Pro-Israel Strategy Faces Campus Setbacks

Divestment Push Advances at Brown and Cal-Irvine

Campus Debate: Students at the University of California-Irvine debate a proposal to call for divestment from Israel.
josh Friedman
Campus Debate: Students at the University of California-Irvine debate a proposal to call for divestment from Israel.

By Seth Berkman

Published November 29, 2012, issue of December 07, 2012.
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Eran Shayshon, an advocate of the “beyond the conflict” strategy at the Reut Institute, in Israel, said: “Clearly, when clashes erupt, there’s a fertile ground to promote anti-Israel sentiment and much more criticism of Israeli policy. But it also diverts attention from efforts that seem marginal to the bigger story.”

Shayshon, who is director of national security and global affairs at Reut, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on influencing change in the Jewish world, said that groups like Irvine Divest were only interested in media exposure. But he acknowledged that the resolution helped “reawaken pro-Israel groups on campus.”

Lisa Armony, director of the Rose Project of Jewish Federation & Family Services, Orange County, which was created in 2008 to counter anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity at UC Irvine, agreed that pro-Israel students were rallying in response to the resolution.

Rothstein, of StandWithUs, said that pro-Israel students felt attacked by the divestment measure. She said that when Israel is not being attacked on campus, “you have the luxury of doing education on Israel technology and humanitarian aid.”

Cecilie Surasky, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that supports some forms of BDS, dismissed the idea that the beyond-the-conflict strategy had quelled campus support for BDS. “Divestment efforts and criticism of Israeli occupation [are] simply becoming more normalized and accepted,” she wrote to the Forward in an email. “Years ago, no one even talked about Palestinians. Five years ago, student activists had to educate others about the occupation. Now, everyone knows about the occupation; the debate is about how to end it.”

Contact Seth Berkman at berkman@forward.com


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