Hillel student activists at Duke University are meeting an upcoming anti-Israel conference on campus with an outpouring of pro-Israel education and support. At the same time they have requested that organizers of the October 15-17 meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Movement condemn violence -- a request PSM leaders have so far rejected.
The Associated Press quotes PSM conference leader Rann Bar-On as saying: "We don't see it as very useful for us as a solidarity movement to condemn violence. That will not achieve any particular goal."
Pro-Israel students on campus are organizing a free outdoor concert and pro-Israel rally on October 14 to preempt the PSM conference. Duke's Freeman Center for Jewish Life, the Hillel student board and Duke Friends of Israel have created the Joint Israel Initiative to plan the program and to encourage a respectful dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"The PSM conferences have consistently promoted a one-sided and prejudiced perspective on a very complicated issue," explains Wayne Firestone, the executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, the national group working with Duke's Joint Israel Initiative. "We want to make sure students hear the many sides of the debate and affirm that terror will never be a solution."
The Oct. 14 concert and rally, which will feature the band Sister Hazel as its headlining act, will be broadcast on the Internet so students around the world can participate. Starting at 8 p.m. EST, students can log onto the simulcast link through the Hillel Web site (www.hillel.org) and Hollywood.com. They will also be able to send messages of support over the Internet to Duke that will scroll along the bottom of the computer screen and be visible to those at the concert and those watching from home.
Firestone emphasized that the PSM has consistently been a source of anti-Israel sentiment as it tries to convince universities to divest from Israel. While no university has divested so far, students have become the victims of misinformation campaigns across the country.
Since it was formed in 2002, the ICC has been working to provide students with accurate, unbiased information about the conflict and empowering them to become leaders in Israeli advocacy on their campuses. The ICC is a partnership of Hillel and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and 30 member organizations.