WUJS Conference

December 30, 2010

From December 26th to December 29th, I attended the annual conference of the World Union of Jewish Students.  WUJS is an organization of student leaders from campuses around the world that was established during the 1920’s.  Aside from their annual conference in Jerusalem, the group’s day-to-day operations remain unclear; in fact, of the one hundred students at the conference, less than a quarter of them knew of its prior existence.

However, the fact that its representatives were able to bring together and educate coalitions of Jewish student union leaders from several countries is an important and incredible accomplishment.

An impressive list of politicians and activists spoke throughout the week, including Tzipi Livni and Natan Sharansky.  Each guest lectured on the de-legitimization of Israel, the conflict, and modern antisemitism using different approaches and information.

Although we were never given the opportunity for a formal discussion amongst ourselves, I was able to gauge the feelings and experiences of the students through the questions they posed.  I was completely blind-sided by the stories they referenced of discrimination and anti-Israel sentiment on their university campuses.  Students told of the apartheid accusations against Israel, the universities voting to send aid to Hamas, and the bigotry they experienced as Jews in their classes.

We were told repeatedly by each speaker that the situations on campus in Europe, South Africa, and Australia were far worse than those at American universities.  I can’t help but wonder if my prior apathy towards the situation in the Middle East may have shielded me from the anti-Israel climate on my own campus.  I was surrounded by students that had had to spend each day at their universities advocating Israel amidst the threats of their peers, and yet I had never once had to hide my opinions and religion.

After hearing what the speakers had to say about the United Nations, I felt as though I had been violently thrust into a world of lies and distrust.  These are the greatest leaders of the free world, joined together in a democratic union, and yet they have completely cornered Israel with criticism.  Israel exists–despite the terrorist attacks, its fanatical neighbors, its size, its age; and not only does it exist, but it thrives and is at the forefront of every technological and medical accomplishment.

Israel has become a free pass for the world and is openly, and often, discriminated against.  Is it so naive to think that this could never happen in the 21st century?  The speeches, albeit one-sided, left me frustrated and helpless and opened my eyes to the veiled hatred that builds up each day against this country.

I know I’ve rambled about injustices and negativity, but I did come away from the conference with a bit of positivity.  I feel so privileged to have spent time in Israel, to see the country and its people for myself, to form my own opinions far from the poison of the international media, and to be able to return to the U.S. as an ambassador and activist for Israel and its right to exist.