Students take Israeli PR personally

Group travels to UK at own expense to talk to British students; next on agenda: South Africa









Tomer Velmer
Published: 06.29.11, 12:29 / Israel News

Dozens of college students from around the world have taken it upon themselves to fight the de-legitimization of Israel using nothing but their own funds and PR skills.

The enterprise, which began on Facebook, has already been tested on British campuses and its organizers plan to continue campaigning in South Africa.

“We started to feel that the student population around the world, preyed on by anti-Israel groups, suffers from a clear ignorance regarding Israeli society,” explained Avnet Kleiner, one of the two young men who started the project. That’s why we decided we have to go to conventions and campus lawns and talk to the students face to face.”

The campaign began with two students and a Facebook page. Alon Kimhi, who studies Diplomacy at Tel Aviv University, came across an academic article calling for a boycott against Israel.

He discussed it with Kleiner, who studies with him, and the two decided to establish a Facebook page called What Is Rael. Within a few weeks it had enlisted 20 students, who together embarked on a 10-day tour of various campuses in Britain.

They sponsored the tour themselves, aside from a stipend for the necessary food and board, which was funded by the Jewish Student Union.

Kleiner says the visitors succeeded in convincing many British students that the situation in Israel is anything but black and white, and that the Jews were waging a war for their right to a Jewish and democratic state.

“Once they met us, and we explained patiently the range of opinions and Israeli complexities, we succeeded in establishing empathy and presenting the other side as ridiculous and violent,” he said.

Now the group of students is preparing for a tour of South Africa’s educational institutions, scheduled for

August. Because of the high cost of travel, however, they have decided this time around to throw a party at one of Tel Aviv’s nightspots in order to fund the trip.

“We already have a list of 30 students joining us for the visit to South Africa,” Kleiner said. “I believe that in time more students will join us, who believe that Israel is not a racist country and has the right to exist just like any other state in the world.”


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  • Formed in June 2010, Group 18 is a new Israel advocacy organisation. 18 stands for the numerical value of “Chai” = LIFE. The impetus behind its inception was a feeling amongst concerned Jews that insufficient action was being taken in dealing with what we see as a broad and growing campaign to deligitimise the State of Israel and threaten it’s very right to exist. We, as Group 18, believe that instead of being reactive in dealing with these complex challenges, we must become pro-active through generating greater communal awareness of the issues.