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Universities Aflame

May 8, 2009 | by Natalie Menaged

Jewish students gear up to battle Israel Apartheid Week, an annual hate-inspired phenomenon that is spreading at an alarming rate.

March 1-8 marks the fifth annual hate-fest known as Israel Apartheid Week. Originating as a singularly disturbing display in Toronto in 2005, anti-Israel propagandists are expected to hold events and demonstrations in nearly 50 cities around the world this year. According to IAW organizers, these events will liken democratic Israel to apartheid South Africa, allege that Israel committed a massacre during its recent defensive incursion into Gaza, and call for sanctions against and divestment from Israel.

If past IAW events, and the hostile activity against Israel since Operation Cast Lead are any indication, we can also expect open displays of explicit anti-Semitism, physical harassment of Jews, and vigorous attempt to curb freedom of expression among Israel supporters.

The university campuses have long been a front line for this propaganda war, but in the past month anti-Israel and anti-Semitic occurrences on campus have reached unprecedented heights. In the last eight weeks, there has been significant anti-Israel activity at more than 200 college campuses in the United States. This includes many schools with large Jewish populations, as well as universities where we have never seen such activity before.

Here are a just a few alarming incidents:

  • At schools including Cornell University, Columbia University, University of Texas, University of southern California, Georgetown University, American University, Syracuse University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Cincinnati, University of North Carolina and many others, there have been graphic displays, die-ins and vigils, alleging Israeli massacres and genocide, replete with mock coffins, black flags, dirtied Israeli flags, and confrontational organizers.
  • The Student Government at UCLA passed a very lop-sided resolution condemning Israel; similar resolutions were attempted but thwarted at several other California schools, while many Canadian universities passed motions condemning Israel.
  • Last week, Hampshire College made headlines when it divested from several companies doing business in Israel after a vigorous boycott campaign by the Students for Justice in Palestine there. Hampshire has since denied that the move was meant to specifically target companies doing business with Israel, but the anti-Israel movement has claimed the decision as a significant victory for boycott attempts against Israel.
  • There have been reports of physical assaults against Jewish students and fraternity houses at the University of British Columbia, Emory University, and York University.
  • At San Jose State university, the Israeli consul general was literally booed off the stage during a Q&A session, virtually shut down by protestors. A similar incident occurred at Ohio State University.
  • At UC Berkeley, the student government has launched a recall vote against an openly pro-Israel Student Senator, despite his not having violated any Student Government rules – and has tried to sanction the Jewish Student Union there for supporting him.
  • Anti-Israel demonstrations have occurred for the first time in years at schools like Arizona State University, Michigan State University, Louisiana State University and Alabama State University.
  • At New York University, a student group called Take Back NYU seized control of the Kimmel Center cafeteria and staged a 40–hour protest, demanding greater transparency of university investments, scholarships for students to study in Gaza, and donations of supplies to the Islamic University in Gaza, started by Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
  • Lack of protection for Jewish students remains an issue at York University. While continuing to remain silent on the recent entrapment of Jewish students inside a Hillel building by anti-Semitic protestors, York University has now informed Hillel and Hasbara Fellowships at York that they will be fined and suspended from campus for holding a pro-Israel rally, despite any clear violation of university rules.
  • CUPE, Ontario's largest trade union, passed a motion to boycott Israeli universities and academics.

Large Israel Apartheid Week events are slated to take place next week on university campuses in Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, and smaller versions are set to occur at many other schools across North America.

If you are a student or concerned community member, we urge you to take action via the following steps:

1. Answer the lies head on -- go to protests and speakers, hand out accurate information, and speak up!

2. Launch a strategic initiative to engage important people on campus, including the media, the administration, student leaders, professors, coalition allies.

3. Organize demonstrations of solidarity with Israel, such as rallies and educational campaigns.

4. We can't stop anti-Semitism, but we can send a message of our own. What is your plan to get the pro-Israel message out there? Choose from an array of programs and campaigns offered by Hasbara Fellowships.

5. Most importantly, if you are on a campus with anti-Israel activity, contact us ( to help you through it!

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