Nearly 7,500 students pass each other every day on the shady paths of the IDC
Herzliya campus, a relatively young academic institute of higher learning that has already elevated itself to the level of some of the worlds most prestigious universities.
A source of pride for the leaders of IDC is that 30% of the student body is comprised of students belonging to the Raphael Recanati International School (RRIS), established to enable students from all over the world to benefit from high-level academic programs fully taught in English. The options available in English through the RRIS include three-year BA degrees in Business, Business and Economics, Government, Communications, Psychology and Computer Science, as well as a variety of prestigious MA programs.
When you graduate from IDC you have friends all over the world, says Jonathan Davis, Head of the RRIS and Vice President for External Relations. One of IDCs main aims is to do everything in our power to strengthen the bond between overseas Jewish communities and the State of Israel. Many of our graduates who return to their home countries become future leaders in Jewish communal activities and fine ambassadors for the State of Israel.
It is this spirit that persuaded former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor to take up the Abba Eban Chair in International Diplomacy at IDCs Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy & Strategy, as well as to serve as an advisor for the many diplomacy efforts on campus.
With a diplomatic career spanning over 30 years, this former Director General of Israels Foreign Ministry and former Israeli Ambassador to Great Britain who was also stationed at the Israeli Consulate in Washington DC, is now facing a new challenge: teaching, training and creating a new generation of future diplomats.
Moral values and democracy
I want to provide these future leaders with the motivation and tools to confront the challenge of diplomacy, explains Amb. Prosor. As someone who built his career on respect and professionalism, he now aims to teach his students – an elite, handpicked group – how to win a diplomatic battle while respecting the moral values that are inherent in a democracy. This battle should never mean lowering ones standards to the level of the enemy. It is a long and difficult battle, but we will win, assures Prosor.
The battle to which he is referring is that of Israels legitimacy in the eyes of the world. After having served as Israels Ambassador to the U.N. for four years (from 2011 to 2015), the workings of diplomacy hold no more secrets
and he asserts categorically that the problem is quantitative. Of the 193 countries that are members of the U.N., only 87 are democracies. Furthermore, 22 countries belong to the Arab League, 57 belong to the Organization of
Islamic Cooperation, and over 120 countries are members of the non-aligned movement. And all these countries systematically vote against Israel, Prosor explains.
However, he also attests that in the U.N. there is a strong demand for Israeli know-how. In fields such as agriculture, solar energy, high-tech or even medicine, Israel is a world leader. Thats what I wanted to place in the forefront. The U.N. is an opportunity to make connections in an environment where it is possible to promote the true face of Israel, he asserts.
The heart of the Israeli strategy
The senior diplomats strategy has remained the same for years: show people the real Israel – a free and democratic country that has succeeded to make itself indispensable in the world in just 69 years. Today, many countries consider us to be essential strategic partners, even if they dont say so publicly because of internal political reasons, assures Prosor.
Through discussions, we are able to break down barriers that were considered insurmountable. Thats what happened in January 2015. At the moment when the vote on a resolution about the creation of a Palestinian state was about to start, Nigeria and Rwanda abstained, the former ambassador recalls. The minute we touch people, even BDS cant do anything against us.
Nevertheless, he admits that the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign is a real danger for Israel. On a graver note, Prosor explains that it is crucial to fight against BDS by seeking out those who finance and pull the strings of this movement that he calls anti-democratic, freedom-destroying and often anti-Semitic. In the battle against BDS, IDC Herzliya has become a veritable command center.
BDS vs. IDC
When a war between Israel and Hamas started in Gaza in 2012, Yarden Ben-Yosef, at the time a young Communications student at IDC Herzliya, was horrified to see the anti-Israel barrage on the Internet. Together with some friends, he decided to respond to the hate messages on the social networks and to recruit other students. The next day, there were around 100 volunteers. By the time the war was over and a fragile cease-fire was signed, they were 400 strong.
Two years later, another war broke out. With the start of Operation Protective Edge, Ben-Yosef reactivated his command center; 700 student volunteers showed up on the first day and more than 2,000 had taken part in the mission by the end of the war! He then realized that he had put in place an army of students whose strength came from their numbers and diversity.
After Protective Edge, with the help of the Israeli American Council and the Maccabees Task Force, I created the Public Diplomacy Program at IDC to fight BDS and all the anti-Israel groups, Ben-Yosef explains from his brand new, third-floor office in IDCs Communications Department.
The 29-year old is convinced that he never would have been able to accomplish what he did anywhere else except at IDC Herzliya. Here there are 1,800 students who speak 40 different languages. I can spend seven hours editing a movie in one of the studios that the university allows us to use, while Law students examine the possibilities of legal action and Psychology, Government and Finance students edit the texts and create the graphics and infographics. Its a veritable revolution!
Ben-Yosefs goal is to provide the volunteers with contents that is high-quality and personalized, as well as being a force that will flood the Web. On Facebook, for example, if 2,000 people denounce an offensive page, it will be removed that same day. The impact is enormous, he explains.
The Public Diplomacy Programs actions are anonymous and unlabeled. There are even Arab Israelis who help us discretely, Ben-Yosef claims. The campaigns aim is to create high-quality visual campaigns without a logo or signature, so that people who want to defend Israels values around the world can use them freely. All our volunteers are anonymous. We dont want to be associated with anyone in order not to be categorized or stereotyped. We want to touch as many people as possible, and enable those who are ignorant about whats happening in Israel and why Israel is fighting, to better understand the situation. We dont lie; we work with our values, he insists on pointing out.
Today there are tens of thousands of students all over the world who are fighting against BDS. Connected by all possible means of communications, everything is coordinated at the headquarters at IDC. The Public Diplomacy Programs founders understood that its important to supply personalized content custom-made for the public being addressed. The day after a terror attack, we dont communicate with Jewish American students in the same way as with French students, for example, notes Ben-Yosef.
The next step for Yarden Ben-Yosef is to recruit hundreds of thousands of volunteers, even millions. To do so, the Public Diplomacy Program will be launching an application in the next month. ACTIL will be a simple interface whose sole purpose will be to distribute tasks. The idea is simple. Whenever we have a new task, we will publish it on our interface and each user can choose to contribute or not. This can involve either a simple sharing of content, writing an article, translating a text, or even filming a report. We mainly want to give hope to pro-Israel students who feel that they are alone in their battle against disinformation and hatred, and to tell them that they arent alone, that the students of IDC here in Israel are there to help and support them, concludes Ben-Yosef.