It is crucial to recognize that the threat of anti-Israel activism on college campuses, including BDS, is not from the immediate results it can achieve, but rather the long term effect it could have in eroding America’s long-standing support for Israel among tomorrow’s leaders. And while significant challenges lay ahead, effective organization and action, both by pro-Israel organizations and the Israeli government, can contribute significantly in minimizing and countering this threat.
We note that, in light of the range of driving factors behind anti-Israel activity, efforts need to be made on two levels: one level to contain and neutralize the “hard-core” anti-Israel activists, who refuse to dialogue and call for an end to Israel; and on another level vis-à-vis the vast majority of students who are critical of Israel but may not be anti-Zionist, or who are generally a-political and can be engaged.
We recommend the following principles for action that we saw consistently among those already being practiced with success across the U.S.:
- Take a pro-active stance, alongside defensive action when necessary;
- Comprehend the recent tactical shift on campuses to an aggressive political campaign, BDS focused approach, and operate in kind;
- Increase Israel education and engagement for Jewish students, both before and during college;
- Expose the extremist and anti-liberal ideology and goals behind main anti-Israel activists;
- Positively present Israel as opposed to tearing down the Palestinians; Show the human side of Israel and its complexity;
- Work in moderate and not extreme ways (anti-Israel activists tend to resort to extremism which alienates many students);
- Work mostly behind the scenes strategically to build coalitions and personal relationships;
- Utilize the campus legal and governing system in an advantageous manner;
- “Speak the same language” where possible (i.e. student groups should be engaged by other student groups, grassroots organizations with grassroots organizations, liberals with liberals, unions with unions, professors with professors, etc.)