We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East. (From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

Friday, 16 September 2011

More "Trembling Israelites"? UK's Jewish Students Go Softly, Softly Into The Fray

At a time when Israel needs firm and resolute advocates more than ever before, the UK's Union of Jewish Students (UJS) has, it seems, been taken over by Yachad/J Street types.
It appears to many in the Anglo-Jewish community that while the UJS exists for the commendable purposes of enabling Jewish students to eat kosher, daven, and have fun, its heart is not really in getting involved in Israel advocacy in a committed, strenuous way.

Critics point to what they see as a lamentable track record of the UJS  going lily-livered and caving in to pressure ("Islamist-cowed" is how it has been described by one victim http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/douglasmurray/100034452/how-to-lose-friends-and-alienate-people-a-lesson-from-islamist-cowed-jewish-students/), citing as cases in point the UJS's withdrawal of its invitations to well-known public intellectual Douglas Murray, a  strong friend of Israel and critic of Islamofascism, to speak at Gateshead and to Benny Morris to speak at Cambridge, and its attempt to prevent prominent pro-Israel activist Jonathan Hoffman from demonstrating in support of Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon in a public street outside LSE.

Now comes news that will strike many people as utterly depressing.
'Jewish students arriving at universities in the next fortnight will be asked to pledge their support to "two states for two peoples", hand out Israeli and Palestinian flags, and support "freedom, justice and equality" for all.'
That's how the Jewish Chronicle describes a "radical, progressive" campaign, encouraging students to speak up for the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, to be launched by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), a campaign that will carefully cherry-pick which issues to fight, not react in "knee-jerk" fashion to criticism of Israel, and which reportedly has the tacit backing of communal organisations.  The report continues:
'There is a belief within UJS that standard advocacy efforts "do not cut it any more" because "students are not stupid". Students will be encouraged to back the "liberation" of Israelis from Palestinian terror, and Palestinians through the formation of a new state. 

Campaigns director Dan Sheldon said UJS had decided on the new direction because "hasbara is not working". He said: 
"We have done our research. Old campaigns regarding Israel have not worked, so we are trying a bold approach.
Not everyone will agree with our bold campaigns this year, but we're hoping to start a conversation, to get our community properly engaging with and discussing Israel. Already, we've sat with everyone from Yachad to StandWithUs to start that dialogue."'
The report notes that
"Efforts to overturn the National Union of Students' anti-Israel policies adopted earlier this year will continue, as will opposition to campus extremism and invitations to hate speakers."
 http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/54741/union-jewish-students-shows-commitment-peace

Some might well consider this ostensibly well-meaning new approach defeatist or naive.  Indeed, the contention that hasbara is ineffective because "students are not stupid" would appear to blame the victim, conceding that Israel deserves much of the hostility it incurs. Since demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel needs no excuse these days, especially on British campuses, it seems a singularly ill-advised choice of words. 

Let's hope the new policy - which the UJS admits may alienate some of its members and which has reportedly infuriated the Israeli Embassy in London -  does not, unwittingly, play into the enemy's hands.

Jonathan Hoffman, for one, is certainly less than impressed.  He says:
"Hamas is committed to the genocide of all Jews and the PA refuses to recognise the State of Israel. The vast majority of Israeli Jews and indeed of UK Jews will find the image of UJS pressing Palestinian flags on Jewish students utterly repulsive. Fortunately there are now alternatives on campus to UJS - namely Stand With Us and British Israel Coalition. I would urge Jewish students and indeed their parents to vote with their feet."

23 comments:

  1. I am so angry that the British Jews are so dhimmified. I would even hazard a guess and say that, like here, most haven’t a clue what is going on.

    Where are those like our forbears, who fought the fascists in the East End, in Cable Street?

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  2. The adage "none so blind as those who won't see" come to mind, Shirl. They might get their heads out of the sand eventually.

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  3. Daphne

    It is now endemic in the UK. Every 'Zionist' organisation now feels that its duty is to spread propaganda on behalf of the Palestinians. Have a look at the kind of thing BICOM (Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre) is now promoting:

    http://edgar1981.blogspot.com/2011/09/what-hope-for-israel-if-this-is-one-of.html

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  4. ..and incidentally I don't believe the bit about the Israeli Embassy in London being infuriated about the UJS stance. I've spent some time with a few key figures at the Embassy and they are among the biggest dhimmis I have ever come across (the sort who think that if somebody is upset with the Israelis it can only be because the Israelis have done something wrong). They are also ignorant in the sense that they believe most people really love the Israelis and that even those who demonstrate outside the Embassy are harmless kids with a genuine grievance.

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  5. They might never get their heads out of the sand if they are cut off.

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  6. I suggest they go the whole hog and give out keffiyehs and boxes of matches to set fire to the Israeli flags, Daphne

    Jonathan Hoffman

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  7. Edgar, some years ago I wrote to them about some outrageous slurs that had appeared, if I remember correctly, on the BBC website or something of the kind. They didn't want to get involved and even told me explicitly that the writer was entitled to his opinion! Shortly after that they stopped a Friends initiative that had seen them sending useful publicity material to signed-up supporters of Israel.

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  8. Perhaps they will once if their womenfolk's are compulsorily draped in hijabs, SG...

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  9. I wouldn't put it past them to adopt the keffiyeh, Jonathan!

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  10. Thank G-d in the main, we aren't like that 'down under'. Though Melbourne is dhimmified, as this item shows, which I sent 'Daphne' earlier

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/men-banned-as-muslim-women-win-council-backing/story-fn7x8me2-1226138283355

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  11. Right - as a member of UJS, an active Israel campaigner on campus for the last 5 years and someone who knows significantly more about the new policy and the situation on campus than anyone who has posted here, the author, the JC and Jonathan Hoffman...PLEASE PLEASE take it from me that the JC have got it wrong and there are no plans to "hand out Palestinian flags"

    The aim of the policy is to build a broad coalition of support for a 2 state solution based on self-determination for both the Israelis (ie the Jewish people) and the Palestinians. It aims to stop the endless cycle of tit-for-tat arguing and getting bogged down in the minutiae of policy detail that, shock horror, no-one outside of proper political hacks care about.

    The idea is to focus on values not political point scoring. It is a very sound policy, and that is why it is supported by >80% of the UK Jewish community

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  12. Thank you Edgar Davidson for your most interesting blog.

    http://edgar1981.blogspot.com/

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  13. Daniel may I suggest a direct approach. Why not just ask them why they do not accept the Jewish state?

    Those looking for moral certainties in this nasty issue will find them in the answer to that question.

    This old and ugly game has gone on long enough. Israel is a good thing about the world and Jews everywhere have a right to be proud. To hell with these BDS people. Israel is not going to dissolve like a salt pillar as if it was the old apartheid regime in South Africa. It is not the old apartheid regime in South Africa and no one is going to get away with that racist lie in my presence.

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  14. That includes a certain very senior cleric in the good old Church of England.

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  15. Sorry, ccd - I mistook your name as Daniel and misled geoffff into doing likewise. Specsavers beckons...

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  16. Daniel - I of course checked the JC story with UJS Campaign Mgr - UJS is to give out a kit to each J soc which includes one P flag

    in other words, it is true

    JH

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  17. Jonathan,

    I'm sure then that you will be happy to agree that UJS told you that the kits were for display purposes for the campaign, and that the ONE Palestinian flag (and ONE Israeli flag) are there to reflect the campaign branding.

    Also, how exactly is this one flag going to be handed out to students? Cut into tiny pieces? No flags are being given out to any students...not Israeli nor Palestinian.

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  18. I was told that every kit will include one Pal and one Isr flag

    JH

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  19. So you will then agree that the JC are inaccurate in claiming that Jewish students will be asked to hand out Palestinian flags...

    The issue here is that: 1) the campaign has broad support both within and external to the community
    2)It offers a fresh solution to a stagnant problem
    3)It is an evidence based campaign based on the surveys of attitudes within the community and on campus.

    Traditional hasbara has had a fair crack at the whip. It was where all of us cut our teeth and gave us the skill set to get involved in activism. However, it cannot be said to have been successful, and the time to arrest the slide is now, and not when we have lost the war on campus.

    It is telling that the only dissenting voices to the campaign have come from those with no genuine experience of campus issues - those in the thick of it appreciate the fresh idea for what it is.

    I hope you all will get behind us and support us in our attempt to make the university experience better for Jewish students.

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  20. You dig yourself in deeper with every post
    JH

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  21. You have no evidence whatsoever for these statements:

    “it is supported by >80% of the UK Jewish community”

    “the campaign has broad support both within and external to the community”

    “It offers a fresh solution to a stagnant problem”

    “It is an evidence based campaign based on the surveys of attitudes within the community and on campus.”

    JH

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  22. Leftwing group Yachad supports Palestinian UN recognition bid:

    http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/55296/jewish-group-yachad-backs-palestinian-statehood-bid

    Another student viewpoint here:

    http://www.thejc.com/campus/campus-comment/55271/new-ujs-campaign-insult-jewish-students

    and see:

    http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/55132/ujs-lacks-backbone-schochet

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