinian-Israeli conflict, score some recent victories for the Palestinians.

It’s not that Israel has given an inch in the territorial dispute over the west bank, or that the Palestinians in Gaza have achieved new military victories against the Israelis, despite increased rocket and mortar fire from the coastal strip in recent weeks.

Rather, the Palestinians have scored a series of diplomatic and public-relations successes against a Jewish state weakened by fraying relationships and a declining reputation internationally.

On the diplomatic front, Palestinian leaders announced this week that 10 European Union countries were upgrading their ties with the PLO. Earlier this month, three Latin American countries — Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia — issued formal recognitions of the state of Palestine.

On Sunday was the much-publicized lunch hosted by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for Israeli politicians and activists in Ramallah. Numerous Op-Eds followed in the Israeli media and overseas, saying that there is a Palestinian partner for peace even if there isn’t an Israeli one.

Then there was the early December decision by the Obama administration to drop its effort to persuade Israel to agree to an additional 90-day freeze of Jewish settlement construction in the west bank. Commentators cited Israeli intransigence as the primary reason.

“Israel,” columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in a Dec. 11 Op-Ed in The New York Times, “when America, a country that has lavished billions on you over the last 50 years and taken up your defense in countless international forums, asks you to halt settlements for three months to get peace talks going, there is only one right answer, and it is not ‘How much?’ It is: ‘Yes, whatever you want, because you’re our only true friend in the world.’”

Over the last few months, Israel’s declining international reputation has given the Palestinians and their allies an opening they have exploited by effectively casting Israel as the bully and the unyielding party in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

It is a message that is promoted relentlessly by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which seeks to make Israel an international pariah, and it is reinforced by negative assessments of Israeli actions such as the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza two years ago, the deadly Turkish flotilla incident of May 31, and Israel’s daily treatment of west bank Palestinians.

If the goal is to increase pressure on Israel to accede to the creation of a Palestinian state, a strategy that focuses on diplomacy and PR appears to have a greater chance of success right now than the Palestinians’ decades-long strategy of terrorism and war.

That strategy — call it the violent one — was snuffed out in recent years by Israeli military operations, Israel’s erection of the west bank security fence, and a recognition by leading Palestinian figures that the violence was doing more harm to the Palestinian national cause than good.

“We tried the intifada, and it caused us a lot of damage,” Abbas told an interviewer with the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat in September.

Abbas said the Palestinian Authority would not revert to violent uprising even if peace talks collapsed.

With relative moderates like Abbas in charge of the Palestinian Authority in the west bank — the primary public face of the Palestinians — there is a greater understanding that to achieve statehood the Palestinians must win the world to their side. That, after all, paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel, after the United Nations voted in November 1947 to recognize a Jewish state in Palestine.

Now the Palestinians are setting their sights on a similar goal.

U.N. recognition would shift the conflict from one over “occupied Palestinian territories” to a conflict over an “occupied state with defined borders,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. “We urge the international community to salvage the two-state solution by recognizing a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.”

While U.N. recognition of Palestine might make a diplomatic end run around Israel, it hardly would result in an immediate Palestinian state. The United Nations would have no way of enforcing its decision, and Israeli troops and settlers would remain in the west bank.

What it would do, however, is significantly ratchet up the pressure on Israel to deal with the Palestinians.

“Widespread international recognition of Palestine’s legitimacy and existence has very significant consequences,” Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, wrote on his blog earlier this month.

That pressure isn’t just coming from outside Israel.

“The Palestinians will declare a state. Virtually the whole world will recognize it. And we will be left without security arrangements,” Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer warned in October.

There is pressure even from inside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own Likud Party. Likud veteran and cabinet minister Michael Eitan has proposed moving settlers willing to accept compensation and relocation out of the west bank and into Israel proper to signal to the world that Israel is serious about wanting peace with the Palestinians.

This week, Haaretz columnist Akiva Eldar wrote that Israel needs to be saved from itself.

“Almost no day goes by without some other country recognizing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders,” Eldar wrote. “According to the WikiLeaks documents, even the Germans, Israel’s steadfast supporters in Europe, have lost their faith in the peaceful intentions of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.”

Whatever criticism there is inside Israel about the Israeli government’s approach toward the Palestinians, the criticism outside Israel is sharper.

The main holdout is the United States, where recent polls show that the American people overwhelmingly favor Israel over the Palestinians, and Congress remains steadfastly pro-Israel.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is aiming to change that. Using everything from campus activism to boycotts of stores that sell Israeli food products to bus ads promoting pro-Palestinian messages, the movement is hoping to sway public opinion.

Starting Dec. 27, the two-year anniversary of the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, a group called the Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign will be running ads on the sides of Seattle buses featuring photos of children looking at a demolished building under the heading “Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.”

At Princeton University in New Jersey, DePaul University in Chicago, and on the streets of Philadelphia, pro-Palestinian activists have campaigned to have Israeli brands of hummus removed from campus cafeterias or store shelves. In New York, boycott supporters demonstrated outside a store belonging to the Israeli chocolatier Max Brenner.

“The relics of the past boycotts — from Nuremberg to Damascus — are back,” Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, wrote in a JTA Op-Ed. “Its proponents seek to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into every sphere of American life.”

In the zero-sum game that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that’s good news for the Palestinians.

JTA Wire Service

 
 

Rutgers event links Israel, apartheid

Hillel fires back with facts, testimonials from Ethiopian, Arab, and gay Israelis

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Members of Israel’s minority communities come to Rutgers as part of the event “Get Me, Get Israel.” Courtesy Rutgers Hillel

An event last week comparing Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens to South Africa’s treatment of blacks under apartheid marked the latest in a series of anti-Israel programs at Rutgers University that some local Jewish leaders have characterized as an anti-Israel campaign targeting the school.

The Rutgers event took place in concert with “Israel Apartheid Week” events at numerous university campuses. While some Jewish leaders are alarmed at this trend, others are of the opinion that, try as they might, anti-Israel groups are not making headway in their efforts to delegitimize Israel in the U.S. And Rutgers Hillel last week mounted its own campaign to highlight Israel’s diversity.

The anti-Israel event, called “Israel, the Apartheid Analogy, and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement,” held March 1 on Rutgers’ Douglass campus as part of “Palestine Awareness Week,” was sponsored by a group called BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice. BAKA has organized other events highly critical of Israel, including January’s “Never Again for Anyone” program featuring a Holocaust survivor critical of Israel.

Area Jewish leaders expressed outrage at what they characterized as a false and offensive comparison between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa, and pledged to help pro-Israel students at Rutgers combat what they believe is a deliberate campaign of disinformation.

“It is hateful and egregious to compare Israel to apartheid South Africa,” said Allyson Gall, New Jersey area director of the American Jewish Committee. “There are over 1 million Arabs in Israel who have the right to vote, to serve in Knesset, who have freedom of religion and free speech. When Jimmy Carter used the word apartheid in his book, there were African-American leaders here in the U.S. who called him to tell him using this word was wrong and he should not use it.”

She added, “When they throw around the word ‘apartheid,’ then I know they are not just pro-Palestinian, they are anti-Israel, because they are dead wrong.”

Leonard Cole, an adjunct professor at Rutgers who teaches at the Newark campus in the division of global affairs, decried what he sees as an anti-Israel “drumbeat” on campus and called on the university to condemn it.

Citing six separate anti-Israel events at the University’s New Brunswick campus in November/December and referencing last Tuesday’s event, Cole said, “There is no right to prohibit such an event, but neither is there prohibition of the president of the university or other university officials from condemning hurtful or outrageous or untrue statements or claims that come out of these events.”

In apartheid South Africa, according to Alan Elsner of the Israel Project, a non-profit organization that provides information about the Middle East, blacks had no right to form political parties, to vote, to live in certain areas, or to freely associate with whites, and South Africa’s government enforced this discrimination.

In Israel, he pointed out, all citizens including Israeli Arabs have the right to vote, to speak, to assemble, to form political parties, to freely associate, and to live where they wish.

The differences mean “there is not any valid comparison” between Israel’s government and South Africa’s during apartheid, said Elsner.

“I’m not saying Israeli democracy is perfect, but show me another country in the Mideast where minorities, women, and gays have the same rights as they do in Israel,” said Elsner, who worked as a reporter in South Africa during apartheid.

Jake Toporek, executive director of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, says his organization is working to “organize a movement to counter the BDS movement.” To that end, his and other area organizations including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Jewish Federations of North America are organizing a conference at Rutgers June 1.

“The events on Rutgers campus are disturbing, but are a wake-up call to the rest of the Jewish community to remain vigilant and respond effectively, with a united front, and to do all it can to ensure that Israel remains a viable nation,” said Toporek.

BAKA Treasurer Michael Dunican, a Rutgers senior majoring in Middle East studies, told The Jewish Standard that BAKA organized the event “to spread awareness.” Regarding the charge that the apartheid analogy is false, Dunican said, “The response that the analogy is false won’t do. Diversity shares the same root as diversion and the issues we raised have not been addressed.”

Dunican added, “[Anti-Defamation League National Director] Abe Foxman recently made the statement that when these things happen at Rutgers, the BDS movement is gaining momentum.”

Foxman in fact told Ha’aretz this week regarding “Israel Apartheid Week” events: “There are 3,500 colleges and universities in the U.S. If it happens in 40 or 80 campuses, it’s upsetting, troubling, but it’s not dangerous.… Overwhelmingly, students either don’t care or they are pro-Israel.”

Foxman also said, “The only difference is that after the communications revolution, when something happens in Rutgers, the whole world knows. The communications revolution gives them a megaphone way beyond what they are and whom they represent.”

Ken Stern, director of the Division of Anti-Semitism and Extremism at the AJC, agrees.

“They’ve pushed this for 10 years, and not one college campus has divested [from Israeli investment],” said Stern. “I don’t see Israel apartheid week as it’s played out in the U.S. to date as having been effective in achieving the goal of delegitimizing Israel in the eyes of the average person.”

Stern noted that the effort to de-legitimize Israel on college campuses has gained traction in Canada, and said there is a real danger in larger global efforts to delegitimize the Jewish State.

Meanwhile, Rutgers Hillel hosted its own series of events to coincide with “Palestine Awareness Week,” highlighting Israel’s diversity. A Feb. 28 event, “Israel at Heart,” featured Ethiopian Jewish Israelis and a Darfuri man who found refuge in Israel, all of whom made the case that “Israel is not an apartheid state,” according to Hillel Director Andrew Getraer.

Last Tuesday’s event, called “Get Me, Get Israel,” featured an Israeli Arab woman who has organized Israeli Arabs to do a year of national service to Israel and two Israelis who are members of the country’s LGBT community.

“They talked about the importance of seeing Israel not as a highly politicized country but as a diverse and accepting country,” said Raffi Mark, a sophomore at Rutgers majoring in American Studies who grew up in Wayne and who helped organize Hillel’s events.

Asked if he had any response to these events, Dunican said, “Regarding the event[s] with gay and Arab Israelis, at our event we had a Palestinian speaker and three Ashkenazi Jews.”

Heather Robinson can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

 
 

Brandeis Hillel excludes a controversial group

Hillel may be the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, but that doesn’t mean every Jewish student group is welcome.

Last week, Brandeis University’s Hillel voted not to accept the membership bid of the local campus chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization that has been criticized for its support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign targeting Israel and was listed by the Anti-Defamation League last October as among the top 10 anti-Israel groups in the United States.

“While we understand that JVP at Brandeis considers itself a pro-Israel club, based on positions and programming JVP has sponsored, we do not believe that JVP can be included under Hillel’s umbrella,” Brandeis senior Andrea Wexler, the president of the 11-member Hillel student executive board that rejected the application of Jewish Voice for Peace, wrote in a letter explaining the board’s decision.

Wexler said the group’s words and actions put it beyond what is acceptable to Hillel.

Fellow Brandeis senior Lev Hirschhorn, who presented JVP’s case to the Hillel board, said Hillel should not exclude any Jewish student group.

“As members of the Brandeis Jewish community, we wanted Jewish Voice for Peace to be included at the Jewish communal table,” he said.

The battle at Brandeis over JVP is part of the growing heated debate in the American Jewish community over what constitutes acceptable criticism of Israel.

Last summer, a furor erupted in San Francisco over Jewish federation funding for a Jewish film festival that screened a film about pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie. For the past three years, the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group J Street has stirred passions on both sides of the divide for its calls for increased U.S. pressure on Israel to deal with the Palestinians. This month, Israel’s Knesset decided to investigate J Street.

At Brandeis, the organization’s college chapter, called J Street U, blasted Hillel’s decision on Jewish Voice for Peace.

“While J Street U and JVP strongly disagree about many issues related to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the BDS movement, we nonetheless believe that they should be a part of the Jewish communal conversation,” J Street U said, using the acronym for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign.

Unlike J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace does not describe itself as pro-Israel. That and JVP’s support for the BDS movement were critical to Hillel’s decision, Wexler said. The decision, she added, was “very difficult” and not unanimous.

“According to the pro-Israel guidelines given to us, which we support and agree with, we didn’t feel they fit into what we consider a Hillel-member group,” Wexler said of JVP.

The membership guidelines to which Wexler referred were released by Hillel’s international body last December. The guidelines reiterate Hillel’s support for Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state,” and say Hillel “will not partner with, house, or host” groups or speakers who do not agree with that statement, including those who support the BDS campaign.

Hirschhorn says the Brandeis chapter of JVP supports boycotting only goods produced in Gaza and the west bank, not Israel proper, so it should not be considered anti-Israel.

“We know what the national guidelines say, but we also know Brandeis is an open, welcoming community,” he said.

Wexler said the campus JVP chapter cannot be considered apart from positions taken by its national organization, which held its national membership conference over the weekend in Philadelphia.

Wayne Firestone, Hillel’s president and the main author of the new membership guidelines, says that any organization, including Hillel, has the right to define its limits.

“We do not feel we can be true to our values and partner with groups that deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state,” he said.

Firestone noted that the guidelines also would exclude right-wing student organizations that do not support Israel as a democratic state, although no such groups have applied to Hillel since the regulations were put in place.

The Brandeis chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, which was created last fall, was the first JVP chapter nationwide to apply for Hillel membership. The organization, which began in the San Francisco area, also has chapters at the University of California, San Diego, the University of Arizona, St. Lawrence University, and Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. It is organizing on six more campuses, according to a spokesperson.

Adam Lerner, a sophomore at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where JVP is organizing, says Hillel, which has the stated goal of providing a safe space for students to explore their Jewish identity, should not set a political litmus test for who is in and who is out.

“If Hillel promotes itself as ‘the’ center for Jewish life on campus, they need to have as pluralistic a voice as possible,” Lerner said. “If Israel is open to all Jews, then Hillel should be open to all Jewish groups on campus. They should take the model they’re promoting for the Jewish state and apply it to themselves.”

Jonathan Horovitz, a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, says the issue isn’t Hillel banning a particular opinion but choosing not to partner with an organization that is disruptive and uncivil. He noted that JVP supporters have heckled pro-Israel speakers, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the group aligns with organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement.

“The actions of JVP and their guests abuse the openness offered by the mainstream Jewish community by responding with hostility,” Horovitz said. “A group that hosts such events and welcomes such disrespectful jeering should not be allowed in the Jewish community.”

Firestone says all students are welcome at Hillel as individuals, no matter their organizational affiliations. But “that’s different from co-sponsoring with an organization that does harm to our central values,” he said.

Ben Sales, editor of New Voices, an online publication serving the American Jewish student community, says this position is disingenuous.

“If Hillel wants to be the Israel advocacy organization on campus that also provides a wealth of other programming for Jewish students, that’s fine,” Sales said, “but then it’s inaccurate to call itself the center for Jewish life while excluding a group of Jewish students who do not support Israel as a Jewish and democratic state but who are not violent or discriminatory, and who ground their positions in Jewish values.”

It turns out the debate about the Brandeis Hillel decision is much more heated off-campus than on it; both Hirschhorn and Wexler say there is no hostility between their groups.

“I study Hebrew with a lot of them,” Hirschhorn said of the Hillel board members. “They made sure we understood this isn’t a personal thing.” Wexler added that after the meeting, several of the students became “friends” with each other on Facebook.

“We encourage these conversations,” said Larry Sternberg, executive director of the Hillel at Brandeis. “This whole thing reflects the fact that there are such conversations taking place. And the fact that JVP wants to be part of Hillel is a good thing.”

JTA Wire Service

 
 

Local organizations promote Israeli goods to counter boycott

‘Buy Israeli Goods’ day set

In the face of an international campaign designating March 30 as a day to boycott Israeli products, national and local Jewish organizations are organizing supporters to fight back with their wallets.

Pro-Israel and Jewish groups in the United States are calling on supporters to buy Israeli goods to counter a global anti-Israel boycott coordinated by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign. The website of the BDS campaign calls for “divestment from corporations that allow and profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

StandWithUs, a New York-based nonprofit pro-Israel education and advocacy organization, has designated Wednesday, March 30, as Buy Israeli Goods (BIG) day. It is working with area Jewish agencies, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, to rally Israel’s supporters to buy Israeli goods on that day and in general.

To that end, StandWithUs has set up a website, www.buyIsraelgoods.org, in cooperation with the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a New York-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting U.S.-Israel commerce, providing information about vendors and establishments that sell Israeli products.

Organized by product categories and geographical regions, the website provides information on finding everything from Israeli-grown coffee to Israeli-designed jewelry.

Avi Posnick, regional coordinator for StandWithUs in New York, said that “BDS is calling for March 30 to be a global day to boycott, and we are encouraging people to go to all the places and to use all the products that are being targeted.”

StandWithUs maintains that boycotting Israel actually retards the development of Palestinian society and therefore the cause of peace.

“We feel the BDS movement is hypocritical because it’s hurting the very people they say they are trying to help,” said Posnick. “They are only hurting cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians that can improve the lives of both. Palestinians and others have told us it doesn’t help peace — it divides people.”

The JCRC sent out a message to its network, including rabbis, agencies, day schools, and congregational schools, “encouraging them to participate and including the information we got from StandWithUs,” said Joy Kurland, regional JCRC director.

Rabbi Neal Borovitz of Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge, who chairs the JCRC, is coordinating the local counter-boycott effort. He believes that one of the greatest threats to Israel today is a tarnishing of the Jewish state’s image via a campaign to delegitimize it.

Borovitz thinks American Jews can play a vital role in countering the boycott.

“I think that one of the greatest dangers that we face today as friends of Israel is this movement that is known as Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions,” said Borovitz. “Those three tools are being used to delegitimize Israel. We’ve got to counter that. It’s an interesting and important role we American Jews can play.”

He says Israel’s detractors have modeled their strategy on what was used to “disinvest South Africa.”

“Buy Israeli Goods is our campaign to encourage people to combat this boycott,” he said. “[People should] buy Israeli goods because Israeli goods are of high quality — Israel has the same right to compete in the economic marketplace as any nation.”

StandWithUs has created an additional website, www.Standwithus.com/bds, to provide information, including talking points, and other ways to respond to the BDS movement.

 
 
Buy Israel Week asks buyers to put their money to good use

Mobilizing consumers to help Israel

Jewish Standard StaffLocal
Published: 04 November 2011

Mobilizing consumers to help Israel

Buy Israel Week asks buyers to put their money to good use

While not everyone can influence government decisions on Israel, anyone can buy an Israeli product, says Frances Zelazny, the force behind Buy Israel Week.

A marketer by trade — and dismayed at the growing strength of the boycott and divestment movement — Zelazny said she decided to fight fire with fire by launching an effort geared to consumers.

Israel’s advocates should start thinking of shopping as a way to support the state, she said, adding, “This is a way to do something, other than just clicking ‘like’ on Facebook.”

From Nov. 28 to Dec. 4, merchants across the country will offer deals on Israeli products to buyers who download coupons from the Buy Israel Week website, http://www.buyisraelweek.com.

Co-sponsors such as The Jewish Standard and other Jewish newspapers in New York, Chicago, Florida, Washington, California, Texas, and Arizona; the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce; and the Israel Manufacturers Association are helping to raise awareness of the initiative.

A Buy Israel supplement will be included in the Nov. 18 issue of this newspaper.

“We are thrilled to be part of this effort,” said Jewish Standard publisher James Janoff. “Our market is filled with retailers and consumers who value the importance of products from Israel.”

Said Zelazny, “Consumers need make no sacrifices in terms of quality in order to support Israel with their wallet.”

She noted that Israel offers well-known brands, vendors, and services such as Ahava cosmetics, El Al Israel Airlines, and Tnuva dairy products. Artistic Tile and Rosebud are some of the merchants selling Israeli products.

These companies — together with organizations such as Israel Bonds, American Friends of Magen David Adom, American Friends of Ben Gurion University, Nefesh B’Nefesh, and Meir Panim — are among those participating in the campaign.

As Buy Israel Week sponsors, these groups are benefiting from a marketing package that includes exposure to up to 1 million people in targeted markets across the country, as well as comprehensive social media outreach through Facebook and Twitter, blog features, YouTube videos, and “Seriously Surprising Israel Deals” featuring Israeli products and giveaways.

“We are promoting these products on their merits,” Zelazny said. “People will want to buy them.”

While Buy Israel Week will feature products from a cross-section of Israeli manufacturers in a variety of industries, it is expected that more than 100 local merchants across the country will offer special deals on “Made in Israel” goods in their stores.

Buy Israel Week has been organized by jdeal.com, a comprehensive daily deal site targeting the Jewish market, nine media organizations, the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, Israel Export and Cooperation Institute, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Stand With Us.

Zelazny said she plans to turn the initiative into a nonprofit organization to more systematically disseminate the message that Israel needs its backers’ purchasing power in addition to their political power.

“We’ll promote Israeli products,” she said. “This is a direct counter to the boycotts.”

For more information, contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or visit www.facebook.com/buyisraelweek.

 
 
 
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