Student Club Brings Speakers to Campuses to Shed Positive Light on Israel’s Image
Much attention has been given to anti-Israel activism on college campuses, but a group of Yeshiva University students is working to change Israel’s image as a place of conflict and political turmoil in the eyes of university students across America.
Alexander Fischman, a junior majoring in political science at Yeshiva College (YC), is the president of the Student American Israel Political Education Club (SAIPEC), an organization he founded in 2008. SAIPEC’s aim is to frame Israel in a more positive light on college campuses across North America, countering its negative image on most secular campuses. Other members of the up-and-coming club are YU students Steven Hagler, Eitan Slomovic and Shalvi Berger.
In March 2008, Fischman was working on a pro-Israel event with New York University (NYU) students in response to Israel Apartheid Week, an international Palestinian solidarity effort across college campuses. He realized that though YU already had an Israel Club, no organization existed to focus solely on changing the negative perception of Israel among students on other campuses.
“Anti-Israel attitudes don’t exist at YU, but there is an enormous amount of potential in students here to help sway attitudes of students at other campuses towards a more positive view of Israel,” said Fischman, who worked for John McCain’s presidential campaign and most recently interned for the U.S. Department of Defense this past summer.
While YU’s Israel Club focuses on events on the YU campus, SAIPEC is focused on outside events at schools such as NYU and Columbia University, which both have pronounced anti-Israel atmospheres.
“I always felt an affinity for Israel,” explained Fischman, who participated in his high school’s Israeli advocacy group and led a lobbying mission to Washington, D.C. “And I was always disturbed by the culture of anti-Israel sentiment at colleges. SAIPEC’s goal is to open the eyes of college students to Israel’s many achievements in areas such as science, technology and humanitarian aid.”
SAIPEC is behind the weeklong celebration “Not Just Hummus,” which will take place from Nov. 2-9 this year. Co-sponsored by the Israel education group StandWithUs, “Not Just Hummus” will highlight Israel’s technological and environmental contributions to society, its democratic government and its humanitarian efforts, and will feature speakers such as Aryeh Green, a former policy advisor to Natan Sharansky; and Micha Halpern, Israel columnist for AOL.
Events are set to take place on several campuses in the tri-state area, including Columbia, Barnard College, Queens College, Rutgers University and NYU, and will culminate in a talk at YU by Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, on the Goldstone Report to students from multiple campuses on Nov 10.none