CUNY Hunter’s Emet for Israel supported group, Hunter Students for Israel brought prominent pro-Israel advocate, and former CAMERA Consultant, Chloe Valdary, to speak. She discussed the role Zionism and Jewish identity can play in pro-Israel advocacy on college campuses. It was a rallying cry to the pro-Israel student body to take ownership of their Zionism, their love for Israel, and to display it proudly. They must defend it even in the face of the harsh attacks from those student groups that spread lies and misinformation about Israel on campus, most notably Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
The primary goal of this event was to kick-start Hunter Students for Israel’s new season. In light of the protest that SJP organized just prior to the event, during which they called for an Intifada in front of our school’s main entrance, we felt it was an important time to gather Hunter’s pro-Israel community. They needed to know that their frustration and feelings were valid, and that there was a group on campus they could turn to. Each student needed to feel confident that their narrative would be heard at our school.
Chloe gave a wonderful speech, which seemed to deeply resonate with many in the audience. She identified our sense of helplessness in the face of a much more vocal and seemingly more powerful groups on campus. She then focused our attention back to what was important, which is that the story of the Jewish people is one that must be heard, and it’s a story that is now unfolding in our ancestral homeland, Israel. It was clear that our sense of pride may have been shaken after the recent attacks taking place, but Valdary had a way of instilling that strength in us again. Our resolve to fight back with our narrative of peace, facts, and a strategy of cultural exchange has definitely been reinforced.
The most inspiring effect of this event was that we succeeded in creating a space where students, perhaps motivated by Chloe’s speech, could finally opened up to the whole group about what their greatest challenges regarding Israel on campus are. The space reassured people that they are not alone in their pursuit for truth. People traded tips and talking points amongst each other, and Chloe, having led successful anti- SJP/BDS campaigns in the past, provided students with some extra tips on what to do and how to respond. Following this event, Hunter Students for Israel definitely feel a stronger sense of unity, solidarity, and pride going forth with the struggles they will inevitably face in the future.