Atlantans have three chances to join the director at a screening of a half-hour documentary on the rising threat of campus anti-Semitism posed by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
Jerusalem-based director Shoshana Palatnik is attending screenings Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 27 and 28, at Congregation Etz Chaim in East Cobb, then stopping at Young Israel of Toco Hills on Thursday, Oct. 29, for a final showing of “Crossing the Line 2: The New Face of Anti-Semitism on Campus,” a production of Jerusalem U.
The film, an update of a documentary done in 2010, combines news footage, classroom videos, and interviews with college students and experts from organizations such as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, and StandWithUs.
From student organizers leading angry demonstrations equating Zionism and racism to a professor telling his students that it doesn’t matter whether Hamas is a terrorist organization because it provides good health care and kindergarten education, the film offers a chilling look at what Jewish teenagers risk confronting when they go to college.
Incidents from the past couple of years in the documentary include the bitter fight over a BDS resolution at the University of Michigan, the arrests of four pro-Israel students at Ohio University for speaking out against a fake-blood protest by the student government president, the disruption of an appearance by former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of New Mexico, the distribution of fake eviction notices to Jewish students in a New York University dorm, and the painting of swastikas on the Alpha Epsilon Pi house at Emory University.
An August report by the Israel on Campus Coalition found 1,630 anti-Israel incidents on 181 U.S. campuses during the 2014-15 school year, as well as a 132 percent rise in BDS campus campaigns compared with the previous year.
“We need to awaken people to the seriousness of this situation,” said Hadara Ishak, Jerusalem U’s director of international engagement and Atlanta-based Southeast director. “By working together, we can tackle these critical issues.”
While the experts in the documentary connect the dots among the incidents to show the big picture of anti-Israel activism and how often it is just the socially acceptable form of modern anti-Semitism, the emotion comes from the responses of the students who faced verbal and sometimes physical attacks because they showed support for Israel or were openly Jewish.
Ishak said the problem isn’t only that advocates of Israel are under attack. Jews who go to college without knowing the facts about Israel are vulnerable to being recruited by BDS advocates because the students’ impulse is to protect those who appear to be victims.
“BDS has proven that ignorance is power,” Ishak said. “What people don’t know leaves them open to anti-Israel propaganda.”
The goal of the three programs in the Atlanta area is not only to educate students and their families about the threats, but also to provide the tools to respond.
In addition to Palatnik, the discussions after the screenings are scheduled to include AEPi’s director of high school engagement, Jonathan Bridge; the Southeast campus coordinator for StandWithUs, Lauren Feibelman; and an Emory student, Joshua Ferenczi. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens is moderating the discussions at Etz Chaim.
The Oct. 27 session starts at 7:30. The Oct. 28 and 29 screenings are at 7 p.m. The Oct. 28 program is geared more toward teens, but everyone is welcome at any of the three programs.
You also can watch the documentary on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNDCcsH_wgU.
As for tools, EndBDS.com provides legal help in response to BDS actions and harassment. Jerusalem U (www.jerusalemu.org) offers more educational materials, including the Step Up for Israel educational program (www.stepupforisrael.com), which Ishak said is available free to any Atlanta-area organization. Just use the coupon code “SUFIATL” at checkout when ordering either the teen course or the organization mini-course.