Two outstanding CAMERA on Campus fellows were honored at our annual gala on June 2nd, 2019. Maynooth University Fellow Daniel O’Dowd received the David Bar-Illan Award for Outstanding Student Leadership, and Swarthmore College Fellow Matthew Stein received the David Bar-Illan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism. Both students faced especially grueling uphill battles on their campuses, yet tenaciously stood up for the truth; their activism led to tangible successes that left Zionist students with feelings of empowerment and pride in their beliefs.
On Maynooth University’s campus in Ireland, Daniel’s efforts provided a welcome retort to the lies and slander from Students for Justice in Palestine. His organization’s “Israel Peace Week,” in his own words, “drastically outperformed” the anti-Israel bigots’ “Israel Apartheid Week.” Through Daniel’s efforts, Maynooth became a hotspot for engaging speakers, from IDF veteran Shai DeLuca-Tamasi to Jerusalem Post correspondent Lahav Harkov. “Daniel’s commitment to showing his fellow students the truth about Israel is inspiring, especially in an environment where cultural and political boycotts are the norm,” said CAMERA’s UK Campus Associate Tamara Berens. We cannot thank Daniel enough for his hard work!
Across the ocean in Pennsylvania, Matthew Stein’s relentless efforts have earned him a reputation as the face of pro-Israel activism on Swarthmore’s campus – from the pro and anti-Israel world alike. He has proudly spoken out against BDS in student government meetings, written powerful op-eds published in multiple outlets, and organized educational events that highlighted the inconvenient truth about Israel that campus anti-Zionist activists want to keep from the public eye. “Over the past year I have had the pleasure to work with Matt. He never ceases to amaze me with his unwavering dedication to the truth, dialogue on campus, and strong activism for Israel,” said CAMERA’s Campus Advisor and Events Coordinator Alex Rittenberg. We congratulate Matthew on a job well done!
Read their acceptance speeches below:
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s an honor to be here tonight to accept this prestigious award and I can only express my heartfelt gratitude to CAMERA and their whole team from Aviva to Tamara for this momentous honor.
In Ireland, defending Israel can be a lonely, painful and intimidating experience, especially on campus. Especially at my campus at Maynooth University.
Be it students chanting for a Third Intifada, or the physical assault of the former President of Maynooth Students Friends of Israel, or the direction of a “credible death threat” against a gathering by Maynooth Students for Israel and Ireland-Israel Alliance, it has become evident that those who oppose Israel intend to use means unfair and foul to bring about their objective – the destruction of Israel and the dispersion of the Jewish people to the wind once more.
BDS has been endorsed by the Union of Students in Ireland, the Irish National Teachers Organisation and Trinity College Dublin, and radical anti-Israel SJP groups have sprung up on campuses across the country.
Those of a Zionist persuasion might simply feel like writing off Ireland as a lost cause, and become disillusioned by the seeming inevitability of the imminent BDS takeover. However, to relent is to surrender.
Simply because the board is stacked against us does not mean we must give up; rather it is our perseverance which can and does persuade others to join our cause or at the very least not join BDS.
As President of Maynooth Students Friends of Israel, I am proud to say that we combatted BDS at every turn since our inception. We countered “Israel Apartheid Week” with our own “Israel Peace Week” which drastically outperformed the former. We have held several cultural events, be it Hebrew lessons, movie nights or bake sales – in spite of those who targeted our efforts.
Further, with the help of CAMERA, we have been a forum for a slate of guest speakers to advocate for Israel on our campus, from IDF veterans Shai DeLuca-Tamasi and Tal Hagin, to Jerusalem Post journalist Lahav Harkov, to pro-Israel, Irish academic Dr Mark Humphrys.
Behind Maynooth Students for Israel’s growth as a society has been CAMERA On Campus, countering media bias against Israel and ensuring students can counteract the lies told against the Jewish State with whatever resources they require on hand. Undoubtedly, without CAMERA, Maynooth Students for Israel would not have made half the impact it has.
That happened thanks to people like you!
Although we are only one campus we have proven extremely effective in countering BDS on campus. And this has shown how movements like BDS struggle when challenged. It must be the objective of the pro-Israel movement in Ireland to counteract every SJP group on every campus.
Make no mistake: BDS is working to make Ireland its launchpad into Europe. Politicians and college groups are espousing their bigoted rhetoric in ever increasing numbers. Currently, there is a media bias against Israel; there are probably more people anti-Israel than pro-Israel; and there is a majority of politicians who are supportive of anything that’s anti-Israel. Nonetheless, there is resistance. You in this room are the resistance. Thank you and God bless, everyone!
I’d like to thank you all for coming tonight, and to thank CAMERA for bestowing this honor upon me.
My name is Matthew Stein, and I am the president of a pro-Israel group and a CAMERA fellow at Swarthmore College, a small liberal arts school and a radical left-wing bastion. What I am witnessing there is a disturbing anti-Israel fervor that is developing among liberal young people, and it will certainly grow if we don’t do anything to stop it.
Swarthmore epitomizes this threat due to its extreme politics and it makes my school’s situation quite unique. Our CAMERA supported group and Jewish students truly have the odds stacked against them in standing up for our values. There are three main issues we deal with on our campus.
First, we have a far-left student body that is primed to believe the claims of “intersectionality” that include rejecting “white Israel” in favor of “brown-skinned” Palestinians. This type of distorted rhetoric is frequently employed by Swarthmore’s SJP chapter and has resulted in winning declarations of support for their BDS campaign from dozens of student groups.
The second unique issue at Swarthmore is the total lack of a proud Jewish community. In 2013 our Hillel became the first “Open Hillel” when Hillel International refused to fund anti-Zionist speaker events under the Hillel name. The supposed rabbi of the group is involved with the radical anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace and during our campus campaign trying to defeat BDS, this so-called “Jewish” group took a neutral stance. Jewish students at Swarthmore have zero institutional support from the total sham of a campus Jewish community that has been taken over by self-hating JVP activists. This is why CAMERA was so important for us.
The third unique issue is the presence of an incredibly popular Palestinian professor who teaches a class about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Students are fed well-designed, emotional narratives of supposed Israeli oppression throughout the semester with grossly anti-Semitic ideas occasionally thrown in, such as the comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany. At the end of the class, students are taken on a trip through Palestinian communities in Judea and Samaria in addition to some of sovereign Israel. Shockingly, the students ate lunch at the house of the Tamimi family, which is notorious for Ahlam Tamimi, a terrorist responsible for planning the Sbarro Pizza Bombing attack that took the lives of 15 Jews, including 7 children and a pregnant woman.
The truth is that anti-Semitism is not treated the same way as any other type of bigotry on campuses. A great example occurred in that very class when I took it a year and a half ago. We had a lecture on anti-Semitism, and in the Q&A an Arab student asked the lecturer “if the Jews don’t control all of the media and the world, then who does?” This elicited hardly any response from anyone publicly, including the professor.
Despite these challenges, we pushed back. I was personally able to sway the student government during the initial BDS hearing to vote no when I spoke before them. Other students have also stood up on our campus, and they inspire me for doing so. They spoke out even though they were deeply disturbed at being labeled racists and fascists.
At Swarthmore, CAMERA helped me organize an event with a former IDF Communications officer. They helped us lead the charge against BDS that ensured that despite its passing, students know that there are proud Jews who are willing to stand up to this type of hate. They also helped us publish several op-eds pushing back against anti-Occupation seders, BDS, anti-Birthright protests, and more. None of this would have been as successful without CAMERA’s vital support.
The anti-Israel movement is very smart in their targeting of liberal-minded college students from the perspective of intersectionality and very effective at doing so. It is incredibly dangerous to allow them to reach our future leaders on college campuses, but I’m proud to say that together, we are making sure they’re opposed. As long as we stay united in our goals, G-d willing we will prevail.