Friday, November 14, 2008
'Israel Liberation Week' Comes to Berkeley
The Zionist Freedom Alliance, a campus-based Jewish rights organization in the United States, has surprised many supporters and opponents by bringing "Israel Liberation Week" to the University of California at Berkeley. UC Berkeley has long been a bastion of left-wing political activism in America and is seen by many in the pro-Israel community as a hub of anti-Zionist hostility.
ZFA bills itself as the only student organization asserting Israel’s national rights on American college campuses and has been known to take stands in defense of the often-maligned Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. While many ZFA student activists identify as politically left on the American political spectrum, all members of the organization advocate that Judea and Samaria belong solely to the Jewish people and that no foreign state should be established between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
Films, exhibits, concerts and educational campaigns will highlight the Jewish underground battles against British rule in the 1940s and will also promote the message that the United Nations behaves as an enemy to the State of Israel and works to intensify the conflict rather than resolve it. The campaign being featured this week at Berkeley is one called “UN out of Israel – Israel out of the UN.”
"Israel Liberation Week" at Berkeley is being organized personally by ZFA leaders Yehuda HaKohen and Eliyahu Chaim, who host "The Struggle" on Israel National Radio. The week-long event also took place last week at the University of Albany, where ZFA called for an end to US foreign aid.
When asked to explain the difference between running such a program at Albany and Berkeley, HaKohen – who himself lives on the east side of Jerusalem – answered that “Albany is a good place for us to spread our message of Jewish national rights, but Berkeley is one of the campuses that sets the political tone for college activism throughout the country. It’s a much more active and much more relevant school in that regard. ‘Israel Liberation Week’ at Albany succeeded in educating the campus to Jewish national rights and the suffering our people have endured due to United States pressure on our leaders [to surrender territory]. At Berkeley we hope to open the minds of idealistic liberal college students to the inherent justice of the Zionist Revolution.”
Before the week even began, posters of martyred Jewish underground fighter Moshe Barazani covered the Berkeley campus with the slogan “Who is Barazani?” When the buzz over the mysterious posters reached its peak, student activists covered the campus with new posters featuring a short biography of Barazani and the "Israel Liberation Week" logo.
Already at the beginning of the week, anti-Israel activists began challenging the message of Jewish liberation with a list of dubious claims. One Jewish member of the SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) argued that there is no such thing as a Jewish nation and that Jews have no claim to any territory anywhere. Another SJP student accused ZFA of usurping the imagery of revolution and the language of national liberation to promote a Zionist agenda. The focus of her frustration was a shirt featuring the face of Lehi leader Yair Stern with the word “revolution” written underneath.
Gabe Weiner of the local ZFA chapter told Israel National News that the source of the SJP’s anger is that they are unequipped to counter the Zionist message. “These people are used to coming up against pro-Israel advocacy groups with either neo-Conservative or apologetic messages. They’ve never encountered a Zionist movement that speaks in the language of national liberation. One of their members resorted to trying to physically intimidate Yehuda [HaKohen], but when that attempt backfired, they were really left with nothing.
“The ZFA message works on a campus like Berkeley much better than the messages put forward by other groups,” he continued. “We’re actually fighting for a passionate cause and that resonates with students here. Even students who otherwise disagree with Israel’s existence.”