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March 28, 2003     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 28, 2003

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 28, 2003 PAGE 13 By Rachel Pomerance NEW YORK (JTA)--Pro-Is- rael activists are gaining ground on campus, but some WOnder how the war against Iraq could change the equa- tion. The anti-war movement, many of whose leaders also head pro- Palestinian groups, the newest venue for pro- Palestinian activity on cam- Pus, Jewish officials fear that the inclusion of the Palestinian agenda under the anti-war Umbrella could help the Pal- eStinians win broader support a~ong young Americans. They fear, too, that if war with Iraq fails or drags on, it Will empower the anti-war ~a~Vement and, with it, pro- estinian activists, since ~ leaders of the anti-war move- ment claim that American Poli~ is formulated to serve Israel s interests. But anti-war fervor so far has failed to make great head- WaYon campus: Most students are ambivalent about war and View the anti-war movement () F F I C E O U T E T as a hodgepodge of anti-estab- lishment causes. At the same time, Mideast dialogue groups are on the rise, contributing to a climate that is friendlier toward Israel .than at any time since the mtifada began more than two Years ago. When it began, the intifada ~Parked a burst of pro-Pales- ian activity that in some Cases inspired acts of anti- Semitism on college cam- PUses. Charges against Israel - COUched in progressive lan- guage that attracted liberal academics stunned Jewish students and their campus rganizations, which were ill- prepared to respond. TWo years later, a nlluence of factors have bol- ~Sfeted ~e-confidence of pro- rael activists on campus: the attention of many po- might hear something nega- But theADL's Ross said the tential Palestinian sympa- tiveabout Israel - "that kind of impact of dialogue groups de- thizers who are too preoc- stuff sinks in." But his opera- pends on progress in the Is- cupiedwiththeconflictwith tion is in "triage mode," he raeli-Palestinian conflict. Iraq to worry about any other said, with new resources and Dialogue groups flourished issues, staff offering higher-profile during the Oslo period, Ross In addition, a small "pro- programs, cultural and edu- said, yet %vhen violence broke America" movement has cational events and advocacy out in the Middle East, you arisen in reaction to the anti- training, went from dialogue to con- war movement- and it carries The Berkeley administra- frontation" very quickly. a pro-Israel bent. tion also helped fund speeches Shira Levine, a University In any case, polls have oncampusthisyearbyformer of Michigan sophomore who shown that most American MideastenvoyDennisRossand founded a pro- Israeloutreach students mirror general former Israeli Prime Minister and education group on cam- American public opinion, Ehud Barak. pus, agrees that students re- which is pro-Israel. Another development is the act to events on the ground. Still, Jewish officials are birth of dialogue groups on But %vhat it means to build cautious, and say war against campuses across the country, peace oncampus, intheworld, Iraq could open a new front At the University of Illinois, istostartbuildingyourbridge, for Jewish students, dialOgue between Muslim and even if you don't know if it will The anti-war movement is a Jewish groups brought the two take you to the other side,"she "gift from the Lord" for pro- together to respond to attacks said. Palestinian activists said Jef- on each side. Levine'sgroup, the Progres- frey Ross, director of campus When an anti-Semitic edi- sire Israel Alliance, invited affairsfortheAnti-Defamatibn torial ran in the campus pa- members of Students Allied League. "It is an opportunity per, the campus Hillers head, for Freedom and Equality, for them to make their case to Alison Siegel, came home to sponsors of last fall's national much larger numbers of find phone messages and e- conference at the University people, andtodoitonanissue mails of sympathy from her of Michigan for divestment that is of more direct concern Muslim friends, who wanted from Israel, to Hillel to dis- to most Americans than the to know what they could do to cuss the origins of the Israeli- plight of the Palestinians." help. Palestinian conflict. "The fact that the" anti-war Likewise, when a Jewish When Levine stopped by a "movementissortofpeppered activist ran an anti-Arab ad recent campus rally, a pro- with anti- Israel leaders and campaign in the campus pa- Palestinianactivistinvitedher spokespeople, we never know per, Siegel tried to reassure over for a potluck dinner. where it's going to emerge," the Arab community. "I feel like that matters. I said Wayne Firestone, direc- Warmer relations haven't feel like there's someone to tor of the Israel on Campus curtailed politicaldemonstra- listen to on the other side," Coalition, acoordinatingbody tions on both sides, but have she said. for Jewish groups on campus, lessened the verbal intimida- For both Levine and Siegel, To be sure, anti-Israel ac- tion used to be associatedwith the goal is an improved, edu- tivity still pops up on campus them, Siegel said. rated atmosphere on campus. independently of the anti-war At Georgetown University, "I can't dictate Middle East movement, five grass-roots discussion policy,'Siegeisaid."Idon'teven At RutgersUniversity, ban- groups have sprung up for knowwhatIwouldsayifIcould, nets at two student centers Jews, Christians and Muslims, but I can work to make this a call for the liberation of Pales- according to Rabbi Harold better community and this a tine"from the river to the sea" White, the university's Senior better learning environment." - code for a Palestinian state to Jewish chaplain. replace Israel, not live along- "It's been very, very suc- side it- and a Palestinian film cessful, and there has been festival recently aired at Co- very little contentiousness on lumbia University. this campus as a result," White For the moment, however, said. the distraction of war and the Georgetown's Students for influx of pro- Israel resources Middle East Peace, a dialogue has allowed Israel advocates groupcreatedduringtherocky to make headway, spring semester last year, Even at Berkeley - site of hosted a conference on cam- fortification of pro-Israel some of the most violent anti- pus two weeks ago that drew ag~n. tivists.AmericanJewishor- Israel activism during the up to 60 students from East izations have responded to intifada - "things are really Coast colleges, The Hoya ~ deast activism on campus quite positive," in a 'Worst- newspaper reported. !~ new models of pro-Israel case scenario kind ofway," said The university also has lvOcacy for students. The el- Berkeley Hillers executive di- hosted several"Abraham Sa- ~ort has led to effective, pro- rector, Adam Weisberg. lens," an interfaith dialogue ~'tiveprogrammingforlsrael There is still "very, very ca a cadre of sav y student negative background noise on Pus advocates. Israel," Weisberg said. An av- i the failure of anti-Israel erage student walking across rategies. The divestment campus on an average day ement- a crusade for uni- rsities to drop their invest- ~ents in Israel'- is widely re- gamed as a failure. Divestment vi~p i~ons were rejected by uni- ~l~rslty presidents from M rVard to the University of ~lch!gan, and even engen- sot.eel counter-statements of ~darity with Israel. n addition, anti-war rallies g~ oile e campuses across z'yrica/ast week failed to "lOb ilize a large amount of Pr 'Palestinian activism. less confrontation. The ~Urrent academic year has io~n a growth of Mideast dia- ti~ue groups and administra- :,U~'Sponsored lectures.Alter- ~iVely, many Jewish groups fr~ discouraged followers ,;~'" reacting to fringe pro- t'alestinian activity. ~oth strategies have re- ;Uhlted in less confrontation "C~rnPus Ir. the impending war with . ' The movement has had ,tradictorv effects: While have'exposed some ' ents to the Palestinian " enda, it also has diverted based on the recent book "Abraham," which presents the figure of the Hebrew patri- arch as a potential facilitator for interfaith activity. ,!'?~ photo by Jay Schleichkom Seckbach recognized for leadership Having served three and a half years as president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Orlando, SIM SECKBACH (1) was presented with a special sheet cake by Jerry Kurland, acting president at the March 11 meeting. In addition, Seckback received a unique cer- tificate recognizing his leadership. 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