by David Lev
It would take a lot to shock a guy like Noam Bedein, who runs the Sderot Media Center, which has effectively told the story of that shelled and shell-shocked story to lawmakers, diplomats, tourists, and even world leaders. Dealing as he does with the personal stories of Sderot residents, as well as the with the incitement by Gaza Arab terrorists against Negev residents, Bedein has seen first-hand the effects of Arab propaganda. And, as an articulate English speaker knowledgeable about events in the Middle East, he has gone on several tours of educational and community institutions in the U.S., seeking to educate people there on the real situation in the Middle East.
But on his most recent trip, even the normally unflappable Bedein was taken aback by how hatred of Israel – and medieval-style anti-Semitism, as well – has found a home on the most progressive college campuses. “I’ve been to hundreds of high schools and university campuses talking about Israel over the years, but the reception – and the aftermath – of my visit to the Austin campus of the University of Texas was the worst example of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agitation I’ve ever seen,” Bedein told Israel National News.
I’ve been to hundreds of high schools and university campuses talking about Israel over the years, but the reception – and the aftermath – of my visit to Austin was the worst example of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agitation I’ve ever seen.
Bedein, on a hasbara trip sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America and media watchdog CAMERA to present Israel’s side of the story, said that for the first time, he returned home to Sderot “in shock” – such was the level of hatred against him as an Israeli, and as a Jew.
At the Austin campus, Bedein planned to run a workshop titled “Iran – In Israel’s Backyard,” in which he presented the plight of Sderot residents who have been living under the threat of Iran-supplied Hamas terrorist missiles for the past dozen years.”
Before even entering the campus, Bedein was greeted at the gates of the school by a barrage of insulting signs and posters, as he has been before, with anti-Israel groups protesting his presence on campus. This,he says, has become par for the course at many campuses when a pro-Israel speaker is known to be arriving.
At his presentations. Bedein said that he usually gets a large group of anti-Israel protesters, whose questions he is able to use to make his points about Israel.
The same thing seemed to be happening in Austin, said Bedein, and although the protests against him seemed particularly sharp, he felt that he could handle it. “The shock came after they uploaded a video of my speech and the protests against me to Youtube,” says Bedein. “They edited the video to make me look like a demon. They put a mask on my face and made me look red around the eyes,” says Bedein, evoking blood. “As someone who grew up in Israel, served in the army, and works as a reporter and photographer, I can say that this is the first time I have ever experienced anti-Semitism,” he says – of a particularly nasty, medieval sort, in which Jews are identified with demons and Satan.
“I came away with a deep appreciation of my Jewish heritage from the exile. It elucidated for me the perception that hatred is alive and well, and that the line we mention in the Passover Hagaddah, ‘In each generation they try to destroy us,’ is a reality,” Bedein says.
Bedein has another poiint to emphasize “What’s really shocking is how little even Jews and supporters of Israel know about what is going on in places like Sderot, so they can respond to attacks,” he says. “There are so many anti-Israel and even pro-Hamas activities and symbols on campus today that supporters of Israel are worn down, really afraid to present even the most basic humanitarian facts about our side of the story. A few years ago I was told on one campus that ‘Sderot is too political,’” Bedein continues. “If discussing the suffering of thousands of Jews wihin pre 1967 Israel because of thousands of Hamas rockets after Israel left Gaza is too political, what can we discuss?”
Things have deteriorated so badly, Bedein tells Israel National News, that the greatest challenge today is to give our side the courage and confidence to fight back, so they don’t believe the lies about Israel. In fact we have to “preach to the choir. We have to make sure our own people know our side of the story – to provide accurate information about what is really going on, so we don’t lose our own people.”