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July 4, 2014

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 4, 2014 Two women who work to shift public opinion on Israeli sovereignty Nadia Matar (1) and Yehudit Katsover, co-chairs of Women in Green. sovereignty over Judea, Sa- maria, and the Jordan Valley. "It's like a huge ship that has to turn around," Nadia explains. "It's slow and takes tremendous effort to steer it in the right direction." For the two European-born womenwith decades of Jewish activist experience between them, the currentcampaign is a commitment that consumes their lives. Scrambling over the bar- ricade at the entrance to Shdema to deliver snacks and a friendly word to the soldiers, Nadia admits that she's func- tioning on three to four hours sleep per night. Pointing out the strategic position of the small outpost, with the outskirts of Bethle- hem and Beit Sahour almost By Judy Lash Balint Almost every day, Nadia Matar, 48, steers her battered white SUV along the hilly roads between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion to visit the soldiers stationed at Shdema. The revival of the small former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) army base located on Israeli-controlled land is one of the concrete achievements of Nadia and Yehudit Katsover, 66, her co-chair in the activist Women in Green movement. But Shdema is just the tip of the iceberg inwhatthewomen hope to achieve in the larger battle to shift public opinion away from the two-state solu- tion and to gain acceptance for the idea of declaring Israeli within touching distance on one side and the Jewish communities of eastern Gush Etzion on the other, the mother of six (ages 11- 25) describes how years of concerted effort, beginning in 2008, prevented Shdema from being taken over by illegal Arab building. "It's a small presence, but a big victory," Nadia asserts about the IDF's decision to maintain a presence at Shde- ma. Every Friday, Women in Green hold well-attended lectures and community activities in a remodeled com- munity center at the site. "We realized we had to act to restore the Jewish presence to the area," she says. Establishing facts on the ground is a key pillar of Nadia and Yehudit's activist philoso- phy. "Petitions don'twork: you have to be on the ground and then get political and public support," Nadia emphasizes. "Just like at Beit Hadassah," she adds. Yehudit Katsover, Women in Green co-chair, cut her activist teeth at Beit Hadas- sah in Hebron in 1979 as one of a group of 13 women and 40 children (two of whom were Yehudit's sons) from nearby KiryatArbawho snuck through a back window of the abandoned building to re-establish a presence in the ancient Jewish city. Recognizing that the wom- en were not going to budge despite enduring the primitive conditions for almost ayear-- "the rats were bigger than cats; lots of people got sick," Yehudit recalls--Menachem Begin's government lifted the siege of the building in 1980 and agreed to repair and extend the structure and allow families to reunite and move in. That action paved the way for the modern resettlement of Hebron. "We learned tactics there; how to deal with the prime minister, but most of all, from Rabbi Moshe Levinger, the leader of the return to Hebron, we learned to stay focused, to be tough and to concentrate on the goal," Yehudit says. Subsequently, Yehudit and her family moved to nearby Kiryat Arba, where she played many roles in the develop- ment of the community that is home to a diverse popula- tion of observant and secular Israelis--immigrants and native-born. As an ulpan teacher during the period of the major aliyah from the former Soviet Union, Yehudit says she saw the redemption in her classes filled with im- migrants. "Part of what we taught was a love of the land," she affirms. Both Yehudit and Nadia are themselves immigrants to Israel. Nadia grew up in a non-religious family with a strong Jewish identity in Antwerp, Belgium, while Ye- hudit was born and raised in Transylvania to parents who survived the Holocaust. Nadia arrived in Israel alone as an 18-year-old in 1984 to attend a Jewish leadership program. In Europe, she had been a leader in the Yavneh Olami student movement. Yehudit immigrated to Israel with her parents as a 12-year-old in 1960, after her mother who survivedAuschwitz, returned to Hungary after the war. Today, both women work as volunteers heading up the Women in Green, which started out as a grassroots movement founded by Nadia's mother-inqaw, Ruth Matar, to protest the Oslo Accords in 1993. Nadia was a highly visible leader of many public protests, and moved her fam- ily to Shirat Hayam in Gush Katif prior to Israel's 2005 unilateral pullout from Gaza. Now known as Women in Green and the Forum for Sovereignty, Nadia and Ye- hudit are the public face of a movement that has graduated from street theater and loud protests to a sophisticated and focused effort to promote an alternative political vision. A series of well-organized public Sovereignty Confer- ences as well as a serious political journal named Sov- ereignty have both featured influential Israelis and legal scholars. Writers and speak- ers have included former Israeli Ambassador to Canada Alan Baker, a prominent scholar of international law; Minister of Housing Uri Ariel; Middle East analyst Dr. Guy Bechor of the IDC Herzliya college; and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. "The more the people press for sovereignty, the more politicians will take action," Nadia and Yehudit emphasize. While political change requires long-termvision and steadfast commitment, Nadia and Yehudit and the Women in Green have not forgotten the day-to-day necessity to be watching out for the land itself. Whether at Shdema or in Netzer, an area of Israeli state land in Gush Etzion where Ar- abs have been illegally work- ing the fields and destroying trees planted by Jews, Nadia and Yehudit are on the front lines, calling up Israelis with tractors to come and help and organizing groups of lo- cal youths to replant, as well as pushing the authorities to formally take over the land. "Five years ago, sovereignty wasn't on the agenda," Nadia says. But today it's an approach that's widely debated, and respected Israeli leaders are considering its merits. For in- stance, Amos Yadlin--former head of the IDF Military Intel- ligence Directorate--recently,"Ifanagreement [with the Palestinians] is unachievable, then moving independently to shape the borders of Israel is the better course. While it is not the [ideal] alternative, it is better than the status quo or a bad agreement." Yehudit says with a smile, "We're optimistic: we're look- ing ahead." Campus eviction notices are fake, but their anti-Semitism is real Northeastern SJP Facebook page A cartoon posted on the Facebook page of Northeastern University's Students for Justice in Palestine chaptermwhich was suspended for violations including mock eviction notices, butwas then reinstatedmdepicts University President Joseph Aoun nailing boards on the door of the student group. Mir- roring the conspiracy theory that Israel controls American foreign policy, the cartoon features a disembodied arm from the sky--with a Star of David and The Lobby" written on its sleevepattt'ng Aoun on the head. By Alina Dain Sharon JNS .org creating a hostile environ- ment for Jewish students. Over the last two years, the mock eviction notices have appeared on at least a dozen campuses around the U.S., garnering the most at- tention at major East Coast schools including New York University (NYU), Northeast- ern University, and Harvard University. The notices at NYU, slid un- der dorm room doors in April, falsely stated. "Palestinian homes are destroyed as part of the state of Israel's ongo- The latest anti-Israel trend to gain momentum on college campuses has been the distribution of mock eviction notices in dormitories by members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Whether or not the notices have specifically targeted Jewish students, experts say the tactic highlights the conver- gence of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism on campus, ing attempts to ethnically cleanse the region of its Arab inhabitants and maintain an exclusively 'Jewish' character of the state." According to Tammi Ross- man-Benjamin--alecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz and co-founder of the AMCHA Initiative, an organization addressing campus anti-Semitism across the U.S.--the notices are not a criticism intended to "improve Israel as a modern state" or "legitimate criticism about settlements, the Likud government, or any particular aspect of Israeli policy," as de- fenders of the mock evictions may claim. Rather, she said the notices are a fundamental "delegitimization of the very notion of the existence of the Jewish state." "That in of itself is the key to understanding the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitic criticism of Israel," she told Brett Cohen, national cam- pus program director for the Israel education organization StandWithUs, agrees that the notices anti-Semitic. "The intent of a [mock eviction] campaign, which is to demonize Israel and dele- gitimize the Jewish people's indigenous right to self-deter- mination in their homeland, is an action deeply rooted in hate and qualifies for the U.S. State Department's definition for anti-Semitism," Cohen told But the more pressing issue, Cohen said, is how SJP "flagrantly violated the universities' rules with unap- proved flyers, and the intimi- dation of pro-Israel students and invasion of private space that went along with their disruptive actions." Harvey Silverglate, a civil liberties attorney in Boston and co-founder of the Founda- tion for Individual Rights in Education, told the Boston Globe in March that the evic- tion notices at Northeastern University "were obviously not meant to be taken as real eviction notices; they were political statements," and that the regulations requiring per- mission for political speech "could, and should, readily be declared invalid under Mas- sachusetts state law." But although the notices did state that they were not real, at Northeastern Univer- sity the flyers were designed to look like legitimate eviction notices that "listed informa- tion about a'Municipal Court' ordering the eviction, a case number, a warrant number, and an issue date; it also cited a building code within the explanation of the eviction," Max Klapholz, a third-year student and co-president of the Huskies for Israel group, told Northeastern administra- tors initially decided to ban SJP for at least one year for "a series of violations, which included vandalizing univer- sity property, disrupting an- other group's event, failure to write a civility statement, and distributing flyers without permission." according to the EVICTION NOTICE Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions An anti-Israel mock eviction notice that was posted on student dorms at Northeastern University. university, which eventually reinstated the group. At the various schools, SJP distributed the notices to the dorms of Jewish and non-Jewish alike. At NYU, the anti-Israel group defended itself against the accusation of anti-Semitism by saying in a statement, "Racism is not limited to the practices of the Israeli government, and opposing policies and racist rhetoric, including anti-Semitism, is vital... This action addresses only one of the many horrific aspects of the occupation that Palestin- ians face daily." But AMCHA's Rossman- Benjamin said the issue is less aboutwhether the notices were intended to specifically target Jews, and more about how they impacted Jewish students. First, the notices are be- ing distributed at dorms and invading student privacy, she said. Second, said Rossman- Benjamin, is that "you can have a [mock] eviction notice at a Catholic university that has no Jewish students," which, while still anti-Se- mitic, is "not influencing any Jewish students on campus and not creating a hostile environment for them." Students "felt unsafe on their campus" because of the notices, and in their af- Eviction on page 15A