Notre Dame students launch Friends of Israel Club
Andrea Vale | Monday, March 21, 2016
Four students have founded the Friends of Israel Club on Notre Dame’s campus, aiming to educate students on the history and current political situation within Israel. The club, which began meeting last month, is a bipartisan political group which also hopes to offer opportunities to support Pro-Israel politicians and legislation.
According to junior James Argue, co-founder of the club, the Friends of Israel’s stance is opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign.
“We hope to … provide an alternative point of view on campus,” Argue said in an email. “We believe that most Notre Dame students would strongly support the American-Israeli alliance if they examined these issues more closely. We hope to provide that opportunity and to help create an informed and meaningful dialogue throughout campus.”
According to senior president and co-founder Tom Olohan, the club was founded in December 2015 and first met as a group this past February. The other three co-founders are junior James Argue, graduate student Brendan Roche and senior Matt Matigian.
Olohan said he was inspired to start the club after noticing a bias in the information provided to students.
“After attending the ‘Understanding Gaza’ panel, I was very disappointed that all the attendees left that room with only one side of the story of the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas,” Olohan said in an email, “While I published an article that addressed some of these issues in The Observer the next spring, I soon realized that a student club would be the most effective way to educate students on these issues.
“I founded The Friends of Israel to spread awareness of the rich history of Israel from Joshua to David, from subjugation and exile at the hands of the Assyrians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, English and others, to independence in 1948. Students need to know about the dangerous regional situation of Israel and the incredible benefits Israel provides for the United States. Finally, I founded the club to let students know about Pro-Israel politicians and legislation and offer students the opportunity to support both.”
According to Olohan, the club’s primary activity involves coordinating presentations geared at educating students on important American-Israeli issues, and on the history of and current political situation in Israel. Additionally, the club brings in Pro-Israeli speakers throughout the year, and will host an event towards the end of the spring semester celebrating Israeli culture and the American-Israeli alliance.
On Wednesday, the club is planning to present at the College Republicans club meeting to both introduce the Friends of Israel Club and its goals, as well as to present opportunities to support the campaigns of pro-Israel legislators.
According to Roche, other events planned for the semester include a March 30 talk by Yuval Shaham, current Israeli Emissary to the Jewish Federation of Saint Joseph Valley, as well as an April 8 event in South Bend co-sponsored with the Jewish Federation of Saint Joseph Valley during which Arab-Israeli diplomat George Deek will speak.
Roche said that students should be interested in Israel because it “[provides] the [United States] with key intelligence regarding nations in the surrounding area.”
“They also have cooperated in the United States, particularly in the field of technology, which has helped the profitability of U.S. companies. It is also important that it is a democracy, unlike the majority of countries in the region, and that it is a true ally in the face of many regimes that have a very unfavorable view of America,” Roche said.
“We are hoping to reach out to the incoming class, as well as providing an alternate point of view for those already on campus,” Argue said. “The public is often only given one side of the story, and this is just as true at Notre Dame as elsewhere. We want to provide the missing information and to be a voice on the other side of the issue. Again, we want to stress that we are a bipartisan group and that we support a two-state solution in the right conditions. Ultimately, we want to raise awareness of the plight of Israel and to be the catalyst for meaningful debate on our campus.”