NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY
Amb. Michael Oren has faced hostile audiences at multiple college campuses, including UC Irvine in February.
At AIPAC Policy Conference 2010, held last March, student leaders from all 50 states learned how to be effective pro-Israel advocates.
Student Leaders Support Amb. Oren and Israel
Among the many goals that Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, set out to achieve in his first year on the job was establishing a dialogue with American college students. As part of this outreach, the ambassador spoke in February at University of California, Irvine.
No dialogue with his audience was possible. His remarks were interrupted several times by a loud chorus of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel protestors, many of whom were involved with the Muslim Student Union on campus. Several students were arrested as a result of the outbursts, and the ambassador was made to wait until order could be restored.
The opposition toward Oren at U.C. Irvine was not an isolated incident. At Brandeis University—a school named after one of America’s most prominent Zionists—students protested when the school invited Oren to speak at their commencement ceremony and receive an honorary degree.
Indeed, over the past semester, anti-Israel students around the country have tried to delegitimize the Jewish state by advocating for boycott, divestment and sanction efforts. While their efforts have not made any serious inroads, they have created the impression, in the media if nowhere else, that Israel is unpopular and that Israeli officials are unwelcome on American campuses. BACK TO TOP
Student Government Presidents Take Initiative
Pro-Israel student leaders on campuses nationwide have pushed back against the small but aggressive minority of students who seek to turn Israel into a pariah nation.
After seeing Oren attacked on both coasts, two AIPAC-trained student government presidents decided to take action. Brandon Carroll of Virginia Tech and Wyatt Smith of Vanderbilt University drafted a letter to Amb. Oren, inviting him to speak on their campuses. To date, student government presidents from 72 campuses in 35 states and the District of Columbia have signed on to this initiative.
Carroll explained his motives. “I thought it was important that we show there isn’t this uprising of students against Israel,” he said. “There are a lot of students who are very supportive of Israel.”
Carroll and Smith met in March at the 2010 AIPAC Policy Conference—an event that attracted 213 student government presidents from all 50 states. For many of the student leaders in attendance, the conference was their first exposure to pro-Israel politics. The impact was immediate.
The diversity of the presidents who signed onto the letter is evidence of AIPAC’s successful engagement of young political leaders.
Presidents from Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Morehouse College, Alabama State University, Miles College and Rust College signed onto the letter. Many Christian colleges, such as Johnson Bible College and Dallas Baptist University, added their names.
Presidents from private universities such as the University of Denver, George Washington University and Tufts University, as well as large, flagship institutions such as University of Florida, University of Oklahoma, University of Missouri, University of Georgia and University of California Santa Barbara also signed.
Carroll is hoping to have 100 signatories before formally presenting the letter to Amb. Oren this summer.The following is the letter in full:
Mr. Ambassador,BACK TO TOP
As student body presidents from across the United States, we were surprised to learn that a small group of belligerent students interrupted your talk at the University of California Irvine and that others have since expressed opposition to your delivering a commencement address at Brandeis University.
Such behavior is absurd and offensive.
Please be assured that these individuals do not remotely represent American college students or mainstream campus leaders. We, the undersigned, clearly recognize the shared values that bind the United States and Israel. We also understand the importance of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
Finally, we would be delighted—and honored—to welcome you to our campuses any time.
With great respect for Israel and for you, Mr. Ambassador.