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Searching for Peace Harvard Students for Israel protest by the Harvard Science Center, where Amer Jubran, a high-profile anti-war and pro-Palestine activist spoke for the Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice and the Society of Arab Students.
News and Opinion

What College Students Need To Know about Israel
Rebutting those who distort history.

-- Dr. Alex Grobman

A key element in raising Jewish children is to encourage them to develop their informed opinion about the situation in Israel. This begins with building and maintaining a historical and current knowledge base of Israel issues. They need to learn to separate the facts from the misinformation, the good sources of information from the biased. Remember that you as parents are a key source for children. Once their information base is solid, encourage your children to build on this base by developing their interpretation of the situation: what should be done and what the implications will be of a certain action and then, encourage him to take action. You have heard the expression "Two Jews, three opinions." This is one of my favorite aspects of Judaism --- debate and questioning. It is very healthy. To feed your family discussions on Israel, we are privileged to have the following parenting op/ed from Dr. Alex Grobman, a historian with an M.A. and Ph.D. in contemporary Jewish history with a major in the Shoah from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is president of the Brenn Institute, a think tank dealing with historical and contemporary issues affecting the Jewish community."

-- Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D. Ph.D.

Sending our children to college marks a major milestone for both parents and their children. Through no fault of their own, or ours, some of them will find themselves ill-prepared to deal with the anti-Israel propaganda disseminated throughout their campuses. Below are a number of suggestions that parents and teachers can use to help their children understand and effectively respond to the issues surrounding the Israel-Arab conflict.

Israel is engaged in a war for its survival. There is nothing in the Arab media or statements by Arab political or religious figures that indicates they have ever accepted Israel's right to exist. The Palestinians and their supporters have manufactured specious arguments that have fooled some in the West into thinking that Israel does not want peace and that the Arabs are the victims of Israeli aggression. Today, they say the obstacles to peace are the settlements; tomorrow there will be other excuses to justify murderous attacks against the Jewish State.

Students need to know the basics of modern Middle Eastern history and the Israeli/Arab conflict. Approaching the Middle East from the historians' point of view engages students intellectually and emotionally. With perspective, they can be confident when confronting those who distort history.

Knowing Facts

Students should be very careful about the information they do use. For example, a well-known and oft-used full-page quote from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is a fake. The alleged source is the August 1967 issue of Saturday Review, but this article does not exist in that or any other issue of the Saturday Review.

A week and a half before he was assassinated, at the annual convention of the Conservative Judaism's Rabbinical Assembly on March 28, 1968, Dr. King did say: "Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how the desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality."

Arabs have raised a number of questions about the context in which these remarks were made, insisting that Dr. King knew little about the Middle East and that this was said before Israel's "occupation" of the West Bank (even though the Six-Day War took place in June 1967).

Learning To Analyze

Students also need to learn how to analyze news. The media uses language and pictures to slant a story in order to make it "sell," and that determines how the story influences listeners and readers.

Sometimes the biases are a result of bad reporting and simple ignorance. At other times, the slant is deliberately anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic. Students should check HonestReporting.com, which dissects news reports daily, to see which reports are straightforward, which are not, and how the two approaches differ.

A Moral Imperative Beyond the Jewish Issue

Responding to Arab propaganda is a moral imperative that goes beyond the "Jewish issue." Universities have the responsibility to seek the truth. Failure to react to lies allows people to think there are no answers and to rely upon fabrications as truth.

Becoming involved in the campus newspaper and other campus organizations are important ways for students to develop strategic alliances and counter misconceptions. For example, when the Jewish National Fund (JNF) wanted to come to Harvard, members of the Sierra Club balked. As president of the Sierra Club, Josh Suskewicz, my student, researcher, and ultimately president of Harvard Students for Israel, convinced them that the JNF is not racist.

Informal discussions in the dorms also offer important opportunities to defuse anti-Israel feelings. Providing a balanced view that tells the truth can influence people.

Preemptive Action

Students should learn to counter Arab propaganda by seizing the initiative, publicizing Israel's positive actions, and explaining her specific policies. Before someone decides to build a "Wall" in front of the dining hall, preempt them by holding a teach-in about why the Israeli security fence was built and how many lives it has saved on both sides. The same should be done before "check-points" are erected on campus.


To inhibit use of the "Zionism is Racism" canard, mount an exhibit about Zionism and Israel's accomplishments. For example, a few years ago, students at Harvard produced an effective display of posters highlighting Israel's contributions to the world.

Recent examples of such stories include Israelis who: won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering a cell process that leads the way to DNA repair and may control newly produced proteins and immune systems; created human monoclonal antibodies that neutralize the smallpox virus without inducing dangerous side effects; devised a simple blood test that diagnoses mild and more severe cases of Multiple Sclerosis; developed of a non-invasive treatment of intrauterine fibroid tumors.

Most of Microsoft's Windows operating systems were developed in Israel. The complete design, development, and production of Pentium NMX Chip technology, the Pentium 4 microprocessor, and the Centrium processor-were all carried out in Israel.

Cell Phones and Gay Rights

Israeli techies developed voicemail, and cell phones can't work without Israeli technology. The Israelis developed ICQ, now mostly known as Instant Messenger. Microsoft's and Cisco's only research and development facilities outside the US are in Israel.

Another Harvard exhibit explored democracy, gay rights, women's rights, ethnic diversity, and technology in Israel. An Israeli rock concert attracted students indifferent or hostile to the politics.

According to my student Josh, "When we demonstrate that we can co-exist and get along, it enormously improves our standing as advocates. Highlighting Israel's unique culture allows people to feel closer to Israel and brings the connection to life, resulting in more dedicated and focused advocates."

The Write Stuff

Letters to local college newspapers and media are another way to counter distortions from Arab propagandists and to gain support from non-Jews. Correspondence should stick to the facts and not become personal attacks.

Qualified students should try to become regular contributors to the campus paper. When truth is distorted, it should be corrected in print via a letter to the editor or in an op-ed piece.

During his first two years in school, Josh published several articles in the Harvard Crimson. As his mentor, I reassured him, checked his facts, and made sure the arguments were cogent.

An English major, Josh did his "homework" by engaging in extensive reading and felt confident enough to question his professors when they intended to invite Tom Paulin - who said that Israeli settlers should be shot - to lecture.


Rachel, a student at Yale University, worked with me via e-mail and telephone to learn about the Middle East conflict. She was frustrated by her inability to respond effectively first to Arab lies on campus and then to Jews participating in a Jewish Federation program which sympathized with Arabs and Arab propaganda.

As a result of our correspondence, she successfully confronted an anti-Israeli professor from the university about his attacks on the Jewish state.

Sometimes pressure from alumni and the fear of losing funds are the most effective means of protest. Verbal abuse of Jewish students at Columbia University became so serious that students, working with a Boston-based organization called the David Project, documented the harassment.

It took a massive letter-writing campaign to Columbia's president by concerned alumni, students, parents, and faculty as well as coverage of the incidents on campus by the mainstream national media before the Columbia administration agreed to take steps to address the problem.

Primary Sources

David Ben-Gurion once observed, "Nothing is more dangerous for Zionism than the fatalistic belief in the eternity of Israel."

The fight for the Jewish State will continue for years to come. We must educate the next generation to defend Israel-and we need to do it now.

I suggest students begin by reading the following material: Primary books: Alan Dershowitz, The Case For Israel, (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, 2003); and Mitchell Bard's Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, (Chevy Chase, Maryland: American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2001), Reply Myths and Facts; and Alex Grobman, Nations United: How the UN is Undermining Israel and the West (Green Forest, Arkansas: Balfour Books, 2006).

One of the most important ways students can demonstrate their concern for Israel is to vote for candidates who strongly support the Jewish state and Jewish causes. For many undergraduates, their first election may occur during their first semester of college. Voting is a very tangible way for them to help Israel, the Jewish people, and the U.S. in their fight against those who wish to destroy our democratic way of life.

Primary websites to check regularly

Additional Internet and Hard Copy Sources

The following should be read on a regular basis:

Personal search engine keywords such as Israel, Jews, Jewish, Middle East will put news articles with those words into your own mailbox, daily or as set.

The Basic Library-must-reads-should include:

An historian, Dr. Grobman’s most recent book is Battling for Souls: The Vaad Hatzala Rescue Committee in Post War Europe. He is also co-author of Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened? His most recent book is Nations United: How the UN is Undermining Israel and the West.

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