By Leigh Brown--Jewish students across the country are relieved as this year’s Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) faded away with IAW events poorly attended and IAW promoters receiving little attention for their cause.
“This year’s Israel Apartheid Week showed very clearly that extremism and hatefulness are not effective methods of engaging with a wider student community,” said Emile Scheffel, a 4th year student at Ottawa’s Carleton University.
But the whimpering presence of IAW can be attributed, in good measure, to a coordinated multi-pronged, multi-dimensional, year-round counter-campaign, organized and implemented by CIJA (Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy) and Hillel of Greater Toronto.
While IAW organizers focused their energy on promoting their anti-Israel agenda, students across the country came together to portray the real face of Israel, through engaging local programs and the support of national initiatives, such as Size Doesn’t Matter (SDM) and Truth in Context.
The SDM campaign, launched in February, 2010, is a multifaceted program that uses social media, campus giveaways, videos and an interactive blog to spotlight Israel beyond the conflict. This year alone Size Doesn’t Matter distributed over 60,000 promotional items on campuses across the country and hosted several events.
Each day SDM posts articles and videos on topics such as the newest Israeli hotspots, advancements in Israeli technology and celebrity visits to Israel.
“SDM has a huge following among the campus demographic and is currently the most popular Jewish student advocacy initiative in North America, with over 6,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook,” says Jay Solomon, CIJA’s Manager of Campus Advocacy.
Truth in Context, by contrast, is a campaign that directly challenges the most prominent distortions propagated by IAW organizers and their supporters. Throughout the year “truth cards” were distributed on campus, drawing students to an interactive website where they could distinguish fact from propaganda on Middle East issues.
Hillel of Greater Toronto successfully spotlighted different dimensions of Israel through Layla Lavan (White Night) - an all-night celebration of Israeli creativity, art and fashion, attended by 500 people.
“Layla Lavan gave students from a variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds an opportunity to see Israel in a completely different light,” said Eyal Melamed, a 3rd year student at York University. “We got to hear about Israeli products, crafts and travel opportunities. It was a fabulous event, completely focused on the beauty that is Israel.”