Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) set out on a campus tour in the US Wednesday night in a first-ever visit of a senior Israeli politician to Ivy League university campuses in order to combat prevalent propaganda against the Jewish state and the mounting threat posed by the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement (BDS) who are active in such academic institutions.
Ahead of her departure, Hotovely said that she intended to "talk to the younger generation in the US who [sic] grew up hearing lies about Israel. It is important for me to share with the common challenges that radial Islam poses to democratic countries and to tell them the success story of the State of Israel, which thrives in the face of all challenges."
Among the elite colleges the deputy foreign minister is slated to visit are New York University, Columbia University and Princeton University.
"The university campuses are one of the most difficult and important arenas, and I come as a representative of the government and a representative of the ruling party on a journey that will begin the hard work of changing the trend toward Israel on US campuses. Students who identify with Israel will no longer be afraid to speak their minds," she said in a statement.
Hotovely also launched an initiative prior to her departure to help promote Israel advocacy abroad and to counter movements that are calling for a financial and social boycott of the Jewish state. At her behest, Jerusalem's Foreign Ministry released four booklets that it plans to make available for Israel advocates on campus. Every booklet, according to Hotovely's office, tackles a "core issue relating to the 100-year conflict with the Arabs."
The series is titled "Israel Basics" and each booklet comes in a different, basic color. A booklet about the Jewish settlements is named the Green Booklet, a booklet addressing the issue of terror that has plagued the country is named the Red Book, a third one relating to peace negotiations is named the Yellow Booklet and a fourth, titled The Miracle of Israel, is also dubbed the Blue Booklet.
Hotovely also intends to meet with pro-Israel activists to learn about the difficulties they face in presenting Israel's struggles on campus. "My goal is to hear from them and learn what we can do to help," she added.
The deputy foreign minister is also scheduled to meet with officials from the Jewish community in New York and participate in the IAC conference in Washington during her visit.
Just a week before Hotovely's visit a watchdog that seeks to investigate, document and combat antisemitism on university campuses in the US released an alarming report that pointed at a strong correlation between the prevalence of antisemitic and pro-BDS approaches on campuses and the occurrence of anti-Zionist expressions uttered at department-sponsored events.
The authors of the study conducted by Amcha Initiative explained that “This new research strongly suggests that at least some faculties who have signed petitions or statements in support of an academic boycott of Israel, bring their anti-Israel sentiments and support for BDS to campus through their department’s sponsorship of pro-BDS events and those events increase the likelihood of resulting in anti-Jewish hostility on campus.”
The study included research of 557 academic units affiliated with Ethnic, Gender and Middle East Studies at 100 schools. The schools were the same ones included in Amcha’s 2015 and 2016 studies of antisemitism on US college campuses and universities with large Jewish undergraduate populations, identified by Jewish campus organization Hillel International.
Tamara Zieve contributed to this report.