(August 8, 2020, JNS Wire) Since the Covid-19 pandemic shut down college campuses in March, there has been an upsurge in anti-Israel activity on the internet, according to students attending CAMERA’s Annual Student Leadership Conference held on August 9 through 11.
“The rhetoric online has never been good,” said Sophia Rodney, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania. “But now, I think, it’s more constant and virulent. You see more propaganda, sometimes in unexpected places, and unfortunately it’s reaching more people because everyone is spending more time online.”
Sharon Cohen, a student at King’s College London in the United Kingdom, agrees: “Anti-Israel students, with little else to do apparently, go daily to their computers to spread lies and hatred of the world’s only Jewish state,” she said. “It’s been quite dispiriting, actually.”
Ben Stone, a master’s degree student at the Fuqua Business School at Duke University, said: “It is easier for people to show their true beliefs through social media during this pandemic, not only because it is ‘hip,’ but also because they feel it will have less repercussions with their surrounding classmates.”
“This is one of the most unstable times people have experienced, and as history has shown, Jews are once again being scapegoated for the wrongs of others,” he added.
Rodney, Cohen, and Stone said that learning strategies for monitoring and responding to the online hostility is one of the key reasons they are excited about the CAMERA conference, which is held via Zoom this year.
“This is our tenth summer training conference, but it’s very different this year,” said Aviva Rosenschein, international director of CAMERA on Campus. “Ordinarily, we sponsor a free trip to Boston, where students from all over the world participate in high-level, information-rich workshops that provide training in campus debates and activism. But this year, we unfortunately can’t fly everyone to Massachusetts. So, instead, we’re having three days of intense—but hopefully fun—interactive meetings in online workshops and break-out sessions.”
Judging by the number of students attending, excitement for the conference has not waned. At least one hundred students from around the world—from colleges in the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel and the United States—will log on to the CAMERA conference.
The students will hear from many notable scholars and speakers, such as: George Mason Law Professor Eugene Konotorovitch; Maccabee Task Force Executive Director David Brog; South African Human Rights Activist Olga Meshoe Washington; and CAMERA’s Executive Director Andrea Levin, among others.
Rosenschein said that the students will be discussing many of the most pressing issues now facing pro-Israel campus activists, including the legality of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank; the relationship between Zionism and the fight against anti-Black racism; the best answers to common myths and misinformation about Israel; and skills and tips for handling social media, online events, and campus recruitment during the coronavirus pandemic, among other topics.
When asked why she was attending the CAMERA conference, Sharon Cohen said that in both England and the United States, CAMERA has “a reputation for depth and seriousness” among students and professors.
“Simply put, CAMERA is a trusted resource, and that’s why I’m attending their conference from England,” Cohen said. “They are a fact-based, intellectual organization with decades of experience in defending Israel. I’m excited to meet their staff and speakers—and other student activists from other countries.”