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Pillar Of Defense: NYU’s Pro-Israel Student Group’s Response

Pillar Of Defense: NYU’s Pro-Israel Student Group’s Response

By Mia Applebaum and Michael Harris

The Jewish Week

When crisis overtook the Israel-Gaza border on November 14th, we, as New York University’s pro-Israel political organization, were committed to reaffirming our staunch support for the State of Israel. Our fellow students are aware of what we have accomplished, and we wish to inform the greater community as well.

At NYU, our organization is made up of 10 board members, 16 committee members, and over 200 active volunteers. Although our university contains over 19,000 undergraduate students, we maintain a vibrant and productive presence.

In response to Operation Pillar of Defense, we crafted a statement expressing our support for the U.S. House and Senate bipartisan resolutions that expressed Israel’s inalienable right to defend itself against terrorism. Student leaders from over 50 diverse clubs, ranging from student councils to political clubs to Greek organizations, signed onto our statement to express support for the Jewish State.

Additionally, we contacted our Senators to applaud their message of solidarity with Israel and to emphasize the sanctity of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

As a political group, we met with two members of Congress during the Operation. On November
16th, we visited the office of Congresswoman Nita Lowey in White Plains, New York. We spoke with her expert on Israeli Affairs, Ms.Talia Dubovi, primarily about the recent escalation and the importance of maintaining military aid to Israel in order to bolster Israeli security. We specifically noted the success of the Iron Dome Defense system, a program that Congresswoman Lowey ardently supports. Ms. Dubovi was very receptive and assured us that Congresswoman Lowey would continue to prioritize and support the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Two business days later, we visited the office of Congresswoman Yvette Clarke in Brooklyn, New York, where we met with her district representative, Patrick Rheaume. Our discussion was tailored to the looming crisis in the Middle East and flowed directly into a conversation about our top issues which include: maintaining American foreign military aid to Israel, promoting bilateral negations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability, and countering Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). Our visit was very well received and we left reassured as Congresswoman Clarke reaffirmed her commitment to Israel.

Even as our final exams period approaches, we will continue to meet with members of Congress to communicate our topic issues and their urgency. In the coming weeks, we will sit down with representatives of Congressman Gregory Meeks, Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, Congressman Peter King, and Congresswoman Grace Meng.

On campus, the mood had certainly been tense. To ensure that NYU students knew the facts about Pillar of Defense, we published an Op-Ed in our largest newspaper about Hamas’ immoral war crimes. An anti-Israel Op-Ed ran alongside our own article, yet their piece was simply reactionary. As a result, it was our article that managed to spread thoroughly across the student body of NYU.

Additionally, we had the unique opportunity of sending three of our board members to an open dialogue with three Palestinian students, and this will be included in an impressive documentary about inter-faith Muslim-Jewish relations at NYU.

It is difficult to establish and sense one single mood at NYU, but we know we have spread our efforts to support Israel these past few weeks. We hosted an event with Mr. Nathan Miller- the speechwriter for the Permanent Israeli Mission to the United Nations- and received an overwhelming turnout of over 80 students on a school night. After the event, students showed an enormous interest in joining our lobby missions and found out ways to become more involved.

Our efforts are pro-active and the NYU pro-Israel community is strong. As anti-Israel ideology spreads throughout the Middle East, we will continue to prevent that trend from overtaking NYU’s campus. We look forward to moving ahead with our pro-Israel political work, and anticipate a strong second semester beginning in the spring of 2013.

Mia Appelbaum and Michael Harris, along with Blair Hart Newman and Jonathan Etra, who contributed to this piece, are members of the board of TorchPAC, the pro-Israel political organization at New York University.