Schools are out for summer. They’ve already been out for a while. Coronavirus beat summer to the punch.
How many schools will return in the fall? How many campus activities will resume? Hard to say.
But at this time of great uncertainty, some things are becoming increasingly clear.
While this is a bad season for Israel trips and public events, it’s an excellent time to build our pro-Israel base. Students have far more free time on their hands than they ordinarily would. And they’re excited to use this time to learn how to be more effective advocates for Israel. As a result, our transition to online advocacy training has been an enormous success. Attendance at these sessions is better than ever. Our partners are adding students to existing courses and launching supplemental courses. And we’re building advanced offerings with new partners to provide additional online training opportunities in the fall.
The training will come in handy. Because we know two additional things are going to happen this fall. Issues of racial justice are going to be front and center in the political debate on campus. And anti-Israel activists are going to do their best to hijack this movement to serve their own hateful ends. They already are.
Our student activists want to pursue justice. But unlike the SJP crowd, pro-Israel students are not a political monolith. Each of them will decide for themselves how best to respond to this moment, and their responses will vary. At this challenging juncture, we hope our students will continue to demonstrate both compassionate hearts and independent minds.
We also hope that all of our activists, regardless of their politics, will reach out to the Black community on their campuses and take the time to listen to them. However much we may think we know about a given topic, we must always have the humility to listen and learn. When we’ve argued that BDS is anti-Semitic, we’ve been grateful when others have taken our concerns seriously enough to hear us out. Now is a time to treat others as we would have them treat us.
In reaching out to the Black community, our students can build a relationship based on mutual respect. Such relationships are critical to being informed, responsible citizens of our campuses and of our Republic. And in building such relationships, our students can help preserve a campus culture in which listening and learning are still valued. As anti-Israel activists try to turn this anti-racist moment into an anti-Semitic moment, we will inevitably have much to say. The more we can do today to advance respectful dialogue, the better we will be heard when the time comes.