More than 250 students from 27 Modern Orthodox high schools nationwide — including four students from AJA — attended a conversation with Harvard Professor and famed Israel activist Alan Dershowitz conducted over Zoom. In his introduction, Prof. Dershowitz taught some background about the anti-Israel movement on college campuses and its relative recency and quipped that the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace organization — which did not exist while he was a student — is “neither Jewish nor advocates for peace, and luckily it has no voice.”
For the remainder of the hour-plus-long session, Prof. Dershowitz took pre-selected questions from the audience about Israel advocacy-related topics: He touched on his book The Case for Israel, written in the format of a guide to the pro-Israel advocate how to engage and rebut those opposed to the Jewish State. He also dove into success debating BDS supporters (since he says “the facts are on [his] side”), how his relationship with the late South African leader Nelson Mandela reinforced the misapplicability of the “apartheid” label to Israel, and how he views West Bank settlements, among other issues.
AJA Israel Advocacy Club member and program attendee Noa Mishli expressed that she enjoyed the conversation and what she learned from it about anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses. Talking about Prof. Dershowitz’s presentation, she also said, “I really liked his personality and the way he spoke about Israel,” adding that his anecdotes “were very funny.”
The Monday night event was the first for the newly-formed Yeshiva Israel Advocacy Coalition (YIAC). Founded this year by Hillel Yeshiva (New Jersey) student Saulie Hakim, the YIAC aims to serve as an umbrella group of the individual Israel Advocacy clubs at Jewish high schools across the country to combine resources and build a larger group of students to attract higher-profile figures, like Prof. Dershowitz, to speak (virtually) to the group. Each school in the YIAC choses one student to sit on the YIAC’s Executive Board.
AJA’s Israel Advocacy Club is one of the 27 school clubs to have joined the Coalition.