Anti-Israel Week At UAB; Can't Please All But Can Listen

ANTI-ISRAEL WEEK ON UAB CAMPUS

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In cities and on college campuses all over the world, anti-Israel activists are participating in a movement called Israeli Apartheid Week. They have been encouraged to highlight one week during the months of February and March to portray Israel as a country that practices apartheid, an erroneous claim designed to defame the Jewish state.

Apartheid was a strict system of racial segregation once prevalent in South Africa. Israeli Apartheid Week typically includes rallies, lectures, cultural performances, film screenings, multimedia displays and boycotts of Israel.

We at The Birmingham Jewish Federation have received reports of Israeli Apartheid Week activities scheduled for our city. These activities will take place March 5-13 on the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They do not represent the official views of the University; they are activities developed by anti-Israel activists on campus.

Last year's Israeli Apartheid Week had over 215 cities participating. Israeli Apartheid Week seeks to focus on Israel's supposed apartheid policies toward the Palestinians and to build support for boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts against Israel.

The argument that Israel is an apartheid nation is incorrect. Israel faces challenges, like every liberal democracy, in ensuring fair and equitable treatment of its minority citizens. Israel's history compares favorably with other democracies, especially when considering how precarious and vulnerable the state was, and still is.

All Israeli citizens -- Jews, Muslims, Christians and others -- enjoy equal political rights and legal protection of their holy sites. While it is legitimate to criticize Israeli government policy -- as occurs within Israeli society itself -- using the term apartheid distorts the situation and reflects animosity toward the Jewish state.

NOT LOGICAL

While many know arguing that Israel is an apartheid state is illogical, The BJF, along with organizations such as the national Israel Action Network, an initiative developed in part by Jewish Federations of North America, is working hard to ensure that members of our community understand the apartheid argument and why it is not logical.

To accomplish this, The BJF, during UAB's Israeli Apartheid Week, is encouraging the Birmingham community to participate in our BUY BUY ISRAEL project. BUY BUY ISRAEL is an effort created by The BJF to help combat the boycott of Israeli products. We encourage Update readers to be on the lookout for Israeli-made goods sold locally and report back to us when they find them. The BJF will have a BUY BUY ISRAEL display in UAB's student center and will have an ad in The Kaleidoscope, UAB's campus newspaper.

Additionally, BJF staff members Daniel Odrezin and Samantha Dubrinsky listened in on an Israel Action Network conference call that addressed anti-Israel apartheid initiatives on campuses across the US and how to respond to demonstrations. Communities were urged to react to Israeli Apartheid Week with activities that showcase Israel in a positive light as The BJF is doing at UAB.

The BJF will continue to monitor any anti-Israel activities on college campuses throughout Alabama. For more information, contact Assistant Executive Director Daniel Odrezin at danielo@bjf.org or Staff Associate Samantha Dubrinsky at samd@bjf.org. As always, we thank those of you who support our BJF Annual Campaign. Your dollars provide the staffing, organizational structure and funding that allow us to do this important work on behalf of Israel.

Photo is from a previous anti-Israel protest at UAB.

CAN'T PLEASE ALL, BUT CAN LISTEN

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By Richard Friedman, Executive Director

I got a nice phone call the other day from one of our most longstanding and generous donors. This person calls me periodically to offer feedback and ask questions. She was calling me, she said, to tell me how "wonderful" The Birmingham Jewish Federation is doing these days and how impressed she is by all of our new undertakings. She also said that it's "fabulous" how the Federation has been able to recruit dynamic young adults for volunteer and staff positions.

She also acknowledged that a few months ago, she had some questions about our organization. She was concerned that we were running over budget by adding new staff and, thankfully, made an appointment to see me to ask me if this were the case. I explained to her that thanks to budget reductions over the past five years and additional supplementary funding beyond our annual campaign, that all was fine financially.

In our phone call, she mentioned her recent meeting with me. Had she not had the information I shared with her, she would not be as enthusiastic as she is today, she said.

After her phone call, I reflected more on what she said. No, not the nice stuff -- that was heartening but I learned long ago about the dangers of inhaling compliments. What I focused on was that she had formed impressions based on misinformation and wondered what would have happened had she never come in to meet and have her questions answered?

I am so grateful she did. She had good questions and there were good answers, as there usually are. I told her -- and say this also to all of our Update readers -- please if you ever have questions about The BJF, contact me. You can reach me at richardf@bjf.org or 205-803-1525. I am happy to meet with you and also include one of our volunteer officers as well.

We live in the information age which, as we all know, can lead to misinformation. The BJF has a great story to tell and we are happy to tell it. Of course, no matter how well we do, we can't please all of the people all of the time -- but we sure as heck can listen to 'em!