Grassroots group will help students speak up for Israel


Jewish students will "not feel alone" when they defend Israel, an advocacy group has promised, ahead of launching a new leadership programme.

Stand With Us, a grassroots organisation, will aim to attract 80 university students to join its new initiative, which will involve lectures from experts on the media, Israeli history and Zionism.

Devora Khafi, the Jewish Society president at Queen Mary University, is leading the programme - which will start in November - with two other activists. She said the idea was to ensure that campus advocacy was "proactive, not reactionary", and help students respond to anti-Zionism on campus.

"Students understand what to expect at university; they've heard all the stories in the news, but what are they supposed to do about that? Just go to university and expect it to happen, and then respond? No. We want people to show initiative."

The reaction to the last Israel Apartheid Week - the annual anti-Israel campus campaign - in February was "very messy," she said. "People didn't have one organisation to go to - Stand With Us wants to be that one central group.And we have to have our own Israel cultural weeks, and not just react to the pro-Palestinian agenda."

In response to IAW, Ms Khafi and three other students organised Israel Party Week, a series of events in London which promoted dialogue and a positive image of the country.

This was a phenomenon she was looking to replicate with the leadership programme. "Rather than being all about how they hate us, this will be about coming together around the love of our country."

Ms Khafi, who grew up in Singapore, said she had observed a disconnect between how Jewish students feel about Israel and how they speak about the country.

"Many Jewish students feel a tie to Israel - they go there every year and have family there, and that's great, but when it comes to defending the country, they are lacking. Most of them have gone to Jewish schools so they've never been confronted with such issues before."

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