The anti-Israel bias that is so prevalent in the West has spawned the so-called BDS movement, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, which in turn has led to the formation of several anti-BDS organizations. Foremost among them may be Stand With Us, an American-based organization that was established to oppose BDS on campuses and that has now spread around the world.
We went to a presentation of Stand With Us at the Beth Israel Conservative Congregation in Netanya by Michelle Rojas-Tal a very articulate speaker. She started by giving her own background, a half Puerto-Rican, half-Jewish kid growing up in New York City who only learnt of the suffering of her maternal grandmother during the Holocaust in Europe when she was a teenager and began to be interested in her Jewish roots. When she was in school and then university she began to read a lot about Jewish history and Israel, but she found found herself defending Israel against many lies and propaganda, including from her teachers. This led her to become an activist and eventually joining Stand With US, and she is now their Diaspora Education Director, located in Jerusalem and married to an Israeli.
She described many examples of anti-Israel activities of professional student provocateurs on US campuses. How they claim to be supporting the rights of the down-trodden Palestinians, but actually engage in violent anti-Semitic acts and will stop at nothing to demonize and destroy Israel. This includes shouting down pro-Israeli speakers, tearing down pro-Israel posters, attacking pro-Israel information tables and intimidating individual Jews who wear a Magen David or any other identification. So that now it is dangerous for Jewish students to attend many campuses in the US and Canada safely, as well as in the UK, France, S. Africa and Australia. This is now a world-wide phenomenon and the level of anti-Semitism has reached heights not seen since WWII.
She also described actions of Stand With Us to counteract the BDS movement and its outrageous acts of violence and lies. There have been many positive outcomes, from preventing the passage of divestment from Israel on many campuses to training and dispatching spokesmen to campuses in countries all around the world, including China (to read more about the activities of Stand With Us see http://www.standwithus.com). They also produce very useful pamphlets and information to help people understand the issues and counter anti-Israel propaganda. In doing so it is very important that they be absolutely truthful and totally nonviolent.
However, I have two issues with Stand With Us, first their activities are largely defensive in nature. They need to be more proactive and to not just counter the enemy (for that’s what they are) but to point out their many weaknesses. For example, the Arab countries are in melt-down and have produced almost no stable civil societies. For example, the Palestinians are violently split between Hamas and Fatah and the PA “government” of Pres. Abbas is actually illegal since his term expired in 2006. For example, the Palestinians have no pressure to resolve their problems with Israel because they are looked after from cradle to grave by the UNRWA, which is mainly supported by the USA. I know its difficult to go from defense to offense when you are under constant attack, but we must do it.
The second issue is that their pamphlets, their main contact with the world, are too wordy and not graphic and hard-hitting enough. We Jews know that we are right, so we think if we explain everything in detail people will be persuaded. But, that is nonsense, in this age of short attention span and social media we must hit them with the facts between their eyes. That’s the only way to win the propaganda war.