One of the key differences today versus a few years ago is that the American Jewish community has become active in anti-de-legitimization efforts. Pro-Israel and Jewish groups have “woken up” to the threat and have significantly increased their presence on campuses. These groups have far greater access to funding and national support than do their ideological opponents. Thus, on a given campus, it is more often the case today that Israel supporters outnumber their detractors by margins of 2 or 3 to 1, let alone incomparable funding.
While this report will not deal with specific strategies to fight de-legitimization, several organizations publish anti-BDS “hasbara” and strategy kits for students.58 In the recommendations below, we echo the strategies found to be most successful.
One such new strategy is pushing state level legislations against boycotts or divestment (Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina). While the effect this will have on universities is not yet clear, we expect it to be significant.59
The proliferation and diversity of anti-de-legitimization and anti-BDS groups and initiatives on campuses – a new phenomenon in recent years – is impressive. However, this plurality also comes at the cost of coordination and transparency. Moreover, among the more liberal in the American Jewish community there is a perceived lack of room for critical discussion of, or opposition to, Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians. These policies are often at odds with the liberal values held by many American Jews, and have caused a splintering within the Jewish community. Thus J Street, and J Street U on campuses is a counter-movement to the traditional AIPAC, and Open Hillel to the traditional Hillel International, formed to offer liberal Jews a platform to speak freely and advance their agenda.60 (For a list of pro-Israel organizations active on U.S. campuses, see Annex.)
The Government of Israel
Within the Israeli government, counter de-legitimization efforts are divided between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Strategic Affairs. While the Ministry of Strategic Affairs is formally tasked with designing strategies and coordinating the efforts to fight de-legitimization, the Foreign Ministry through its Washington embassy and regional consuls, has actively supported counter de-legitimization efforts throughout the U.S., including off campus, primarily from behind the scenes. However, and while general awareness of the threat has increased in the government, there is not yet a comprehensive strategic governmental plan backed by adequate budget to counter de-legitimization, including and especially on campuses.