Friday, 23 August 2013

War games and settlement excursions: inside a pro-Israel propaganda tour for student activists


“‘TERRORIST! GO! BODY!’ I’m sprinting across the rocky terrain to reach safety...Heart racing, out of breath, I’m trying to remember the instructor’s commands. Muscle memory, no time to aim, hurry, hurry...”

So begins one California college student’s first-hand account of a June 2013 “commando tourism” paintball session at Caliber 3, a privately-owned counter-terrorism training facility in the illegal Israeli settlement bloc of Gush Etzion. The student, identified only as “JJL”, was on a ten-day BlueStar Fellows summer tour of Israel, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights with twenty-three peers from five California universities. The trip was part of a year-long program launched by San Francisco-based Israel advocacy group BlueStar PR with the goal of molding students into “powerful pro-Israel advocates, spokespeople and opinion leaders” on their college campuses.

In over fifty entries on the BlueStar Fellows program blog (penned with the assistance of a writing coach) participants from UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, San Francisco State, San Jose State, and Pitzer College reflect on a trip itinerary that often glorifies Israeli state violence while promoting a dehumanized image of Palestinians. The accounts provide insight into the sensational approach to the conflict pushed by some hardline Israel advocacy groups, and raise questions about the impact of their tactics in the battle for the hearts and minds of US college students.more

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