As someone who was once blind to anti-Israel bias both on and off campus, CAMERA has truly opened my eyes to its prevalence in academia and in the media.
During the fall semester, I took a class taught by a very anti-Israel professor – one who spoke of ‘occupation’ and who happens to be a signatory of BDS. If I hadn’t become a CAMERA Fellow, I would have been a bystander in that classroom, allowing my professor to indoctrinate students without providing an accurate depiction of history.
There is one experience I will never forget in that classroom. My professor had students speak freely about whatever their preconceived notions were of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, fostering a dialogue that could have gone much better than it did.
All of the material she had given for reading was so blatantly one-sided. Students who had no prior knowledge of the conflict only added fuel to her hateful, inaccurate bias. One student claimed that Palestinians are victims of asymmetric violence – and my professor said nothing.
I was shocked and hurt, and so disappointed that even someone who is so fiercely anti-Israel would let this blatant lie live in her classroom.
Sitting there, I thought back to the times I had spent in bomb shelters in Tel Aviv (thankfully never because of an imminent rocket attack) for drills, meetings, and – believe it or not – rehearsals for Israel’s remembrance day ceremony. These flashbacks prompted me to speak up.
I asked my professor if she had ever heard of the Iron Dome, which holds the sole purpose of protecting Israelis – Jews and Arabs alike – from Hamas rocket attacks. The only other pro-Israel student in the class supported my position. My professor’s inaccurate and biased information was not only hurtful; it ignored the experiences of every Israeli.
Having attended the CAMERA advocacy training conference a few months prior, I knew it was time for me to speak up – and I did so with conviction.
It is increasingly common on college campuses today for students, rather than professors, to be the ones presenting an accurate image of Israel in classrooms. It shouldn’t have to be this way. Students deserve the opportunity to learn without being taught lies from biased professors.
Without CAMERA’s training, I might not have known how to respond to my professor’s inability to teach the facts. CAMERA taught me that it is up to me to stand up for the truth. I wrote an article about my experiences in that class, and CAMERA had it published in a widely-read online newspaper. I realized that I wasn’t alone in my experiences, and there were so many people – people I never had and never will meet – who voiced their support for me.
As a CAMERA fellow, I have connected with a vast network of like-minded, determined, and inspirational students at colleges across the country. We’re all experiencing different forms of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic biases, and as a community we look to each other for guidance on how to combat these issues.
For college students, there are a million and one meetings, papers and exams, and having to deal with anti-Israel bias only adds to the struggle. Knowing I’m not alone on that front is comforting. CAMERA fellows and staff are always on the other end of the phone with a strategy to combat whatever issue pops up on campus. The staff doesn’t just manage us, they’re our friends, and they go to great lengths to make sure we know that. When my pro-Israel group was rejected from being an independent organization, CAMERA was there every step of the way with me. There’s no way I could go through being the president of my university’s only pro-Israel group without the support of CAMERA staff and Fellows – they are an integral part of my experience as a pro-Israel leader on campus.
Hosting Liz Wahl on campus in early April is perhaps one of the most effective ways I’ve brought accuracy and context to Israel on my campus. A journalist with no prior connections to Israel, Wahl conducted an investigation into media bias against Israel, finding that indeed, the media so often skews stories in favor of the aggressors, and leaves Israeli victims as an after thought, if at all. Her message reached journalism students at my school who had never been taught about media bias, despite attending one of the top journalism schools in the country.
I am sure that the relationships I have made with CAMERA staff and Fellows will be long lasting. It is because of the CAMERA on Campus staff that I have become the unwavering Israel advocate that I am today. The Fellowship has provided me with so many opportunities to harness my engagement skills, perfect my writing technique, and become the most effective defender of Israel that I can be. I will take all of this with me in my future endeavors, with pride and gratitude.
Contributed by CAMERA Fellow Shoshana Kranish.