A panel at the Jewish National Fund annual conference, held this year in Washington, D.C., titled “Positively Israel: Influencing the Narrative on Campus” featured Jewish and non-Jewish students, along with faculty, who spoke about the importance of building relationships with open-minded members of the campus community willing to engage in constructive conversations about Israel.

“As a young person and a college student, I believe it is important for pro-Israel students to be leaders of the future, not the conflict,” said Caravan for Democracy participant Deandra Denton, who attends Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y. “Israel is one of the most fascinating countries on the planet. The program helped shape my perception of Israel and allowed me to see that Israel is a diverse country with a rich and complex society. All too often, the topic of Israel is sloganized and simplified, and people fail to see the nuances that exist.”

The panel lamented the fact that anti-Israel students continue to promote negative and deliberately simplified views about Israel on campus, along with more potent activism in the form of the BDS movement, which in turn creates a tense and unwelcoming environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students.

“We create pro-Israel spaces on campus, where people can come in and have a conversation about where they stand and how they perceive Israel,” said co-chair of JNF-USA’s College Summit and Ohio State University student Maya Rosenberg. “The reality is that there are spaces on campus that refuse to allow pro-Israel students to express their opinions; however, we want to promote a dialogue that is respectful and open. There has never been a more important time for pro-Israel students to come together to change the narrative on campus.”

Students involved with “Positively Israel: Influencing the Narrative on Campus,” a program at the Jewish National Fund’s annual conference, September 2019. Credit: JNF-USA.

The panel applauded JNF-USA’s “Positively Israel” campaign, and how it enables students to experience Israel’s culture and history while making connections with Israelis and seeing that there is a narrative that exists beyond the conflict.

“It is the modus operandi of anti-Israel activists to make the conversation solely about the conflict and politics. Therefore, it’s important that supporters of Israel are given the tools they need to talk about the ‘real Israel,’ ” said Srinagesh Gavirneni, professor of operations management at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. We must do more to get positive information about Israel out there given the fact that negative information flows freely on campus.”

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