Standing with Israel on Campus by Tom Wilson
This weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited to talk at the StandwithUs conference hosted
by the Israeli Embassy. Friends of mine in America had told me about some of the successes
StandwithUs has had on campuses there and so i went with high hopes, as it turned out i wasn’t
disappointed. It’s rare to attend an Israel event for students that not only has such a wide range of
compelling speakers but that combines this with a diverse and inspiring group of participants.
Of course it’s easy at such an event, full of enthusiastic and committed activists, to start
imagining that everything’s under control as far as countering Israel’s delegitimisation is concerned.
The reality is that the mood at Britain’s Universities is still as hostile to Israel as it has ever been.
Some would say that we’ve seen a lull in anti-Israel activities on campus, but i have little doubt that
in the face of another incident like the Gaza Flotilla then we would see the whole situation flare up
again. Besides its little surprise that this year hasn’t seemed so bad, it would have been hard for anti-
Israel activists to top what they accomplished last year following Cast Lead.
One of the reasons that i decided to take on the role of co-President of UCL Jsoc was because
i felt i had to do more to counter the demonization of Israel and by extension the Jewish community
that supports it. That of course is easier said than done. But if there is one thing that I’ve learnt
during my time at UCL it’s that you can’t sit and wait for the challenge to come to you. You have to
get out there, get Jewish students enthusiastic about defending Israel and making the case to other
students for Israel’s right to exist.
It sounds like a strange thing to say, that we have to defend the Jewish State’s right to exist,
but that’s the sad reality that we now all face. We’ve allowed the other side to so dominate the
public debate that we’re now not simply having to disprove false accusations against Israel, but
rather we’re having to challenge the mainstream narrative that’s become accepted among students.
What i think is needed now is a coalition of voices speaking out for Israel. If organisations
like StandwithUs can join with those that are already hard at work making Israel’s case, such as Israel
Connect and of course UJS, then we might have a chance of changing the narrative. If the expertise
of the StandwithUS brand could be combined with the experience and understanding UJS has of the
UK Student scene then i’m confident a real difference could be made.