Campus environment increasingly hostile to pro-Israel students – report
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'1,172 anti-Israel activities took place last year'

Campus environment increasingly hostile to pro-Israel students – report

Group says that, while the activity of the boycott Israel campaign has declined, it has become more 'aggressive and sophisticated'

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Protesters shout before conservative Jewish pundit Ben Shapiro speaks, on the campus of the University of California Berkeley, on September 14, 2017 (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)
Protesters shout before conservative Jewish pundit Ben Shapiro speaks, on the campus of the University of California Berkeley, on September 14, 2017 (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)

WASHINGTON — Pro-Israel students in the United States are facing an increasingly antagonistic atmosphere on college campuses, a study released on Monday said.

According to the Israel on Campus Coalition’s report on the 2016-2017 academic year, there were 1,172 so-called anti-Israel activities on US college campuses nationwide — a drop from 1,437 a year prior.

While the group’s research found that there were substantially more pro-Israel than anti-Israel events last year (3,155), it argued that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel has become more “aggressive and sophisticated,” despite the fact that fewer colleges had individualized BDS efforts on their campuses than in 2015-2016.

Last year, there were 20 BDS campaigns on US campuses, whereas there were 33 the year before. Nevertheless, four major universities with large student populations saw BDS initiatives, including the University of Michigan; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Ohio State University; and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The findings came weeks into the start of the 2017-2018 academic year, which for most American colleges began in the last week of August.

Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who has been tasked with fighting the BDS movement, said the report was “further evidence” of the robust organization enjoyed by groups “whose purpose is to besmirch Israel and harm its legitimacy.”

“To our satisfaction,” he added, “the report [also] shows that pro-Israel activity on campus has led to a significant drop in anti-Israel events, which proves that the counter-struggle is yielding results and that we should strengthen it.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan attends a meeting at the Knesset, Jerusalem, May 17, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The ICC is a pro-Israel organization that monitors Israel-related activities on college campuses and advocates for students who support the Jewish state.

Its latest study concluded that while BDS activities on college campuses are on the decline nationwide, anti-Israel activists have adopted more sophisticated tactics to silence pro-Israel voices, including by targeting and publicly shaming individual students and speakers.

Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian advocacy groups like Palestine Legal often intervene in campus dramas to assist and defend anti-Israel activists using legal arguments.

Other strategies are employed, as well. For instance, the report said, students at Tufts University and Pitzker College arranged for votes on BDS measures during Jewish holidays — which ICC said was part of an attempt to limit Jewish participation and increase the odds of such motions being adopted.

“This report underscores what we already know — that pro-Israel students are returning to campus facing an even more hostile environment than they have in the past,” Jacob Baime, executive director of ICC, said in a statement. “Every single day, anti-Israel activists are refining and evolving their tactics to further delegitimize Israel and silence pro-Israel students.”

That said, the study also emphasized that there was a 40 percent decrease in the number of so-called anti-Israel lectures and speakers hosted on American college campuses last year — from 515 in 2015-2016 to 309 in 2016-2017.

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