Why do people hate Israel?

We live in a bad world.

There is nothing new about that. The world has been pretty bad since its inception. That’s why God destroyed it and started all over again (with little to show for the new experiment, one might add).

From a moral perspective, look at the world since 2000.

North Korea remains an entire country that is essentially a large concentration camp. 

Tibet, one of mankind’s oldest cultures, continues to be occupied and destroyed by China.

Somalia no longer exists as a country. It is an anarchic state in which the cruelest and strongest (usually one and the same) prevail.

In Congo, between 1998 and 2003, about 5.5 million people were killed — nearly the same as the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

In Syria, about 150,000 people have been killed in the last three years, and millions have been rendered homeless. 

In Iraq, there is a mass murder from terror bombings almost every week.

In Mexico, since 2006, approximately 120,000 people have been killed in the country’s drug wars.

Iran, a genocide-advocating theocratic dictatorship, is very near having the capacity to make nuclear weapons.

Christian communities in the Middle East are wiped out; Christians in Nigeria are routinely massacred.

Of course, the 20th century was even bloodier, but we are only in the 15th year of the 21st century. Nevertheless, showing how awful the world is for so many of its inhabitants is not my point. My point is that, despite all this evil and suffering, the world has concentrated its attention overwhelmingly on the alleged evils of one country: Israel.

What makes this so worthy of note is that Israel is among the most humane and free countries on the planet. Moreover, it is the only country in the world that is threatened with annihilation. 

This is the only time in history when people in free countries have sided with a police state against a free state. One cannot name any time in modern history — the only time in history when there have been free societies — when, in a war between a free state and a police state, the free state was deemed the aggressor. That’s because it never happened before Israel and its enemies.

The question, of course, is why?

Why, during a time when a Kenyan mall is blown up, Islamic terrorists massacre Christians in Nigeria and thousands more die in Syria, is the world preoccupied with 600-some Palestinians killed as a direct result of their firing thousands of missiles in order to kill as many Israelis as possible?

Why has obsession with Israel been the case since its inception, and especially since 1967?

It can’t be occupation. China occupies Tibet, and it merits virtually no attention from the world. And Pakistan’s creation, coming at the same time as Israel’s, led to millions of Muslim (and Hindu) refugees. Yet, that country, too, merits no attention. 

There are only two explanations for this moral anomaly.

One is the nearly worldwide embrace of leftist thought and values. According to this way of thinking, Westerners are almost always wrong when they fight Third World countries or groups; and the weaker party, especially if non-Western, is almost always deemed the victim when fighting a stronger, especially Western, group or country. Leftism has replaced “good and evil” with “rich and poor,” “strong and weak,” and “Western (or white) and non-Western (or non-white).” Israel is rich, strong and Western; the Palestinians are poor, weak and non-Western.

The only other possible explanation is that Israel is Jewish.

There is no other rational explanation because the fixation with, and the hatred of, Israel are not rational. Israel is a particularly decent country. It is tiny — about the size of New Jersey and smaller than El Salvador; and while there are more than 50 Muslim countries, there is only one Jewish one. She should be admired and supported, not hated to the extent that there are dozens of countries whose populations would like to see Israel annihilated — again, a unique phenomenon. No other country in the world is targeted for extermination.

As hard as it is for modern, rational and irreligious people to accept, Israel’s Jewishness is a primary reason for the hatred of it. 

Ironically, this fact — just as with the fixation on the Jew before Israel’s existence — confirms for this observer the divine role the Jew plays in history. Few Jews are aware of their role, and even fewer want it. But, other than the influence of the left, there is no other explanation for all the animosity toward Israel.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host (AM 870 in Los Angeles) and founder of PragerUniversity.com. His latest book is the New York Times best-seller “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins, 2012).

N.Y. State bill ends funding to schools linked to boycott groups

A bill introduced in the New York State Assembly would suspend funding to educational institutions which fund groups that boycott Israel.

The legislation, introduced earlier this month by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and first reported by Mondoweiss, an anti-Zionist news site, would ban state funding to colleges which fund groups that boycott “in countries that host higher education institutions chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.”

A number of New York-based universities have Israel branches, and Silver made clear in a statement that the target was groups that boycott Israel.

The Democratic lawmaker said he initiated the measure “in response to the American Studies Association’s boycott of Israel and its academic institutions.”

“Colleges should not use funds to support boycotts, resolutions or any similar actions that are discriminatory and limit academic opportunities,” he said in the statement.

The ASA was one of three U.S. academic groupings to boycott Israeli academic institutions last year.

The bill, which currently has 48 sponsors out of 150 members, would cut funding to institutions that pay dues to groups such as the ASA or which subsidize travel to its conferences.

Anti-Zionist rabbi blames Israel for his assault in Amsterdam

An anti-Zionist rabbi said he was attacked in Amsterdam because of Israel.

Rabbi Josef Antebi, 50, an Orthodox Jew who lives in Amsterdam, told JTA he was assaulted on Sunday in the Dutch capital by a young man who “had relatively dark skin and didn’t look very Dutch, or at least didn’t look like his family has been living in Holland for centuries.”

Antebi said he was kicked in the stomach by a driver who exited his car after nearly hitting the rabbi. He was taken to a hospital, examined and released with minor injuries after filing a complaint with police.

A spokeswoman for the Amsterdam police told JTA that police are investigating but are not certain the attack was anti-Semitic.

“Currently we are assuming it is an argument about traffic that got out of hand,” she said.

Antebi took a picture of the attacker with his cellular phone.

“He shouted negative things about my religion and about my people,” said Antebi, who was born in Israel but says he does not recognize its right to exist and describes himself as a Palestinian Jew.

According to Antebi, he turned to a fishmonger operating a street stall and asked him to call the police as the attacker was approaching, but the fishmonger “just motioned ‘no.’ ”

The attacker kicked him in the stomach, the rabbi said.

“I’m not surprised he did what he did, it’s human behavior,” Antebi told JTA. “The one to blame is the Zionist state, which is doing a lot of bad things to people.”

Ehud Barak plays down talk of war with Iran

Defense Minister Ehud Barak played down Tuesday speculation that Israel intends to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, saying no decision had been made on embarking on a military operation.

“War is not a picnic. We want a picnic. We don’t want a war,” Barak told Israel Radio before the release this week of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran’s nuclear activity.

“(Israel) has not yet decided to embark on any operation,” he said, dismissing as “delusional” Israeli media speculation that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had chosen that course.

But he said Israel had to prepare for “uncomfortable situations” and ultimately bore responsibility for its own security.

All options to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions should remain open, Barak said, repeating the official line taken by Israel, which has termed a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to its existence.

Israel is widely believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, something it has never confirmed or denied under a policy of strategic ambiguity to keep Arab and Iranian adversaries at bay.

Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s defense minister, cautioned against any military strike on its atomic facilities. “We are fully prepared for a firm response to such foolish measures by our enemies,” Vahidi was quoted as saying by Iran’s student news agency.

Western diplomats said the report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog is expected to show recent activity in Iran that could be put to developing nuclear bombs, including intelligence about computer modeling of such weapons.

Iran says its uranium enrichment program is aimed at generating electricity only.

“I estimate that it will be quite a harsh report … it does not surprise Israel, we have been dealing with these issues for years,” Barak said.

He voiced doubt, however, that the U.N. Security Council, where Tehran’s traditional sympathizers China and Russia have veto power, would respond to the IAEA’s findings by imposing tough new sanctions following four previous rounds of measures.

“We are probably at the last opportunity for coordinated, international, lethal sanctions that will force Iran to stop,” Barak said, calling for steps to halt imports of Iranian oil and exports of refined petroleum to the Islamist Republic.

Such steps, he said, “will need the cooperation of the United States, Europe, India, China and Russia—and I don’t think that it will be possible to form such a coalition.”

Moscow has called for a step-by-step process under which the existing sanctions would be eased in return for actions by Iran to dispel concerns over its nuclear program.

At a news conference in Berlin, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said “militarist statements to the effect that Israel or other countries use force against Iran or any other country in the Middle East” represented “very dangerous rhetoric.”

Speculation in Israel about an imminent attack on Iran was fueled last week by the Jewish state’s test-launching of a long-range missile and comments by Netanyahu that Tehran’s nuclear program posed a “direct and heavy threat.”

Pressed in the radio interview about a military option, Barak said he was aware of fears among many Israelis that a strike against Iran could draw catastrophic retaliatory missile attacks by Tehran and its Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah allies.

“There is no way to prevent some damage. It will not be pleasant,” Barak said. “There is no scenario for 50,000 dead, or 5,000 killed—and if everyone stays in their homes, maybe not even 500 dead.”

Israel held a wide-scale civil defense exercise last week, a drill that Israeli officials said was routine and scheduled months ago.

Interviews by Reuters with government and military officials, as well as independent experts, suggest that Israel prefers caution over a unilateral strike against the Iranians.

Iran has repeatedly said it would respond to any attack by striking U.S. interests in the Middle East and could close the Gulf to oil traffic, causing massive disruption to global crude supplies.

Many countries like Russia and U.S. allies Germany and France have opposed any strike against the Islamic Republic, saying it could cause “irreparable damages,” suggesting that the dispute should be resolved through diplomatic means.

The United States says it remains focused on using diplomatic and economic levers to pressure Iran.

Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna and Tehran and Berlin bureaux; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Czech Republic, Italy, Netherlands on board with Durban III boycott

The Czech Republic became the first European Union country to say it would boycott the United Nations-sponsored Durban III conference.

Shortly after the Czech Republic announced July 22 that it would not send a delegation to the Durban III conference set for Sept. 22 in New York, Italy and The Netherlands announced that they also would stay away.

The conference is marking the 10-year anniversary of the U.N.‘s World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, during which the delegations from the United States and Israel walked out in protest as the tenor turned increasingly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

The Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic wanted to include in the final statement of the meeting in September “that all participating states emphatically distance themselves from the linking of subjects that have nothing to do with the fight against racism,” but “because it is not possible to get such a guarantee, the three countries now see themselves forced to no longer participate in the preparations for the celebration, and also not to attend it, ” The Netherlands Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement, according to NIS News.

Italy’s foreign minister cited anti-Israel political manipulation that made it impossible for Italy to attend the event. In a statement released Friday, France Frattini noted longstanding reservations about the “Durban process.”

“The process has been transformed from a forum for debate on and coordination of international action against racism, discrimination and xenophobia into a tribunal for accusations against Israel,” he said, adding that Italy had refused to take part in the Durban II conference in 2009 and voted against convening the 10th anniversary event.

Israel, the United States and Canada already have said they will not attend Durban III.

The countries that voted at the United Nations in November against the Durban III session were Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, the Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Among the countries abstaining were Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary and Spain.

UN Watch, a nongovernmental organization affiliated with the American Jewish Committee, commended the Czech Republic for its decision.

“The Durban process was marked by ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and that is not something that should be commemorated,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer.

O.C. demonstrators protest Muslim activists

Several hundred people demonstrated outside the Yorba Linda Community Center in Orange County on Feb. 12, where two controversial Muslim activists addressed a fundraiser held by the Queens, N.Y.-based Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).

Waving American flags and signs that read “No Islamic terrorists” and “Don’t tread on me,” demonstrators lined Imperial Highway and filled the grassy areas outside the public building to protest what they called the group’s agenda to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on American society.  They were particularly upset with the event’s keynote speakers, New York cleric Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Amir Abdel Malik Ali, whom they said hold anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views.

Ali is a frequent guest of Muslim student organizations on U.S. campuses, including the University of California, Irvine (UCI), where he has spoken several times at the Muslim Student Union’s Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual program of Israel-bashing and anti-Zionist sentiment that often wades into anti-Semitism. In May 2010, the Oakland cleric told a UCI audience that he supports Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad as well as jihad on the UCI campus, and accused Jews of causing the world’s financial troubles. UCI Chancellor Michael Drake condemned Ali’s endorsement of terrorism, without mentioning the cleric by name, as a breach of the university’s commitment to values and civility.

Wahhaj, who leads the Brooklyn al-Taqwa Mosque, became the first Muslim to give an invocation at Congress in 1991. He was named as a co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He was never charged and has denied involvement.

ICNA spokesperson Syed Waqas said the $25-a-plate event was meant to raise funds for the organization’s ICNA Relief program, money that will be used for local social services, such as women’s housing, disaster response, and burial and funeral assistance. He said Ali and Wahhaj were chosen to speak because they were available on the day of the event and because of their strong backgrounds in social services. Ali was said to be speaking about the Islamic perspective of relief efforts in Southern California, according to ICNA’s Web site.

Waqas denied that his group was anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, adding that ICNA may or may not endorse everything Ali and Wahhaj, who are not ICNA members, stand for.

“We don’t know for sure where the money will go, but when you bring a guest speaker who supports Hamas, and when you bring a co-conspirator of 9/11, you must ask who these people are and what they support,” said Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie of the North County Chabad Center.  Eliezrie worked with local community leaders to coordinate the protest.

Opposition to the fundraiser coalesced into a major grass-roots demonstration in the weeks leading up to the event after several community groups learned about it and alerted others through Facebook and e-mails, Eliezrie said. Participants included a diverse mix of Jewish and Christian groups from as far away as the Inland Empire and the San Fernando Valley with representation from the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, local chapters of Act! for America and Bikers for Christ and other organizations.

Yorba Linda Mayor Nancy Rikel said she received about 75 e-mails demanding that the city not allow the event to take place, according to a report in the Orange County Register. Rikel said ICNA representatives declined her request to bring in alternative speakers. City attorneys have said that the city cannot block ICNA from using the building.

Speaking at the demonstration, Rikel said the day would live in infamy in Yorba Linda and warned that the country was under threat by those who seek to take away our freedoms.

“This is not about hate,” said Karen Lugo, Chapman University adjunct professor of law, who led the crowd several times in chanting “No Shariah, not here, not now, not ever.”

“We are not hatemongers,” she said. “The world Islamophobia is an effort to chill us. The Constitution was never meant to allow a tyranny of a minority.”

Other speakers included Eliezrie, Rabbi Dov Fischer of Young Israel of Orange County, Irvine Jewish activist Dee Sterling and U.S. Congressmen Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Gary Miller (R-Calif.).

Royce, who chairs the international terrorism subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was impressed and inspired by the demonstration but that more awareness of the threat of radical Islam was needed.

“Many people in the community feel strongly about the rights of individuals and are here to express their free speech rights as well as to point out to others the history of the adoption of this brutal, primitive and barbaric interpretation of Islam.”

Royce said he welcomed plans by Homeland Security Chair Peter King to launch hearings on radical Islam in the United States, which he said will begin soon.

“We must remain vigilant against those who would take away our liberties,” he said.

“We need to make a stand against this hatred,” said Yorba Linda resident Ron Shamas, who said at least 50 members of his synagogue came out to support the demonstration. “We see what has happened in Europe, and nobody did anything, and now they have so much trouble.”

Rutgers Jewish students claim only they were charged for event

Jewish students at Rutgers University and their supporters who turned out to protest a campus event sponsored by anti-Zionist groups said an admission fee to the event was levied only on them.

Some 400 pro-Israel Jewish students and their supporters gathered Saturday night to attend the “Never Again for Anyone” program, which had been billed as a free campus event.

The event was sponsored by the campus student group BAKA: Students United For Middle Eastern Justice, and organized by three national organizations: the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Americans for Muslims in Palestine and the Middle East Children’s Alliance.

According to event organizers, a fee for the event of between $5 and $20 was imposed at the last minute after the university decided to charge the organizations a higher fee to rent the auditorium upon determining that it was not a student event. The fee was set in order to cover the cost of the hall rental and to pay for two security guards engaged after it was learned that there would be protests, according to the Providence Journal.

But student protesters told the newspaper that the sign reading free admission was taken down as they approached the venue and that they believe the charge was a way to discourage the protesters from attending the event, since they would not give money to a group whose message with which they disagree.

If the protesting students had been allowed to attend the event, they would have outnumbered supporters 4 to 1, according to reports.

The event also was endorsed by humanitarian, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, Greek life and anti-racist student organizations at the university, according to the Rutgers student newspaper, The Daily Targum.

A letter by BAKA published in the student newspaper Jan. 27 invited all members of the campus community to the event.

The Jewish students who made the claims on the admission fees reportedly gathered in the lobby of the student center and sang Hebrew songs.

“Never Again for Anyone” is billed as a nationwide tour “to honor those who perished in the Holocaust by upholding the human rights inherent to all people—and particularly for Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation.” At least 14 programs in 11 cities are planned through the end of February.

Diplomats Make End Run With Early Ratification of Final Durban Document

GENEVA (JTA)—Durban II reached its conclusion, it seemed, three days early.

A day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tirade against Israel triggered a walkout by the European delegation and generated headlines around the world, diplomats at the U.N. forum scrambled to ratify the conference’s final document on Tuesday—three days before the parley’s close, when the document was scheduled to be adopted.

It was not immediately clear whether the move was meant to head off further debate over the text or to prevent additional walkouts by delegations in protest.

The document ratified by delegates includes the item that prompted Israel and half a dozen other countries to boycott the conference: reaffirmation of the 2001 Durban document, which singles out Israel, brands it a racist country and cites the Palestinians as victims of racism.

“Clearly they were panicking and had to get a quick victory before the text could spiral even further out of control,” Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, said of the delegates’ vote. “Of course, the text is unacceptable because it still ratifies the flawed 2001 text.”

Despite the document’s early ratification, the very public walkout by EU delegates during Ahmadinejad’s speech and the events surrounding the conference guaranteed that Durban II would not be a reprise of the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Pro-Palestinian elements hijacked the original event in Durban, South Africa, and turned it into an anti-Israel free-for-all.

Geneva has had some similarities with Durban.

In 2001, the conference provided a platform for a polarizing leader from the developing world to rebuke Western nations: Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who was greeted enthusiastically by thousands of activists at the NGO Forum that preceded the conference. This time it was Ahmadinejad, the only head of state to address the conference, who called Israel a “racist government.”

But whereas the Durban conference was chaotic, noisy advocacy in Geneva was banned from U.N. grounds and activists were restricted to a few minutes per day to address its follow-up.

And whereas critics of Israel in 2001 went largely unanswered or drowned out pro-Israel voices, Ahmadinejad’s speech was met by denunciations in the media, including a rare rebuke by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. And after Ahmadinejad relinquished the podium, the very next speaker, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, called the Iranian president’s speech “incitement to hatred, spreading politics of fear and promoting an indiscriminate message of intolerance.”

For their part, pro-Israel protesters went on the offensive, interrupting Ahmadinejad’s speech and providing context to the Israel-focused tone of the conference with their own news conferences, demonstrations and Holocaust commemorations—the conference coincided with Yom Hashoah—in Geneva and beyond.

While the singling-out of Israel surprised delegates at the 2001 conference, Israel’s allies worked hard in the months leading up to Geneva to ensure it did not devolve into a repeat of Durban.

To some extent, then, the document’s early adoption Tuesday could be considered a defeat.

The document had been the center of diplomatic activity in the weeks leading up to the conference in Geneva, which was supposed to evaluate progress toward the goals set by the 2001 event.

Diplomats worked late last Friday to hammer out details of the final draft of the document, in part to avoid threats of boycott by countries concerned about its implicit branding of Israel as a racist state. In the end, the changes were insufficient to satisfy concerns by the United States, Australia, Germany and a few other countries, which announced they would not attend the conference. Most European countries, however, did not pull out.

In theory, the document could have been debated and changed at the conference itself, for better or for worse. Indeed, the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference called for “open discussion on all issues” at the conference. But any such possibility ended when the draft document was ratified Tuesday with no additional changes.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told reporters the original scheduled adoption date of April 24 was “just in case the main committee needed that much time—just in case various debates reopened or questions were raised.”

“None of that happened,” she said.

Pillay called the document’s early adoption “great news,” saying it “reinvigorates the commitment” of states to combat racism and “highlights the suffering of many groups.”

B’nai B’rith denounced the document’s ratification, calling it “flawed and offensive” and blaming Libya for engineering its early and swift passage.

“We condemn this rubber stamp document in the strongest terms possible,” Richard Heideman, the head of the B’nai B’rith Delegation in Geneva, said. “The adoption of this document shows nothing has changed since 2001, no lessons have been learned.”

Though the document was adopted by consensus, it was tainted by the boycott of 10 nations, including the Czech Republic, whose delegates walked out in protest during Ahmadinejad’s speech and never returned to the conference. Along with the United States, Australia and Germany, the other boycotting countries included Canada, New Zealand, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland.

The extent of the boycott was cheered by Jewish and pro-Israel groups, which sought to discredit the Geneva proceedings.

After Monday’s theatrics and Tuesday’s ratification, the remainder of the conference was expected to be taken up by NGO activists criticizing the deprivation of human rights for various peoples, including the Palestinians.

Prepping Campuses for Anti-Israel Surge

When Ross Neihaus exited his chemistry class three days after the start of UCLA’s fall quarter, he saw the words “Anti-Zionist and Proud” scrawled in chalk on the wall of an adjacent building. Such a statement coming so early in the quarter was a surprise to the fourth-year biology major, but not a shock.

“I expect this to be my toughest year in college,” said Neihaus, the president of Bruins for Israel, UCLA’s pro-Israel group. “We are concerned that what will be said this year will be nastier, more radical and essentially more anti-Semitic.”

Like Neihaus, many pro-Israel students and organizations are bracing themselves for a torrent of anti-Israel activity this year. While the war in Iraq brought a lessening of anti-Israel rhetoric on campus during the 2002-2003 school year, many experts believe that the anti-Israel movement will gain momentum during 2003-2004.

“This year, a confluence of political dynamics and an escalation of violence in and around Israel will set parameters for a tremendous upsurge of anti-Israel campus activity,” said Jonathan Kessler, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee leadership development director, during a Sept. 11 briefing.

Pro-Israel campus organizations are taking precautionary measures and making sure that students are prepared.

Many Jewish organizations are focusing on education as their primary weapon in the battle on campus. While positive Israel programming, such as Israel Week, was last year’s tactic of choice, Jewish organizations speculate that students will need to address some difficult and complex questions this year.

The Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) brought Natan Sharansky, Israel’s minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs, to speak at 13 East Coast campuses in September to debunk myths that Israel is a violator of human rights. (Sharansky is scheduled to appear at West Coast campuses in the near future.)

“It’s difficult for Jewish students and people who are involved in organizations that promote human rights to hear allegations made against Israel and not know how the respond,” ICC Director Wayne Firestone said.

Locally, the pro-Israel grass-roots organization StandWithUs launched two campaigns to provide students with accurate information. The first, United For Freedom (united4freedom.com), is a multicultural panel of speakers that tours campuses speaking about Israel from different perspectives. The second, Stand4fact.org, which is expected to launch this semester, is a Web site that looks at speeches given by anti-Israel speakers and deconstructs them with facts.

StandWithUs is also planning an advocacy conference on Nov. 16 in partnership with the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles to teach students how to respond to anti-Israel activity.

“It’s just not enough anymore for students to say ‘I’m Jewish and I’m proud of Israel,’ because it’s hard to feel that way in the current campus climate without knowing the facts,” said Esther Renzer, president of StandWithUs. “Students need content material to fight this battle.”&’9;

In addition to educating students locally, many Jewish organizations plan to encourage the education of students in Israel.

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life will launch a pilot leadership mission to Israel in December that will focus on 360 students chosen from across the country who have been to the Jewish state previously.

The Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles also plans to send local students on a leadership mission to Israel in December.

While education is the main push, the proactive activities of last year have not completely gone out of style. In fact, students at Rutgers University Hillel chose to respond to the third annual National Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, originally scheduled to take place on their campus this month. Named Israel Inspires, the campaign is a yearlong effort to “show that Israel is more than just politics and conflict,” but rather “the land and the people who inspire it all the time”

Since Hillel students began planning their campaign, however, the pro-Palestinian conference has been making headlines across the country, ever since New Jersey Solidarity, the original host of the conference, branched off to form their own conference at Rutgers — a split that some believe is due to the fact that New Jersey Solidarity is too militant for the Palestine Solidarity Movement.

In the meantime, the Ohio State University Committee for Justice in Palestine offered to host the national conference on their campus while New Jersey Solidarity held their conference at Rutgers from Oct. 9-12, even though university administrators canceled the conference claiming that organizers had missed a paperwork deadline. Despite the controversy, Israel Inspires kicked off their campaign with a rally of pro-Israel speakers, live music and free food from Oct. 9-12.

Locally, student campus groups plan to continue doing positive Israel programming as well. Both UCLA’s Bruins for Israel and USC’s SC Students for Israel are planning Israel Weeks in an effort to start school off on a pro-Israel tone and make Jewish students feel at home.

“We want to make people feel good about Israel before they experience what I think is going to happen the rest of the year,” Neihaus said.

Conflicts on Campus

"Israel Independence Day, 2002 and Counting…" read the sea of royal blue T-shirts adorning members of the UCLA Jewish Student Union (JSU) — a positive statement at a time when Jewish students are receiving a great deal of negative publicity on college campuses across the country.

More than 120 Jewish students, including JSU members, gathered at UCLA’s Meyerhoff Park on April 11 to oppose an anti-Zionist rally organized by the Peace and Justice Coalition. The coalition, a new group on the UCLA campus, is an alliance of student organizations, including the Muslim Student Association, the African Student Union, Samahang Filipino, the Asian Pacific Coalition, the Vietnamese Student Union, Concerned Asian Pacific-Islander Students for Action, the United Arab Society, the Iranian Student Group and the Pakistani Student Association.

"Our purpose in being here is that we believe before the average student makes a decision on this issue, they should be given accurate information," said Justin Levin, president of the JSU. "The Palestinian leadership is the organization that is truly oppressing the Palestinians…. Israel is trying to make peace."

Countering Levin’s opinion, members of the Peace and Justice Coalition vehemently condemned Israeli procedure. "This is not about Palestinian politics. It is about land, occupation and justice," said one pro-Palestinian student. Li’i Furumoto, a Muslim convert and director of a Muslim outreach program for high school students said, "I don’t agree with what is going on with suicide bombings, but I am not in their position, and they are reacting in such a way because of their terrible conditions."

Despite tensions, the rally remained peaceful. "My mom told me not to come," said Jewish student Viki Rapoport. "I’m glad I did. It shows how united the Jewish students are."

Peaceful is more than can be said for many college campuses in California. "Thank God we live in Westwood and not Berkeley," Levin said.

The Berkeley Hillel was recently the target of anti-Jewish graffiti, one of many anti-Israel incidents on campus.

With the conflict escalating in the Middle East, Jewish students in Southern California are feeling the tension more than ever. At UC Irvine, the UC campus with the largest Muslim population, an April 11 rally put on by Muslim students was "supposed to be a peaceful march for humanitarian rights, but it wasn’t any of the above," said Sheila Nowfar, president of the Orange County Hillel. "There were signs saying, ‘Zionism and Nazism: two heads on the same coin,’ and signs comparing Hitler to Sharon."

UC Riverside has experienced anti-Semitic vandalism, as well as a threatening response to a letter to the editor by Hillel Director Chaim Shapiro. "There were attacks against me personally, slamming Israelis, slamming Israeli soldiers and calling Jews ‘animals,’" Shapiro said.

While many Jewish students have been increasingly vocal, others are "less eager to be publicly Jewish," said Becca Birken, Jewish Campus Service Corps fellow at California State University Northridge. Birken, who organized a Hillel trip to Disneyland that was planned to include a "Havdalah" service in the park, changed her agenda when students decided that it "would be too visual for them."

However, the majority of the Jewish student population has refused to be subdued. "I don’t expect violence on this campus, but I do expect to see more rallies," Levin said.

Other campuses are working to organize programs that have a generally educational focus. Nowfar and the Orange County Hillel are planning a tolerance program at UC Irvine with the Museum of Tolerance that focuses on accepting religious differences.

Also at UC Irvine is Anteaters for Israel, a new student-run, pro-Israel political organization started by student Sarah Tolkoff. Tolkoff, along with the Israeli consulate, Hillel of Orange County and Betar on Campus, a group that says its mission is to present the public with accurate facts about the Middle East, are planning a panel discussion titled, "Did You Know: Before You Take Sides, Ask Questions." The panel will feature speakers such as Tashbeih Sayyed, editor of Pakistan Today, David Suissa of Suissa Miller Advertising and Avi Davis of the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies. "We suspect that the event will be protested heavily. Two of the speakers have death threats against them," Tolkoff said.