Atthe University of California at Berkeley, people on both sides of the debate launched websites supporting their cause. These websites in turn have led other universities to do the same.

Paul Wong
Photo courtesy of The Daily Californian at the University of California at Berkeley
Seventy-five protesters were arrested during a five-hour siege of a central campus building at the University of California at Berkeley in April.

Berkeley’s anti-divestment advocates encourage their supporters to read and sign their petition, posted at www.ucjustice.org, said Adam Weisberg, executive director of Hillel at Berkeley.

“The movement is big in the mind of the students but it hasn’t gained any reaction in terms of becoming a reality,” Weisberg said.

Opponents at Harvard have actively been showing their support of the decision through different techniques since the university formally announced it will not remove its investments from Israel in May. Pro-Israel events received special attention as an offshoot of the movement as well, Harvard for Israel President David Adelman said.

“We have been handing out fliers with myths and facts. There was a poster display with the history of (Israeli) politics and information on Zionism,” Adelman said. By placing the display in the Science Center, a main building on Harvard’s campus, Adelman said several thousand students were educated about the anti-divestment campaign.

“There is also a Buy Israel campaign with selling Israeli products on campus. We’re pumping money into Israel rather than sapping money out,” he said.

Other groups at Harvard have been keeping campus communication open by submitting viewpoints to the college newspaper and meeting with administrators, said Josh Mendelsohn, president of Jews for Conservative Politics.

“The means all come together at some point. Whatever you have to do to increase awareness – that’s what you have to do. It’s a tough situation,” he said.

On both sides, words like oppression and apartheid are infiltrating the campaign in an attempt to evoke strong emotional responses, a strategy Adelman said is largely due to a lack of knowledge.

“This connection is being made by ignorance. The main reason this is going on is because of complete ignorance of the facts. Facts are being ignored and distorted through a play of emotional propaganda,” he said. “If people are looking at rights being violated, they’re looking in the wrong place.”

Weisberg said the analogy is outrageous and irrelevant.

“The comparison of Israel to South Africa is absurd. Israel has been working for peace with its Arab neighbors,” he said.

David Kogan, president of Texans for Israel, also said he feels such analogies feed growing propaganda of the issue.

“We’re interested in being an educational and informational resource,” he said, adding he is concerned about a resurgence of anti-Semitism.

“It’s not necessarily anti-Semitic. Divestment is not effective, but it is based on anti-Semitic notions,” he said.

“I don’t think the divestment campaign is anti-Semitic at face value,” Mendelsohn said. “There are groups using divestment as an anti-Semitic tool and we should be concerned.”

At Harvard, the issue of anti-Semitism has been prevalent since Summers’ speech.

Mendelsohn said Summers was merely addressing a growing issue at an international level, rather than criticizing tensions at the school.

Most anti-divestment groups respect the effort and dedication of divestment advocates despite a commonly-shared idea that divestment will not help heal the scars created by decades of conflict. But Kogan said he is worried indifferent students are joining a cause they are removed from and confused by.

“They have no personal investment in the issue, I’m sorry to say. I almost want to say, ‘go fight another battle. This one is mine,'” he said.

Whether or not these campus campaigns will last long enough to capture politicians’ attention is yet to be seen as some begin to grow disillusioned with the movement.

“Divestment campaigns on university campuses are a trivial, minor and dying publicity stunt, engaged in by a small and limited group of students with a variety of motives. But in the end, reason will prevail and the strategic and economic importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship will live on and continue to prosper,” Mendelsohn said.

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