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Conference provides Israel advocacy tips

Fifty-five students from a dozen universities in Ontario and Quebec gathered in Ottawa earlier this month for a three-day Hasbara Fellowships Activism Conference.
The purpose was to network and glean information and techniques to deal with Israel-related issues they face on their campuses.
Many of the students had already participated in the Hasbara Fellowships program in Israel, which is designed to give them a first-hand look at the situation on the ground and to equip them to go back to their universities and explain Israel’s position to other students.
Montrealer Patrick Amar, a former Concordia University student now working in New York with Hasbara Fellowships, an arm of Aish HaTorah, as its Canadian co-ordinator, said one of the group’s goals is to become more politically engaged.
“I don’t think we are really using the democratic process well enough,” he said. “We want to reach out to politicians and establish Ottawa as a base for political action… this conference was an introduction, an ice-breaker.”
Along those lines, David Cooper of the Canada-Israel Committee provided tips on how to make the Canadian political system more accessible and “friendlier,” while Conservative MP Jason Kenney spoke to students during their Shabbat dinner and urged them to reach out to non-Jews and have them become active on behalf of Israel.
Neil Lazarus, director of Awesome Seminars, gave students tips on advocacy and communication.
“He helped us with problems encountered on our campuses,” Amar said. “One of the biggest issues we [Hasbara Fellowships] are facing is how to reach out and make Israel more mainstream, more accepted by more non-Zionist students… We need to reach out to students for their interests – to put what is important to them on our agenda.”
Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, who was on a North American, coast-to-coast tour, presented tools for countering Palestinian propaganda.
“We are giving the students some armour. They are being attacked every day,” Marcus said.
He was accompanied by Barbara Crook, the new Canadian representative of Palestinian Media Watch who will be following up on Canadian campuses after Marcus returns to Israel.
“Palestinians spend their whole propaganda convincing the world that they are the victims,” Marcus said. “We have to show, through our provable material, that this is not true. The goal is to change the victimhood.”
Marcus and Crook distributed printed material and CDs depicting propaganda being broadcast on Palestinian television, inciting children to violence and martyrdom.
“We think we give them [the students] the tools, Marcus said. “As we presented our material, we drilled them on how to answer questions. Some of these students had been to our presentations before and received our materials, and they are using them already.”
The conference wrapped up on Tu b’Shvat, and students decided to buy a tree in Israel for each of their ridings and present the certificates to their MPs.
“Activism means new ideas all the time,” Amar said.