Pillar of Defense: How to Respond on Campus

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In response to repeated rocket fire from Gaza targeting innocent civilians, Israel has launched an operation against Hamas militants called Operation Pillar of Defense. During this time, our role as students and professionals is to help our campus communities understand the current situation, show our support for innocent Palestinians and Israelis, and renew our commitment to the hope of finding peace in Israel. Some students on campus may react negatively to Israel’s actions, some may offer their full support, but the vast majority of students will have questions and desire more information in order to better understand the situation. We hope you prioritize reaching out to those students with questions first as you take action on campus.

Above all, think deeply about how you can share your perspective with others, find ways to highlight community support for Israel, and show that the Israel community on campus is open and willing to engage in conversation to share information on the current situation.

Below are a seven tips about how you can engage students on campus in a constructive dialogue around Operation Pillar of Defense.

  1. Educate yourselves and your peers. Discuss with your Israel group and the larger Israel community what is going on, collect information, and educate yourselves on the situation. Click here for our conversation guide to “Pillar of Defense.” Create a safe space for students grappling with the conflict to ask questions.
  2. Show Public Support. Show support for Israel by holding a public display of solidarity with the people of Israel. This show of support can be in the form of tabling or a larger gathering like a rally. You should aim to create a space to show your commitment to Israel, while welcoming discussion, questions, and information sharing.
  3. Don’t Counter-protest. Do not directly engage with anti-Israel protests and rallies. We do not want to increase attention to anti-Israel activity and inadvertently amplify the voice of Israel’s detractors. Our job is not to stop an anti-Israel rally from happening on campus. Rather, we should educate our peers and encourage understanding and conversation about the situation. Likewise, avoid inflammatory postings on Facebook, Twitter, etc. or posting in open forums. These kinds of posts tend generate needless rancor and undermine our own standing.
  4. Connect with your partners. Email, call and sit down to talk with your contacts on campus from the various partner organizations and communities. Share information with them , welcome their questions and ask them what questions they are hearing from their constituents. Provide updates as events transpire. Start a campaign to engage students one-on-one. Your willingness to engage in these conversations will show the community that you want to hear their concerns but also that you wish to share your grasp of the current conflict
  5. Mobilize support. Ask students to sign an open letter to the mayor of Sderot that lets him know the students of your university support the people of his city and stand with innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians. A draft letter can be found here. The David Project's grants program is available to help fund the publishing of the letter in your campus newspaper or other campus space.
  6. Humanize Israel and Israelis. Find opportunities to connect your peers and your campus with your friends, family and peers in Israel. If you know someone in Israel studying abroad, on a gap-year program, or living there, ask them to Skype or video chat with you and your friends so that you can hear first hand what is happening in Israel and what it is like to be in Tel Aviv, Sderot, Jerusalem or other cities right now.
  7. Provide public information. Write an op-ed providing more information on Operation Pillar of Defense and your perspective. We’d be happy to help!