WUJS was represented by two members at the Israeli Foreign Ministry today. Executive member Assaf Farhadian (National Union of Israeli Students) and WUJS Director Yoni Danino-Forsyth attended the Forum for Activism Against Academic Boycotts in order to share the student voice on what has become a too familiar phenomena; the boycott of Israeli academics at Universities and the protest of Israeli voices on campus.
Positive stories were shared from a number of invitees, with the overall impression being that BDS is failing in its mission to delegitimization the State of Israel and all those who support it in the family of nations. Public relations stunts, like theASA boycott of Israeli Universities, have backfired with the boycotting union finding itself ostracized by mainstream academia. What did worry invitees was, though, the unpublicized, phenomena of Israeli doctoral candidates, researchers and potential employees being denied opportunities on the fact of their being born in the Jewish state and serving in her Defense Forces.
Invitees voiced their concerns that Israeli academics, guest speakers and culture groups were no longer being invited on to campus due to the fear that their mere presence would cause a security and public order fiasco. The help of WUJS will be sought to encourage Jewish societies to continue to invite such guests, so as not only to re-define peoples perception of Israel, but rather, and more importantly, to enrich the campus environment with the amazing diversity and innovation that Israel has to offer.
Assaf spoke of the need of preempting boycott motions and protests by increasing the amount of foreign students, Jewish and non-Jewish, coming to Israel and the amount of Israeli delegations visiting overseas campuses. WUJS will be sought to help bring out groups of students who could benefit from Israel trips in order to increase the flow of information and innovation in which Israel is strong. Health technology, agriculture, high-tech applications and water desalination could all be focuses for coalition building and information sharing.
The phenomena of ‘Apartheid Week’ was mentioned as the crudest of tactics in highlighting the Israel-Palestine conflict and all agreed that this sort of activity was not only damaging to the genuine history of South African racism but also served in poisoning the atmosphere between Jewish students and other minorities. WUJS agreed that more needed to be done to help its Unions, in particular SAUJS (South African Union of Jewish Students), in forming grass-roots campaigns to combat these activities.
Time and again the issue of student welfare was raised as a priority concern, with a focus being sought on ensuring that Jewish students felt comfortable on their campuses and were free to engage in productive debates about the Middle East without the threat of intimidation or bullying. In this vein, the amazing work on outreach being done by UJS-UK was held as an example of how local unions should be acting in order to ensure that Jewish students are happy enough in their campus surroundings to achieve all of their University aspirations.
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