Sunday, August 15, 2010

Knesset lobby recruits Christian evangelical students to represent Israel on US campuses

(Yediot Achronot).In recent years, Israeli politicians have been forced to curtail lectures they give in universities overseas, and in some cases even to cancel them altogether because of the disruptions caused by pro-Palestinian students. Now, some MKs believe, a solution has been found.

MKs who are members of the lobby to promote relations with Christian communities around the world, concluded that the best response to the powerful show of force put on by Muslim students on campuses overseas could not be provided by the Jewish students but, rather, by the Christian students, who are no less eager to help Israel.

The lobby, which is headed by MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), began finding and training Christian students in prestigious universities and colleges in North America and Europe. The goal is to establish non-Jewish support groups for Israel on each campus so as to have the Israeli position presented.

The lobby, in which dozens of MKs from various parties are members, is considered to be one of the most active lobbies in the Knesset. Members of the lobby contacted the Evangelist organization, Eagles’ Wings, which helped them locate suitable students overseas. The prospective members must have good skills at oral and written presentation, and an ability to appear before an audience. Thus far some 150 students have been found, and the goal is to train 30 additional students every year. The “ambassadors” undergo training in Israeli public relations, they visit Israel and meet with politicians, academics and Israeli diplomats. The most recent group, which was comprised of 15 Christian students, finished its tour of Israel just ten days ago.

“When you send a Jewish student to defend Israel, people say straight away that he isn’t objective,” said MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima), who is a member of the lobby. “Conversely, when a large group of Christian students comes and presents the truth about Israel from the perspective of a non — Jewish person — that Israel is not a militaristic country but is a progressive and high-tech country — that has a redoubled public relations impact.”

Thus far, pro-Israel groups have been established at Oxford University in England, Amsterdam University in Holland, Berkeley, Georgetown and University of Florida in the United States, as well as at two prestigious colleges in the United States. “This initiative has the potential of changing the trend in Israel’s favor on campuses across the United States and Europe,” said Josh Reinstein, the chairman of the lobby.

The students say that they have encountered positive responses on campus. “We don’t get into political arguments,” said one of them. “Instead, we talk about subjects that everyone can identify with. That is the simple truth about Israel. If we weren’t there to explain it, no one would be standing up to the lies that are being spread about you.”