For the past four months, HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams has been busy with more than fighting the anti-Israel lies and distortions of the media. He’s also been cramming for exams, researching and writing papers, and learning from some of the top lecturers in their fields.
In short, he’s been based in Boston as a member of Brandeis University’s Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, a two-year masters program where he is simultaneously earning a MBA in Non-Profit Management and an MA in Jewish Professional Leadership.
So when Joe learned that the group would be spending 10 days in Israel, he jumped at the chance to host a session at the HonestReporting International Headquarters in Jerusalem. The opportunity, he said, underscored how his time in Boston benefits both HonestReporting and the larger Jewish world.
“The opportunity to host graduate students from Boston is exciting in its own right,” Joe said. “As a non-US Citizen living among the American Jewish Community, I get to look at Israel from the outside in and to bridge the gaps between Israel and US-based leadership. I’m proud to be a part of that emerging and important trend.”
The session at HonestReporting featured McGill University Professor Gil Troy and was attended by the 22 students at the program. Prof. Troy spoke about the need to “go beyond the simplistic polarizations of Israel as good or bad, or Israeli Jews as religious or secular,” in order to see the complexity and richness of Israel. “The delegtimization of Israel has everyone, from right to left, looking at Israel in these simplistic and often extreme boxes,” he said.
Prof. Troy’s latest book, Moynihan’s Moment: America’s Fight Against Zionism is Racism details the 1975 battle in the UN over the resolution that declared Zionism as a form of racism, which many consider the start of the international campaign to delegitimize Israel that is still underway. The book is the perfect starting point for anyone seeking to understand how the anti-Zionist idea, or the movement to delegitimize Israel, grew and spread.
Prof. Troy also called on the students to “take Zionism personally,” and discover what Zionism and Israel means to them individually. “With due respect to JFK, who said “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” we do have to ask what can our country — Israel — do for us,” he said. “How does it help solve our existential dilemmas? We need to ask what having a Jewish state can mean to us as the start of a broader conversation in Israel and around the Jewish world about what Israel is and can be.
The program also included presentations from Aryeh Green, director of MediaCentral, a project of HonestReporting, and Smadar Bakovic, a MediaCentral staffer. Aryeh discussed the challenges he faces helping the media “get the story right in the first place.”
Smadar told the group about her experience fighting anti-Israel sentiments at Warwick University in the UK. She noted how anti-Israel activists had called her a Nazi for fighting for her rights as a student and the strength she gained from the knowledge that she always had Israel to return to if the situation deteriorated in the UK. In 2013, Smadar had won a court case against Warwick and received compensation for her mistreatment at the university.
Prof. Troy noted that this was his third time addressing the Hornstein Program. ” I am always impressed by the quality of the questions, the depth of the involvement, the mixture of idealism and insight they bring on this exciting educational journey,” he said.