Dani Klein of StandWithUs and The SJ in Dialogue

We’d like to thank Dani Klein of StandWithUs for writing in our comments section. His uninterrupted comment can be read here.

Mr Klein writes:

My name is Dani Klein, and I am the North American Campus Director for StandWithUs (working with campuses in the USA & Canada). I have had the pleasure of working with Michelle Rojas in NY, and she is nothing but amazing, and I am glad she continues to work for us in Israel.

The Sensible Jews have never met Ms Rojas and pass no judgment on her personally. Nor have we witnessed her in her capacity as an advocate. Our previous posts have dealt with her only inasmuch as she represents an organisation that we believe takes the wrong approach to Israel advocacy on campus.

Now to your concerns about our organization. I understand you may not agree with our tactics, and that is OK. We understand that not every approach to Israel advocacy is for everyone, nor do we claim to be representative of all Israel supporters. But, we ARE filling a huge void when it comes to Israel EDUCATION. That is our core belief. One must be educated about Israel, her history, her achievements, her challenges, her geography, etc. in order to be a proper advocate.

We agree wholeheartedly with the principles of education and informed debate. It is the method of this education’s dissemination that we believe is crucial to its success or failure.

It is not merely pro-Israel PR. Students especially are ignorant to what Israel is all about. Numerous market research studies have been done across North America and it was concluded that most people’s knowledge of Israel is both very basic, and often grossly misinformed.

While it is admirable that your group seeks to remedy this ignorance, we ask you: who is your audience? No public relations/educational exercise can ever be effective without a clearly defined audience. We worry that your organisation does not distinguish between those who are pro-Israel, those who are anti-Israel, and those who simply don’t care, instead presenting an approach that is about blanket advocacy. There are no provisions for dialogue or bridge-building that we saw on your websites.

You chose to focus on one of our flyers depicting Palestinian hate speech, something that the human rights community around the world is not making a big enough deal over, because the way that Palestinian society is being educated is deplorable. That is just one issue that we discuss on campus concerning the Palestinian / Israeli conflict.

Only the ignorant or disingenuous would suggest that there isn’t a problem with hate speech in Palestine. How one goes about informing others of this, however, and what one’s motives may be for providing this information matter greatly. Does focusing on the negatives of Palestine bolster Israel’s position in the eyes of the average student? It’s highly unlikely. More likely, such a campaign will be seized upon by anti-Zionists who enjoy painting Zionists and Jews as enemies of free speech.

The real problem is that SWU has lacks three crucial elements for success:

1) Clearly distinguished audiences

2) Concrete, clearly articulated outcomes that SWU would like to achieve

3) Solutions to the increasing isolation of Zionists on campus.

However, we do not solely focus on discussing the conflict. We fully recognize that we would be doing a disservice by ONLY discussing the conflict. We have created numerous materials discussing positive aspects of Israel including her commitment to Innovation, Medicine, the Environment, Diversity, Human Rights, etc. We discuss ways in which Israel affects all of our lives daily, Jew or non-Jew, Zionist or not.

Again, how does this advocacy answer the above three questions?

We believe that it is through this dual educational approach that students will be able to properly advocate for Israel, and educate their peers. We are fully committed to creating and enhancing student leaders all over the world. I know that SWU is also committed to working with the Australian Jewish community, with AUJS and other students groups, to facilitate the above stated goals. I, myself, have worked with and trained AUJS students at a PTS conference (Political Training Seminar) in Canberra in 2005.

Again, while we find education admirable in and of itself, SWU simply does not articulate its concrete goals beyond, “education” or “leadership.” Another issue is exactly whom your students will be leading – Jewish groups? Secular groups? What use are leadership and Zionism education without provision for training in inter-communal dialogue? Unless these Jewish students are going to lead highly isolated groups of Jews, it would seem, again from your websites, that they will be ill-prepared for the dialogue that will be an inevitable part of leading any organisation. They will be trained only in one style of advocacy, the uses of which are limited.

I do hope that you can look at everything that SWU is involved in as a whole (yes, even all of our websites), and base your judgment on the sum of our parts.

Dani, we did explore the SWU sites in good faith. The problem is that the sheer number of them, often duplicating information, makes it extremely difficult to get a handle on exactly what the organisation hopes to achieve, beyond the very broad categories of, “leadership” and “education.”

If you do have suggestions for our organization, I invite you to please continue this discussion with us and help us improve, so we can improve knowledge about Israel and her image. you can email me at: dani@standwithus.com. We can also continue the discussion on Twitter: http://twitter.com/standwithus.

Dani, your openness is greatly appreciated. Our suggestions for the effective rehabilitation of Zionism on campus can be read in this post.

Once more, we thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

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  3. Reader Response 5: Israel, Kangaroo Courts, Unity, Speaking Out, and Subheadings
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3 Responses to “Dani Klein of StandWithUs and The SJ in Dialogue”

  1. faygale says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle the other day ,hers is a fascinating story coming from half Hispanic half Jewish parents.

    All I can say is if only there were Australian young Jewish woman like her with her intellect ,guts and determination instead of the pseudo intellectual Jewish academics who claim they support Israel yet share more views with the Palestinian Lobby in Australia than the mainstream Jewish community..

    “Kol hakavod!” Michelle and Dani keep up your good work…

    Faygale

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  2. Daniel says:

    The Sensible Jews have never met Ms Rojas and pass no judgment on her personally. Nor have we witnessed her in her capacity as an advocate

    we did explore the SWU sites in good faith. The problem is that the sheer number of them, often duplicating information, makes it extremely difficult to get a handle on exactly what the organisation hopes to achieve, beyond the very broad categories of, “leadership” and “education.”

    So what you are saying, basically, is that you have no idea about their organisation whatsoever, and haven’t bothered to ask. Instead, you’ve gone off half-cocked and slagged them off to stroke your own egos.

    If yours were an op-ed piece in a respectable newspaper (or perhaps The Age) you’d be sent back for more fact-checking. If it were a research paper, you’d simply fail.

    Yet here you are, convinced you are “sensible”…

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  3. sensiblejew says:

    Daniel, you are resorting to ad hominem attack.

    In what way have we demonstrated a paucity of research? Which facts have we not presented correctly? You present not a skerrick of evidence that demonstrates failure on our part to present a cogent argument.

    Once more, we remind our readers that ad hominem attacks will not be tolerated on this site. Everyone is free to disagree with our arguments or those of other posters. If, however, the only contribution is, “you’ve gone off half-cocked and slagged them off to stroke your own egos,” your comments will be deleted.

    This may be a forum for debate, but true debate can be too easily drowned out by people more interested in supressing discussion than in new ideas.

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