In recent years, there has been an effort to revive anti-Israel sentiment by using techniques similar to those implemented during the mostly ill-fated Arab economic boycott of Israel.
In principle, the goal of the Arab boycott is to isolate Israel from the world community through a lobbying effort aimed against companies doing business directly with Israel and those using Israeli components in their products. The neo-Arab boycott movement of today seeks the same goal of collective punishment of all Israelis, but this time through different tactics.
A network of individuals and NGOs are working to revive the attempts at isolation through a misinformation propaganda campaign aimed at the only free country in the Middle East, according to the think tank Freedom House. The network attacks Israel’s free society by charging that freedom of speech is not respected and that criticizing the government can lead to imprisonment. Members of the neo-Arab boycott movement promote an effort called “Israel Apartheid Week” on college campuses across North America. The annual effort is devoted to spreading lies and hatred toward Israel every year.
Luckily, where there are lies there are those who speak out against them. At my university, Rutgers, the Rutgers Hillel Center for Israel Engagement (RHCIE) provides students with the resources to do just that. This begins by rebranding the apartheid week and calling it precisely what it is: hate week. To that end, the RHCIE and a plethora of students including myself have become proactive seeking to change the framework in which Israel and Jews are discussed on campus. No longer is it possible to regurgitate the talking points of those who have no interest in peace or justice for anyone in the Middle East. Through a number of initiatives our campus is quickly becoming acclimated to a more nuanced understanding of Jews broadly and Israelis specifically.
This year, RHCIE is on the offensive with a campaign entitled Support, Invest, and Connect (SIC), which encourages engagement with Israelis and Israeli companies. As part of the SIC campaign, RHCIE created the SIC Rutgers petition to promote community support and in the spring RHCIE will host an Israel opportunities fair to encourage local young adults to invest their time and talent with Israeli companies. Every year, Rutgers Hillel and RHCIE connect dozens of Rutgers students to Israel via Taglit-Birthright Israel and other opportunities to experience Israel first hand.
I call on you, the Rutgers and New Jersey communities, to help us promote the SIC initiative and to help promote democracy and prosperity. While we are proud of our successes on campus, it is for naught if it is done in isolation. We call on all those who wish to support the development of the next generation of Jewish and pro-Israel leadership to join us and support the SIC initiative.
Alex Zeldin, ‘13
Rutgers Hillel student board