Protesters target Trump speech to California Republicans


Protests erupted on Friday outside the venue where U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump was speaking to a group of California Republicans, a day after a demonstration against the former reality TV star turned ugly.

About 300 people gathered outside the convention in Burlingame, south of San Francisco. Protesters, who held signs and Mexican flags, at one point rushed security gates, and police officers had their batons out.

News cameras caught images of Trump, guarded by security officials, hopping a barrier and walking toward a back entrance of the hotel for his speech to the California Republican convention. Protesters were blocking traffic.

“That was not the easiest entrance I've ever made,” Trump told the gathering. “It felt like I was crossing the border actually.”

Trump has won a following among Republican voters in the United States, along with ardent critics, for his hardline stand on illegal immigration. He has accused Mexico of sending drug dealers and rapists across the U.S. border, and promised to end it by building a wall and making Mexico pay for it.

Chaotic scenes broke out on Thursday outside a Trump rally at the county fair grounds in Costa Mesa, California. Media reported that anti-Trump protesters smashed the window of a police patrol car and blocked traffic. Some 20 people were arrested.

The Republican front-runner was in the state ahead of its June 7 primary, when the most convention delegates of the Republican nominating cycle will be at stake.

Trump's rivals hope to block the real estate mogul from garnering the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz on Friday picked up the backing of Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, the next state to hold a nominating contest.

Trump, who described himself this week as the party's presumptive nominee, would take a huge stride toward knocking his Republican rivals out of the presidential race if he wins the Indiana primary next week.

Protests have become common outside rallies for Trump. His campaign had to cancel a rally in Chicago last month after clashes between his supporters and protesters.

Cheryl McDonald, 71, of Discovery Bay, said she had to pass through protesters to get inside the hotel where his event was being held on Friday. “They were yelling. I think the only words they know in the dictionary are profanity,” said McDonald, who said she is a Trump supporter.

Cruz won backing from Indiana's governor on Friday ahead of the state's primary, where the Texan is fighting a rearguard battle to damage Trump's chances of winning the nomination.

“I'm not against anybody, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz in the upcoming Republican primary,” Pence said on an Indiana radio show.

Cruz, a U.S. Senator from Texas, is trailing the New York billionaire in the Midwestern state after losing to him by a wide margin in all five Northeastern states that held nominating contests on Tuesday.

The endorsement from Pence could boost Cruz's hopes of winning Indiana on Tuesday. A CBS poll out earlier this week found Trump with about 40 percent of support in Indiana, compared to 35 percent for Cruz. The poll had a margin of error of 6.6 points. Other polls have also shown Trump ahead.

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.”

Police, protesters clash in Egypt


Violent protest spread across Cairo and other Egyptian cities on Friday as tens of thousands of demonstrators intensified their campaign to oust President Hosni Mubarak, pouring from mosques after noon prayers and clashing with police who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.

The protests came after weeks of turmoil across the Arab world that toppled one leader in Tunisia and encouraged protesters to overcome deep-rooted fears of their autocratic leaders and take to the streets. But Egypt is a special case — a heavyweight in Middle East diplomacy, in part because of its peace treaty with Israel, and a key ally of the United States. The country, often the fulcrum on which currents in the region turn, also has one of the most largest and most sophisticated security forces in the Middle East.

In what protesters called a “day of wrath,” a crowd of at least 10,000 people moved east from Cairo’s Mohandeseen neighborhood, trying to reach the central Tahrir Square that has been an epicenter of protest. The demonstrations were on a scale far beyond anything in the memory of most residents.

Read more at NYTimes.com.

Protesters menace Israeli diplomat in Britain


Pro-Palestinian protesters tried to attack the deputy ambassador of Israel to Britain.

Protesters lunged at Talya Lador-Fresher following her lecture Wednesday at the University of Manchester. The envoy, who was not hurt, told Britain’s Jewish Chronicle that she feared she would be physically assaulted by the protesters.

Lador-Fresher was removed from the area by a security vehicle, which she entered from the back entrance of the lecture hall. The demonstrators attacked the car, some holding Palestinian flags up to the windows and others climbing on the hood and trying to smash the windshield, according to reports.

“I don’t think they wanted to kill me, but I genuinely believed they wanted to physically hurt me,” she said. “If I had not had the police and security team, I would have been beaten up.”

Lador-Fresher told the Jewish Chronicle that “No foreign diplomat should have to go through what I went through.”

She had been scheduled to give the lecture in February, but it was postponed following reports of planned demonstrations and the inability of university authorities to properly protect her. At that time, more than 300 protesters from the Action Palestine student society scuffled with Jewish students and police.

The lecture was scheduled for Wednesday, when police and university authorities said they were prepared to deal with the demonstrators, including a complete lockdown of the building, a high-level security presence, ID checks at the door and ticket-only arrangements.

UC Riverside Faculty Voice Support for Protesters Against Oren


Faculty at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), joined voices at UC campuses statewide in support of 11 students arrested for heckling Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren during his Feb. 8 speech at the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

Thirty-one professors and graduate students from several UCR departments signed a “Statement on Free Speech, Palestine and the ‘UC Irvine 11,’ ” drafted by Dylan Rodriguez, chair of the university’s Ethnic Studies department.  The March 11 pronouncement calls on the UC administration and the Orange County district attorney’s office to drop disciplinary and punitive action against eight UCI and three UCR students, which it calls “discriminatory, cynical, and politically and intellectually repressive.”

The UCI students have been charged with violations of the student codes of conduct.  Officials at UCR could not confirm whether action would be taken against their students.

“We believe that this is a cynical and opportunistic attempt at political repression that reflects the racial criminalization of young Arab, Middle Eastern and Muslim men and women as actual or potential ‘terrorists.’  By way of contrast, Ethnic Studies faculty have taught courses in Ethnic Studies in which classroom proceedings were disrupted by students with opposing views, and the university administration did not pursue any disciplinary or punitive measures against them.  In fact, we have sometimes been told that such disruptions are an expression of academic free speech,” the statement said.

Rodriguez said the statement was intended to take issue with the tendency, since at least 2001, to affiliate Muslim men with terrorism within popular discourse, as well as to challenge what he sees as selective enforcement of codes of conduct by university administrators.

“People protesting is something to be expected,” he said, noting that UCR administrators did not take disciplinary action against what he called “conservative” student protesters following a similar incident last fall.  “When people get selectively subjugated to enforcement of codes of conduct, it has a chilling affect on political discussion and freedom.”

Muslim students and their supporters say they were exercising their free speech rights when they interrupted and jeered Oren 10 times before leaving the hall to stage a demonstration outside, a claim that has been rejected by legal scholars, including Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UCI law school.  Student governments at four UC campuses —  Irvine, San Diego, Los Angeles and Berkeley — have issued statements opposing sanctions against the 11 students.  In contrast, a March 2 statement by UCI’s Council on Faculty Welfare, Diversity and Academic Freedom expressed the council’s commitment “to creating an atmosphere in which the examination of competing ideas can occur without disruption or intimidation.”

Also on March 15, a group calling itself “Stand With the Eleven” issued a response to a March 8 letter to UCI students by Oren, in which he stated his willingness to return to campus for a respectful dialogue with students of opposing viewpoints on Middle East issues.  The response, which claims to accept Oren’s offer, accuses Israel of being a modern-day colonialist state and implicitly equates Israeli policy with apartheid.

“We willingly take you up on that offer.  But to clarify, our willingness does not stem from any delusional notion that your words can right the decades of wrong and injustice.  As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.  Your military past with the Israeli ‘Defense’ Force and your current position as the official representative of a state before the U.N.
General Assembly on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity speak louder than any ‘remarks’ you can make.”

Turmoil Grows as Withdrawal Nears


With Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip scheduled to begin on Aug. 15, escalating right-wing and settler protests threaten to plunge the country into anarchy and could provoke a strong anti-settler backlash.

Protesters last week blocked major highways, poured oil and scattered spikes across a busy road; occupied buildings in Gaza, and threw stones at Palestinians and Israel Defense Forces soldiers. The army and police responded by temporarily declaring the Gaza Strip a closed military zone, ejecting the extremists from occupied buildings and making dozens of arrests.

In an unprecedented spate of interviews and public statements, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon condemned what he called the “hooliganism” of the far right, and vowed that he would not be deterred by it.

However, will authorities be able to maintain law and order in the face of even more extreme protest plans?

Even if they do, Sharon faces other serious challenges. Right-wing soldiers have begun refusing to obey orders, a phenomenon that some fear will spread. There also is talk among rebels in Sharon’s own Likud Party of a move to replace him as prime minister with the more hawkish finance minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. (See related story on Netanyahu’s visit to Los Angeles on page 20.)

On the other hand, there are signs that the settlers and other withdrawal opponents may have gone too far and have seriously undermined their cause. The media is rife with angry anti-settler columns, and the latest polls show a dramatic increase in support for withdrawal.

The last week of June may prove to have been a turning point. The repeated blocking of traffic on major thoroughfares has incensed ordinary Israelis, and the cat-and-mouse games that anti-withdrawal teenagers played with police trying to keep the roads open have exasperated authorities.

But more devastating for the settler cause have been the images of violence: the near-lynching of an 18-year-old Palestinian by right-wing extremists, and an Israeli soldier injured after being hit by a boulder. It was also feared that the oil and spikes on the highways could cause fatal accidents.

Right-wing leader Moshe Feiglin said that the possibility of a few Israelis dying now as a result of the protests pales in significance next to the large numbers of Israelis, he says, “will surely die” if the withdrawal goes ahead.

The oil and spikes prompted outspoken attacks on the protesters in the press. The most vehement came from crime correspondent Boukie Naeh in Yediot Achronot: “If the police don’t break your bones, I will.”

“The Israeli army and the police should kill a few members of your criminal Jewish gangs and stop the anarchy,” Naeh wrote. “Because if they don’t deal with you today, tomorrow you’ll burn down my house just because I don’t agree with you.”

Avi Bettelheim, deputy editor of the rival Ma’ariv newspaper, was more sanguine. He argued that the mayhem of the past few weeks has done much to discredit the settler cause, and said he now believes the withdrawal will go through more smoothly.

A July 1 poll in Yediot Achronot seemed to bear Bettelheim out. After a steady decline to 53 percent at the start of June, the poll showed support for the government’s withdrawal plan climbing back to 62 percent.

However, other observers aren’t convinced police will be able to handle future protests.

Writing in Ha’aretz, Amos Harel asked, “If the police deploy a 6,000-strong force throughout the country but are unable to prevent roads from being blocked, what will happen during the pullout, when a larger number of police will be busy evacuating” the Gaza Strip?

There is another looming threat that could compound the manpower issue: soldiers refusing to carry out evacuation-related orders. Three soldiers already have refused to participate in withdrawal-related operations, and have been sentenced to up to 56 days in jail.

Moreover, Orthodox soldiers, serving according to a special arrangement with their yeshivas, known as hesder yeshivas, are asking to be exempted from having to evacuate settlers.

The army does not intend to make it easy for soldiers who refuse orders. Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, military chief of staff, has warned that if hesder rabbis continue telling students to refuse evacuation-related orders, the IDF may reconsider the whole hesder project, which mixes religious study with army service.

Sharon, clearly disturbed by the threat of anarchy and refusal, gave brief interviews to all the major Hebrew dailies. He told Ha’aretz that “under no circumstances can we allow a lawless gang to take control of life in Israel.”

In Yediot Achronot, Sharon declared, “What we are witnessing is not a struggle over the withdrawal from Gaza, but a battle over the character of the state.”

He told Ma’ariv, “This wild behavior will stop. Period.”

Despite all the opposition, Sharon is determined to go through with the withdrawal.

One thing that could still stop Sharon would be a Likud Party coup to oust him and install Netanyahu in his place. Addressing a major economic conference in Jerusalem, Sharon declared that he was aware of how his opponents “are planning my political ouster.” Although Sharon didn’t mention him by name, everyone knew he meant Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s moves will be crucial. He is under pressure from the far right to put himself at the head of the Likud rebels and move to topple Sharon. But as a would-be prime minister himself, Netanyahu needs to be careful not to ally himself too closely with the far right.

Netanyahu voted Sunday to delay the withdrawal by three months, although the Cabinet defeated the proposal by an 18-3 vote.

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Postcard From the Westwood Protest


On the day the war in Iraq began, I endured a
migraine-inducing traffic jam on Wilshire Boulevard. As I inhaled car fumes for
nearly an hour, my frustration grew. It reached the boiling point when I
learned the cause behind the gridlock: antiwar protesters. The blocking of
traffic by the No-War-In-Iraq protesters not only had no impact on the events
unfolding abroad, but they diverted valuable police resources from fighting
crime and preventing terrorism. They also made me late for dinner at my
parents’ house.

So it was with scant enthusiasm that I went to the Federal Building
in Westwood a few days later to cover the antiwar marches for The Journal. On
my way to the rally, I walked by a hippie with a stringy gray ponytail.
Shouting “Bush is a fascist” in a stentorian voice, he gave the Nazi salute to
shocked motorists, presumably an expression of his anger toward the
administration.

His antics failed to move me. Neither did the opinions of
the first protester with whom I chatted. After accusing the United States of
going to war for oil, he said America was “killing innocent Iranians for no
reason.”

Call me uninformed, but I thought the America was fighting
in Iraq.

I then spoke to a Muslim of a mixed Persian-Bangladashi
heritage named Said. His voice rising in anger and his forefinger thrust in my
face, he began cataloguing the alleged motives that led Bush to war. They
ranged from a push for global hegemony to “wanting to protect the honor of his
daddy, who Saddam Hussein tried to kill.” Just as I was about to tune Said out
(actually, an elderly woman banging a drum made it nearly impossible to hear
him), he started to make sense. Lots of it.

He said the United States could have avoided bloodshed by
simply keeping its troops in the Persian Gulf and letting U.N. inspections
proceed. With the world united against Saddam Hussein and pressure mounting,
the Iraqi dictator would have likely turned over his illicit arsenal. By
attacking him, the United States has only increased the likelihood that Hussein
will unleash the chemical and biological weapons that America so fears.

There were a handful of Jews among the diverse crowd of
about 100. Given the strong anti-Israel speeches and placards that have
recently appeared at some antiwar demonstration, I was especially curious to
hear their thoughts.

Elizabeth Kaye Sortun, holding a sign that said, “War Is Not
The Answer,” repeatedly flashed the peace sign at passing cars. Dressed in
black to show solidarity with “all the victims,” the 46-year-old daughter of a
Holocaust survivors said protesting an unjust war upheld the Jewish tradition
of social activism.

“I think Saddam is bad, but the United States shouldn’t
unilaterally invade another country. The U.N. said no, and yet this
administration is behaving like a cowboy,” said Kaye Sortun. “The U.S. isn’t
the boss of the world.”

Although the Los Feliz landscaper has seen the occasional
anti-Israel sign at antiwar rallies, Kaye Sortun said fellow protesters have
made her and others feel welcome, whether Jew, Muslim or Christian. To make the
world a safer place for her 10-year-old daughter Ava, Kaye Sortun said she
planned to march as long as the bombs dropped in Baghdad.

Nearby, Carol Honigman waved a sign that said “No War.” The
64-year-old therapist said she worried about a backlash if the conflict goes
badly, including increased terrorism in Israel.

“Jews are always the scapegoats. It’s always our fault,”
Honigman said. “This could worsen everything.”

Her niece Melanie Weiner, 36, shared her antiwar sentiments.
Weiner, who had lived in Israel for seven years as a child, said the United
States was behaving hypocritically. She asked what right did America have
telling Iraq to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction when the United
States has a huge stockpile of nuclear bombs?

Weiner, a therapist, said countries should initiate military
action only as a last resort to prevent genocide and other crimes against
humanity. America’s war against Iraq falls far short of that standard.

After 2 1¼2 hours, the rally began to wind down as
protesters headed home and the banners came down. Weiner, who came to the event
after a busy day at work, had a parting thought explaining her willingness to
the verbal abuse heaped on her and other demonstrators by some passersby.

“I need to do what I can, even if my voice is drowned out,”
she said. “Otherwise, there’s too much despair, too much depression for those
of us on the left. It doesn’t matter if we succeed. We have to keep fighting
the good fight.”  

The New Middle East Battleground: College Campuses


The signs on campus read, "Zionism equals Nazism" and "Why do Israelis love to kill Palestinian children?" One simply showed an Israeli flag dripping blood.

When Sarah Tolkoff returned to UC Irvine from her Birthright Israel trip last year, she says, "I realized the anti-Israel rhetoric on campus had gotten out of control. Going to school every day, I felt like my identity was being stomped on." The founder of UCI’s Anteaters for Israel activist group says, "I wasn’t involved until I got angry."

This school year, plenty of Jews and Jewish organizations are angry enough to get involved on campus. Hasbara ("advocacy" in Hebrew) for Israel is planned for colleges nationwide, as Jewish organizations begin campaigns to reach students this school year.

On college campuses, as in the news, the Israeli-Palestinian situation dominates the political conversation. In the pitched emotional battle to shape the thinking of the nation’s future leaders, the pro-Palestinian position often wins.

Like the protest movement against the Vietnam War, the Free Speech Movement or multicultural education, support for the Palestinian cause gains legitimacy and massive press coverage when it wins the hearts and picket signs of U.S. college students. This month, as students arrive at or return to college, Jewish organizations large and small hope to change the situation by organizing educational campaigns to help pro-Israel students make their case to their peers.

"Jewish students feel outgunned. We need to work on our intellectual arsenal," says B. J. Elias of Southern California Students for Israel, a program of USC Hillel. Elias, a USC graduate student and former Israel advocacy leader at Emory University, estimates, "About 70 percent of Muslim students could give a coherent analysis of how Israel is at fault in the current situation. About 70 percent of Jewish students could not answer those charges."

Elias believes Jewish students have not felt much need for a connection to Israel until recently. "For people in their mid-20s and younger," he says, "the existence of Israel has been a given; it didn’t need defending."

That situation has changed, as demonstrated by the highly publicized rallies on the campuses of UC Berkeley in April and San Francisco State in May of this year. In Berkeley, as reported in the student newspaper, on Yom HaShoah a Jewish student stood before a chanting crowd and recited "Kaddish" in honor of Palestinians killed during the conflict.

Confronted on campus with highly organized and often emotionally appealing pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel rhetoric, many students lack the factual and rhetorical preparation to support Israel among their peers. Even before Bay Area rallies in May, national Jewish organizations were coordinating efforts and preparing Israel advocacy initiatives for college campuses across the country. Even Hollywood is getting into the pro-Israel act, with a number of key people participating.

Though a recent American Jewish Committee-funded poll of college students found that more support Israel than the Palestinian cause in the current conflict (see p. 15), recent events show that most are still unable to articulate that support in a convincing way, while Palestinian supporters argue their case more effectively. It is this rhetorical disadvantage that Jewish organizations are now beginning to address.

At the forefront of the effort is Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. With funding and support from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Hillel has created the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), a network of 20 national Jewish organizations working to improve Israel’s image on college campuses.

"One of our biggest challenges is the majority of Jewish students who are not well informed," says Rhoda Weisman, chief creative officer for Hillel and director of its Center for Jewish Engagement. "We want to make sure, for those who are not well-connected with Israel, that we are giving them multiple points of entry."

ICC will coordinate pro-Israel events, information, marketing campaigns, speakers’ tours and programming, serving as a hasbara clearinghouse. Newly appointed ICC Director Wayne Firestone, formerly the Israel director for the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement, "I believe I can help students penetrate beyond the headlines to better understand Israel’s position as the only democracy in the Middle East, as well as its centrality to the Jewish people."

"We are almost a year behind," says Lynn Schusterman, president of the Schusterman Family Foundation, "I heard students in April of ’01 saying they needed help at an AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] policy conference student breakfast. They were not prepared factually to debate pro-Palestinian students. It took us until this May to get all of the organizations together."

More than 440 college activists from around the world convened this week at Hillel’s Charles Schusterman International Student Leaders Assembly for a six-day conference to learn leadership skills and pro-Israel advocacy.

Lisa Eisen, program director for the Schusterman Foundation and the ICC steering committee chair, says, "We saw diffuse efforts on campus, but given the worsening situation, we thought the problem was bigger than any one organization."

The problem is even bigger than one metaorganization, and many other groups have formed or refocused their efforts to support college students in their need for good arguments for Israel. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Jews in Crisis campaign has set a goal of $48,500 for the College Campus Initiative (CCI), a partnership of The Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee and the Los Angeles Hillel Council. The money will go toward a variety of projects on eight campuses in the greater Los Angeles area, according to Federation spokesperson Tzivia Schwartz Getzug.

CCI plans include a weekend-long conference called Action Israel, to train students and campus professionals in pro-Israel activism. The initiative also plans a weekly e-mail newsletter by and for Los Angeles-area students, and regular meetings of an Activist Student Leadership Network to develop leadership, organizing, and public relations tools.

Money will also be set aside to bring experts on Israel to speak on campuses, and to organize pro-Israel rallies. CCI plans to subsidize students who want to attend AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., as well.

David Suissa, chairman of SuissaMiller Advertising, is a leader in the effort to formulate a pro-Israel message to which students will respond. Formal debate isn’t Suissa’s style. "The mood for us next year is to take the gloves off," he says.

The advertising guru applies his sloganeering and sound-bite expertise to Israel advocacy in the form of fliers, leaflets and pamphlets produced by organizations he supports, such as Olam4Israel.com and Betaroncampus.com. The two groups, which share office space, produce similar eye-catching and provocative literature designed to grab and hold the attention of students.

Suissa calls it "instant activism for people with short attention spans." The message should not require too much time or effort to understand, Suissa says, because "the students didn’t sign up to join a war."

Olam4Israel plans to print 1 million pamphlets for distribution on campuses nationwide this year. Titled, "This Leaflet Is Full of Lies," the literature points out false but widely believed arguments that, unanswered and undisputed, have left pro-Israel students feeling helpless. Sister organization Betaroncampus.com offers on its Web site downloadable provocative "Did You Know?" fliers, featuring information supporting Israel that students can print and post on campus.

If Israel’s problem is public opinion, then there’s no business like show business to look to for help. Project Communicate is a working group of entertainment industry professionals who support Israel and want the world to know why. Among the heavy-hitters going to bat for Israel are CAA agent Dan Adler; political consultant Donna Bojarsky; producers Sean Daniel and Zvi Howard Rosenman; attorney Lynne Wasserman; screenwriter Tom Teicholz; entertainment attorney Ken Hertz, and Art Levitt, CEO of movie ticket Web site Fandango.com.

When Benjamin Netanyahu visited Los Angeles in May as part of The Jewish Federation’s Jews in Crisis campaign, a group of 25 entertainment industry creative people and executives from across the political spectrum held a breakfast meeting with the former prime minister. Since that time, Project Communicate has identified college students as its first priority, commissioning prominent political consultant Frank Luntz to report on the issues, arguments and ideas that can effect pro-Israel attitudes on campus.

Whoever is making the case for Israel — organization or individual, student or teacher, Jew or non-Jew — convincing Americans of any position requires the right words, the right language and the right framing. At the behest of Project Communicate, the American Jewish Committee and other organizations, Luntz went beyond college students, examining a range of U.S. attitudes toward the situation and the language that works to persuade Americans.

"From history to culture to values, the closer you define the similarities between Israel and America, the more likely you are to win the support of those who are neutral," the Luntz report says. Other general advice in the report includes, "Promote Anwar Sadat and King Hussein before you delegitimize Arafat," and, "The nation that is perceived as being most for peace will win this debate."

College students, with fast, easy access to the Internet, can find a wealth of hasbara advice with the click of a mouse (see sidebar), for example, The World Union of Jewish Students Web site has a downloadable "Hasbara Handbook."

As a student and a student leader, USC’s Elias has learned an important lesson in the hasbara battle that he likes to share with fellow pro-Israel students: take the offensive. "We need to put our position out there first," he says, "Not attacking the other side, but make them respond to our message."


For more information on Israel advocacy and the way the media portrays Israel, visit any of the sites below.

American Israel Public Affairs Committee:

www.aipac.org/sourcematissues.html

Hasbara:

www.hasbara.us

Awesome Seminars.com:

www.awesomeseminars.com

CAMERA:

www.camera.org

Honest Reporting:

www.honestreporting.com

The Middle East Media Reseasch Institute:

www.memri.org

Palestinian Media Watch:

www.pmw.org.il

Independant Media Review Analysis:

www.imra.org.il

World Union of Jewish Students:

www.wujs.org.il/activist/wujs/publications/hasbara_handbook.shtml

Betar on Campus:

www.betaroncampus.com

Olam For Israel:

www.olam4israel.org

American Jewish Committee:

www.ajc.org

Jewish Internet Association:

www.jewishinternetassociation.org/jia_links_advocacy.php