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New Jewish-Christian alliance against antisemitism across U.S. campuses

“Israel has a specific role: to be a light unto the nations. It cannot be that light if the light is constantly being snuffed out by lies.”

The Anti-Defamation League reported that antisemitic incidents were up 89 percent in 2017. On US college campuses, where the AMCHA Initiative tracks antisemitic activities, the number of incidents is most striking. And many of these events are tied to anti-Israel events and sentiments.

As a result, some Jewish students say they are hesitant to wear a Star of David pendant or kippah. They are afraid to express even left-leaning Zionist views for fear they will be marginalized, at best, or attacked, at worst.

“For supporters of the Jewish state, Jews who refuse to denounce the Jewish state, or sometimes just for Jews who are not card-carrying members of the anti-Israel movement, no treatment can be too harsh,” Jonathan Marks, chair of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, told The Jerusalem Report. “It’s hard to know how widespread this phenomenon is, but it’s a real thing.”

There is an incident nearly every month.

In September 2018, an online post said a “bunch of hairy stink rude obnoxious jews” (sic) are overtaking the Indiana University campus. That same month, Jewish students at Tufts University reported that a new course on Palestine is one-sided and demonizes Israel, and violates the university’s own policies on taking political stances.

Over the summer, a Stanford University student who was slated to be a residential assistant, Hamzeh Daoud, wrote on Facebook, “I’m gonna physically fight Zionists on campus next year if someone comes at me with their ‘Israel is a democracy’ bullshit. And after I abolish your ass I’ll go ahead and work every day for the rest of my life to abolish your petty ass ethno-supremacist, settler-colonial state.” The student resigned before the school year started. In May 2018, the campus watchdog Canary Mission released a report on antisemitism and support for terrorism among anti-Israel activists at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where it found 26 students and professionals affiliated with the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine posted over 150 times on Twitter and Facebook, expressing hatred against Jews and Israel. A key finding was their extensive support for terrorism and violence – 59 of the 165 posts were endorsements or promotion of terror, including calls for an intifada.

Also, in May at Towson University, members of a Jewish fraternity were walking on campus when two assailants began shouting “F*** the Jews” and then began punching one of the fraternity brothers in the face.

Marks said in many cases, the system is failing.

“To be sure, institutions often do quite well when antisemitism is absolutely blatant,” he said. “On the other hand, the most thinly veiled antisemitism – for example the blood libel perpetrated by Jasbir Puar of Rutgers University – is not only tolerated but celebrated and rewarded.”

In 2016, Puar presented her conspiracy theory that Israel is secretly harvesting the organs of Palestinian terrorists.

But Jewish students are not without allies. Rather, as left-leaning, pro-Palestinian groups are espousing virulent anti-Israel and antisemitic talk on campus, a cohort of Christian supporters of Israel are standing strong for the Jewish state.

Jessica Marzucco, director of Christians United for Israel on Campus, said members of her organization are “outspoken and proud to advocate for the Jewish state.”

“We have zero tolerance for the targeting of Jewish students and antisemitic bullying and we serve as the strongest non-Jewish voice on this issue on college campuses in the nation,” she told The Report. “Hundreds of Christian students are not only coming alongside a community that has for too long stood alone, we are also demanding answers for the bias against the Jewish state from those who are very comfortable in their bullying and intimidation of Jewish men and women on campus.

“Many of the Jewish students we work with are encouraged just to have a friend on this issue and someone to help carry the torch of sharing the truth about Israel. We bring programming and campaigns from a Christian worldview and together magnify the voice in support of Israel.”

Marzucco said that with the “rise of bullying and intimidating Jewish students into silence,” the role that CUFI on Campus plays in the conversation about Israel on US college campuses is more important than ever.

“The diversity of our student activists politically, racially, and denominationally presents a formidable front against those who hate Israel and the Jewish people,” she said.

For example, last spring, when the University of Texas, Austin was embroiled in a divestment battle, CUFI on Campus brought its Middle East analyst, Kasim Hafeez, to speak about his background as a former radical anti-Israel Muslim and the dangers of propaganda and demonization.

“We provided a unified front with the Jewish community and worked together on promoting the event and keeping the truth front and center,” Marzucco said.

Why are Christians making the choice to stand for Israel?

According to radio talk show host and writer Dennis Prager, Christians support Israel because “they believe in supporting American allies, countries that share their moral values. And, unlike the Left, they have moral problems with Islamism, not with Zionism.”

Prager, in a column published on his website in March 2018, explained this support as rooted in the biblical verse from Genesis in which God says to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” He said Christians really believe that God blesses those who treat the Jews decently.

“You don’t have to be a believer in the God of Abraham or the Bible to accept this proposition,” Prager wrote. “All the Jews’ ancient enemies disappeared from history. And look at what happened to Spain after it expelled its Jews in 1492. One of the greatest powers of the world became largely irrelevant to history within a couple of generations. As for Germans, the perpetrators of the Holocaust, they endured a staggering amount of death and suffering as a result of their support for the greatest Jew hater in history; and their country was divided in half for the next half-century. Likewise, the countries today that most curse the Jews — Arab and other Muslim countries — are among the most benighted countries in the world. If they were to devote to building their countries the money and energy they devote to attempting to destroy Israel, they would be in far better condition morally, socially, economically and politically.

“Meanwhile, the country that has most blessed Israel and the Jews is America. No country in the modern period has treated its Jews as well as America has, and no country has stood by Israel as much as America has. And America has been almost uniquely blessed.”

Laurie Cardoza-Moore, founder and president of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, expressed similar sentiments. She told The Report the key to garnering support for Israel from Christian millennials is teaching them the Bible. As such, PJTN runs Christian media campaigns and other programming to spread awareness of how BDS is a form of antisemitism, targeting Christian Zionists on college campuses around the US.

“We are to teach the commandments of God to our children and remind them what God did for the Jews when they came out of Egypt,” said Moore. “But we have failed to do that job, and our children are not able to withstand the onslaught coming against them. Jewish kids are not standing up to defend their country and Christians are not standing up beside them in defense of this eternal, biblical covenant.”

Moore said that in an era when kids are flooded with unvetted images and information, “they can easily be swept into the lies… Our message to Christians is that they should be standing with Jewish students on college campuses to basically hold up their arms, just like Aaron lifted up the arms of Moshe when they went to battle.”

She continued, “Israel has a specific role: to be a light unto the nations. It cannot be that light if the light is constantly being snuffed out by lies.”

CUFI on Campus tries to play the role Moore describes, collaborating closely with AEPi, AIPAC and Students Supporting Israel, the latter having “formalized working relations” with CUFI on Campus earlier this year, according to SSI founder and president Ilan Sinelnikov.

“There is a lot of power in millennial Christians and Jews coming together for this cause and standing up for what's right and supporting Israel,” said Destiny Albritton, campus field organizer for CUFI on Campus. “I think support for Israel brings Jews and Christians together.”

“Israel is so relevant to Christians,” Albritton explained, noting that CUFI on Campus helps Christians turn their biblical love for Israel into action that can benefit the Jewish state. “We teach them what you can do to make a difference on your campus, how to run a campaign and tell the truth about Israel even when it is not popular.”

While she said that in most cases Christian students do not feel they are “putting their lives on the line to stand with Israel, it can be scary and there sometimes is a concern for our safety.”

But she shares a message that standing up for what you believe in is better than staying silent.

“Christians are stepping up to defend Israel in some cases even more than the Jewish students themselves,” Sinelnikov said. He said roughly 25 percent of SSI members are Christian.

SSI students tend to “be louder and speak up more,” said Sinelnikov, but he agrees many Jewish students prefer to stand on the sidelines.

“I would say that is because the issue of Israel on college campuses is poisonous,” he said. “They don't want to deal with the negative connotations.”

Sinelnikov said if Christian students speak for Israel, then Jewish students ask themselves, “Why am I on the sidelines while others defend my country?”

The NGO Reservists on Duty has a similar idea.

A few years ago, the group launched a minority division that leverages pro-Israel Christian Arabs who did national service or served in the Israel Defense Forces to tell the truth about Israel on college campuses. Jonathan Elkhoury, an Israeli-Christian resident of Haifa, who came to Israel in 2001 and did national service because he believes “we need to contribute to the society we live in,” runs this division.

“The biggest misconception about Christians in Israel is that we are not happy with our lives or that we are being persecuted, living under apartheid, not able to practice our faith or visit our holy sites,” said Elkhoury. “It is not true. I share my story with college students, as a Christian who fled Lebanon, a country that was supposed to be a safe place for Christians in the Middle East but that was destroyed by extremists and terrorists. The only safe place my family and I could run to was Israel.”

Elkhoury has spoken on campuses with some of the worst anti-Israel reputations, such as UCLA, University of California, Berkeley, and University of California – Irvine.

“It hurts me to see someone who says he is afraid to wear his kippah or even to share his faith because he is afraid he will be targeted,” said Elkhoury. “I hope we can change that.”

Elkhoury recognizes change doesn’t happen in one day. Rather, he said his purpose is to “start a dialogue that will get them to search for truth about what is really happening on the ground.”

Marzucco said Christian supporters of Israel on campus “demonstrate in a powerful way that … Jewish students are not alone.”

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