Union of Jewish Students shows commitment to peace

By Marcus Dysch, September 15, 2011
UJS president Daniel Grabiner

UJS president Daniel Grabiner

The Union of Jewish Students is to launch a "radical, progressive" campaign, encouraging students to speak up for the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Jewish students arriving at universities in the next fortnight will be asked to pledge their support to "two states for two peoples", hand out Israeli and Palestinian flags, and support "freedom, justice and equality" for all.

There is a belief within UJS that standard advocacy efforts "do not cut it any more" because "students are not stupid". Students will be encouraged to back the "liberation" of Israelis from Palestinian terror, and Palestinians through the formation of a new state.

Campaigns director Dan Sheldon said UJS had decided on the new direction because "hasbara is not working". He said: "We have done our research. Old campaigns regarding Israel have not worked, so we are trying a bold approach."

There is an acceptance within UJS that the campaign may alienate some sections of the Jewish student community, but Mr Sheldon said there was also an understanding that UJS must "engage with a wide variety of organisations and individuals".

Communal leaders and organisations are said to have "quietly accepted" the campaign's approach. But the JC understands it has caused consternation at the Israeli Embassy in London.

Mr Sheldon said: "Not everyone will agree with our bold campaigns this year, but we're hoping to start a conversation, to get our community properly engaging with and discussing Israel. Already, we've sat with everyone from Yachad to StandWithUs to start that dialogue."

UJS intends to "pick its battles carefully" and avoid "knee-jerk opposition to criticism of Israel".

Efforts to overturn the National Union of Students' anti-Israel policies adopted earlier this year will continue, as will opposition to campus extremism and invitations to hate speakers.

Last updated: 10:15am, September 16 2011