Promoting Israel studies on campus and ‘branding Israel’—a strategy aimed at associating Israel with positive characteristics unrelated to the Arab-Israeli conflict—are central to improving Israel’s international standing and countering delegitimacy.
These two focuses emerged clearly during research conducted by the Reut Institute’s political-security team, which will launch its paper analyzing the threat posed by Israel’s political delegitimization and provide related policy recommendations at the upcoming Herzliya Conference.
- Significant increase in Israel studies on U.S. campuses: 246 institutions show a 69 percent increase in the number of Israel-related courses
- Israel beyond the conflict as a focus: Most of the new courses relate to Israeli cinema, literature and other aspects of culture and society
Here, expanded Israel studies provide a proactive response to anti-Israel discourse on campus and within academia. When combined with a focus that creates an alternative frame of reference regarding Israel, it creates an opportunity to broaden the dialogue in a critical arena – academia / campus.
Interestingly, participants in birthright Israel are identified as key in driving the demand for these courses. Missions to Israel, such as those provided young Disapora Jews by birthright, are aimed at introducing an Israeli reality that contradicts the news media-generated image. It seems that birthright participants are experiencing a need, upon their return to campuses, to see the new angle of reality to which they’ve been exposed reflected in their academic experience.