Israel’s military approach to the Palestinian conflict — respond to attacks and defeat the enemy — doesn’t work when applied to the U.S. campus ideological clashes over the Mideast. And the more strident the pro-Israel position, the less likely tens of thousands of American Jewish college students are to be sympathetic to the Jewish state.
That’s the sobering upshot of conversations with Israeli and U.S. Jewish leaders who are becoming increasingly aware of the high stakes in the effort to win the hearts and minds of the next generation of American Jews, most of whom are ignorant of, disinterested in or confused about the Zionist cause.
Israeli Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky, shaken by what he witnessed during a recent whirlwind tour of 13 U.S. colleges in six days, is worried that Israel is losing the political and ideological battle on campus. He says his sobering report to the cabinet back home prompted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to urge all ministers visiting North America to include university campuses on their itinerary.
And a high-ranking official of the Israeli Consulate in New York says the Jewish community is fighting the wrong battle. “We should be focusing on what is taught in the classrooms rather than on the flag-waving going on in the quads,” says Ido Aharoni, consul for media and public affairs. ...
They also note that anti-Israel university faculty are a major source of the problem and need to be addressed.
Jewish leaders confessed they are at a loss as to how to deal with anti-Israel faculty, while noting that teachers play an important role in shaping students’ opinions.
Ido Aharaoni of the Israeli Consulate said that while the American Jewish community was investing in Jewish studies programs at universities around the country, it neglected to establish endowments or chairs in international and Mideast studies, and other fields. Arab governments and other sympathizers have poured millions into such programs, he said.
He called for a long-term campaign to produce professors more sympathetic to Israel.