Making a stand for Israel on UK campuses

By Robyn Rosen, March 24, 2011
Gili Brenner

Gili Brenner

An international Israel advocacy organisation which arms students with material and information to help them stand up against anti-Israel speakers is expanding in the UK.

StandWithUs, set up in 2001 and with offices in America, Australia and Israel, aims to educate communities, campuses and the media through speakers and conferences.

It was launched in the UK in November and last week director Michael Dickson travelled from Israel to London to promote its new initiatives.

He said: "Our main aim is standing up for Israel on campus.

"Students asked us to get involved in the UK. We have to get better at education and involving young people and activities to tell Israel's story. We're really pushing this forward in the UK.

"Campuses are a hot-bed and a real breeding ground where lies about Israel go unchallenged. There are a lot of people influenced by those lies. We have to counter them head-on."

Volunteers have distributed materials across more than 15 campuses.

Literature includes a pocket-sized guide of Israel facts and a larger booklet with a detailed history dispelling myths used by anti-Israel organisations.

Mr Dickson said: "We want to make our own youth confident to hold their heads high and feel they can make a difference. There are students who feel passionate but don't have the knowledge or resources to put the case forward.

"This generation has more power than any other. Because of social networks our young
people can make a difference with the click of a button."

StandWithUS UK co-ordinator, Gili Brenner (right), said: "If you support human rights, you should support Israel. People don't know how severe the situation on campus is and how easy it is to get sucked into the narrative on the other side."

In May, StandWithUs will launch a series of lectures entitled Voices from the Middle East, featuring Muslim and Arab speakers who will tell their personal stories.

Tom Wilson, head of UCL JSoc, has worked with the organisation. He said: "There is an air of desperation among Jewish students. When pro-Israel speakers come to campus there is a real atmosphere of hostility.

"The pro-Palestine rhetoric has taken a more hard-line approach and there is now a real delegitimisation campaign against Israel.

"StandWithUs have helped facilitate speakers."

Hasan Afzal, a Muslim student at Birmingham University, has found working with the organisation beneficial: "I would call myself a friend of Israel. It is the only democracy in the Middle East and Muslims in Israel have more human rights than anywhere in the Middle East.

"The story on Israel has been one-sided. I used StandWithUs to meet other anti-fascist campaigners."

Last updated: 4:43pm, March 24 2011