Jewish Journal

ICan Ad Targets Student Boycotts of Israel

Posted on Mar. 4, 2009 at 3:20 am

ICan Ad Targets Student Boycotts of Israel
In the wake of Israel’s war in Gaza, anti-Israel rhetoric and anti-Semitism have once again flared up at some American universities. Now, as “Israel Apartheid Week” is being held on college campuses, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is fighting back with an ad campaign focusing on all the Israeli innovations that college students love: cell phones, instant messaging, Intel processors.

The ICan campaign was announced last Friday at a press conference featuring Judea Pearl, the UCLA professor and father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Judea Pearl, a columnist for The Jewish Journal, recently drew attention to a symposium of anti-Israel scholars at UCLA that included audience chants of “Zionism is Nazism,” “Free, Free Palestine” and “F…, f… Israel.”

“The verbal abuse is there, the intimidation is there, the feeling of helplessness is there, not only among students but among faculty,” Pearl said at the press conference at the Wiesenthal Center’s West L.A. office.

The Wiesenthal Center, Anti-Defamation League and other agencies have reported an explosion in anti-Semitism during and following Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza that began in late December. A protest outside the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles featured a now-infamous sign that depicted the Israeli flag with a Magen David twisted into a swastika and the words, “Upgrade to Holocaust Version 2.0.” On college campuses, some student bodies passed resolutions condemning Israel’s military actions; what for many crossed the line into anti-Semitism, though, were anti-Israel symposiums and lectures.

The ICan ad, which can be viewed at jewishjournal.com, is scheduled to run in student newspapers in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States including at Columbia, University of Chicago, San Francisco State, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and UCLA.

“You have these student boycotters who are claiming Israel is an apartheid state. The worst kinds of lies are being spouted on campus. We want to give them some way of combating this, and the best way to reach college students is through slick posters and flyers,” said Rabbi Aron Hier, the Wiesenthal Center’s director of campus outreach. “This ad speaks to the hypocrisy of student boycotters. They don’t realize that to ask people to boycott Israel is to ask them to go back to the dark ages. Israel has developed so many things important for our time. We believe they are hypocrites because they use cell phones and IM and so many of these things that Israel has developed.”

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Jewlicious Festival 5.0 Draws Nearly 1,000
Jewlicious Festival 5.0, a gathering that celebrates Jewish youth culture, drew a diverse crowd of nearly 1,000 college students and young professionals from more than 25 states and nine countries to the Alpert Jewish Community Center in Long Beach Feb. 27-March 1.

This year marks the festival’s largest turnout, with 250 more participants than the previous year. Participants paid $36 for the conference only, or $199 for a package including hotel accommodations.

“We were concerned that the recession might put a dent in the number of festival-goers, but actually we had an unbelievable turnout,” said Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, the festival’s co-founder.

Ten groups of students from college Hillels across California and Arizona attended the festival. Scripps College’s official Hillel representative, Becca Neril, joined 30 other students from Hillel at The Claremont Colleges on the drive to Long Beach. 

“I find it inspirational that so many Jews, especially college-aged Jews, can come together for this event,” Neril said. “I feel that especially in the Los Angeles area, you feel very separate. There is not very much unity between college students. So, it’s awesome to have all of the Hillels come together.”

The festival included three concerts, as well as 120 programs and workshops, from discussions on environmental activism to belly dancing classes. A highlight of the festival was a five-hour acoustic show on Sunday afternoon that featured singer Matisyahu performing a one-hour set.

Other events included a Jewish comedy performance, a Jewish film competition, a main festival stage show on Saturday night and a drum circle that ended right before the break of dawn on Sunday morning.

Ezra Flom, coordinator of the Jewlicious green initiative, Greenkeit, said festival planners were also more environmentally conscious this year.

Participants generated only one large garbage can of actual trash over three days. Flom said organizers accomplished this by using a combination of compostable and paper goods.

“A lot of it is completely invisible, because this isn’t a green conference,” Flom said. “This is about unity. This is about celebrating Judaism and learning, but underneath that are our values, which are Jewish values: shomrei adamah, that Jews should be guardians of the earth.”

Bookstein said the festival worked with Long Beach Food Finders, a Long Beach-based nonprofit, to donate the leftover food and drinks to local homeless shelters, and Long Beach Conservation Corps helped with glass and plastic bottle recycling.

— Jason Lipeles, Contributing Writer

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