Student Journals Shape the Discourse

Harvard Israel Review

by Rachel Zabarkes Friedman

I can’t say starting a journal is easy, or even always fun, but it is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding things I did as an undergraduate at Harvard. I started Harvard Israel Review because I felt the “blame Israel first” crowd had a monopoly on campus opinion, dominating Middle East-related classes, student publications, and campus forums. That monopoly meant that anyone inclined to question the standard Zionists-as-imperialists (or worse, racists) narrative had to either fight heroically or sit in silence. I wanted to provide a serious alternative to mainstream campus ideology, with an emphasis on history and the qualitative difference between democratic Israel and her neighbors. I thought that by doing so I could give other students a chance to hone their arguments and garner ammunition for the battles they’d face. I also wanted to create a forum in which the larger issues pertaining to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state could be explored.

The year 2001 was a fitting one for HIR‘s birth. I’d just come back from a summer in Israel to find the United States thrust, with the attacks of Sept. 11, into the same war against terrorism that Israelis had been fighting for years. Americans had gotten more than a taste of the unpardonable brutality Israel regularly faced—the fanatical hatred, the disregard for innocent life. Though not an explicit part of my founding mission, the fact that relatively few on campus saw things this way (many chose to reproach America instead) was yet another reason to publish a journal that would provide an alternative point of view.

During the fall of 2001, and with these thoughts in mind, I began pouring a great deal of time and energy into finding co-editors, soliciting articles, editing those articles, learning to use the publishing software PageMaker, and laying out the magazine—sometimes into the very early morning hours—until it was just right. Our faculty advisor Ruth Wisse was critical in all of this, providing unflagging moral support and helping us raise funds from our first and most generous donor, Keren Keshet. Board members David Hazony, Herbert London, and Daniel Pipes also contributed valuable advice. It took at least eight months to turn the idea of a student journal on Israeli history, politics, and culture into a reality; most of that time was spent creating a community of like-minded people and working closely with authors to make sure their pieces advanced strong arguments with solid documentation. HIR‘s first issue appeared in the spring of 2002.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle we faced—one I believe any similar publication will face—is how time-consuming publishing a journal can be. Students are busy; few are willing to devote the time and energy it takes to make such a publication excellent. The key here, I think, is creating a community of students who share the same fundamental principles and are constantly reminded of what those principles are. Of course, there are pragmatic reasons to get involved: Working on a student journal gives skills that can be translated into a career in journalism, editing, or publishing, and provides an opportunity to connect with writers and scholars with similar interests both inside the university and out. But my feeling is that few will work until 3 A.M. writing an article or proofreading copy for the fifth time because they may find a good job as a result. They need a higher motivation—a sense of noble purpose—and that has to be forged by a strong leader. Only my co-editors and successors can determine whether I did this successfully; as the biggest challenge I personally faced, I suspect they’ll say I could have done better.

As for those pragmatic reasons, there is no question that founding HIR helped my transition out of college and into the magazine world, where I began as an assistant editor at Commentary and am now an associate editor at National Review. Working on the journal gave me hands-on experience I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else, and an excuse to get to know people I admired and wanted to learn from. My advice to aspiring editors, prolific writers, and frustrated Zionists everywhere is, go for it. Chances are you’ll be doing your fellow students a great service, and many will thank you later. If you feel strongly about the issues, you won’t regret having poured yourself into the project, regardless of what comes of it. And of course, you never know what doors it may open for you.

Rachel Zabarkes Friedman graduated from Harvard College in 2003 and is now an associate editor at National Review. 


Dateline: Middle East

by David Herz

The journal Dateline: Middle East was founded in 1989 in the aftermath of the first Intifada. Local Montreal university students, in conjunction with the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research (CIJR), a Montreal-based academic think tank, published Dateline in an attempt to bring in a more balanced voice to the Middle East debate raging on campus. Since then, Dateline: Middle East has persevered, putting out on average two issues per year.

While Dateline has remained based in Montreal, in the past two years it has widened its distribution to more than 10 universities across Canada and elsewhere, including as far away as the University of British Columbia and the University of Michigan.

Dateline‘s format has not changed much since its inception. The average issue is eight to 12 pages, with 500-900 words per article. Every page usually has a cartoon or black and white photograph. In the middle of the issue is a feature called “The Databank” that lists facts pertaining to relevant issues of the day. Like all pro-Israel publications, Dateline runs the risk of being viewed as propaganda. As such, it is important that all assertions made in the articles be backed up by solid arguments and discussion.

Dateline‘s length has been criticized for not taking into account the average student’s attention span and busy schedule. Conversely, Dateline‘s format appeals to students who have a more than passing interest in the conflict.

Officially, Dateline has no political orientation. It is open to writers from all sides of the political spectrum. The only criteria are that no articles can be anti-Israel or racist. In reality, Dateline does express political leanings based upon the opinions of the writers and the current situation. During the 1990s and the heyday of the Oslo Accords, Dateline had leftist leanings. After the outbreak of violence in 2000, it veered to the right. Currently, most Dateline articles promote a center-right point of view.

Dateline is written and edited by students. By maintaining an open, enthusiastic and friendly attitude, Dateline continues to attract talented student writers, mostly from Montreal, but also from across Canada, the United States and Israel. It actively seeks new writers by putting up notices around campus and, most importantly, by word of mouth. While busy students often need time to write a quality article, it is important to set deadlines early and adhere to them. Otherwise the articles will become irrelevant or outdated by the time they are published. Enforcing deadlines is the editorial staff’s hardest task.

CIJR deals with the graphic designer and printer. CIJR also provides funding, facilities, a library, newspaper and magazine archives and access to academics. Much of the credit for Dateline‘s longevity must go to CIJR’s dedicated staff. Dateline is also aided by Hasbara Fellowships, an organization whose representatives have put the our editorial staff in touch with students interested in distributing Dateline on campuses outside of Montreal. Dateline has in the past been reluctant to publish ads since the nature of the businesses that might want to buy an ad could undermine Dateline‘s neutral appearance.

David Herz, a graduate of McGill University, is the immediate past editor of Dateline: Middle East.  

Newsreal (University of Illinois)

by Foster Lewin

IllinIPAC, the Illinois-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the only pro-Israel student group at University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, was founded just over five years ago. In the last two years, IllinIPAC’s membership has increased dramatically, partially due to the organization’s newsletter which was first published in the fall 2002 semester.

The impetus for the newsletter was the long-standing, virulent anti-Israel voice on campus including at our newspaper, the Daily Illini. For instance, the now widespread divestment campaign was founded by Sir Francis Boyle at our campus. Anti-Semitic graffiti has repeatedly appeared around campus equating the Star of David to the swastika, and Sharon to Hitler, just to name a few.

The Daily Illini (DI) also has an atrocious record regarding Israel. The DI has repeatedly printed inflammatory articles with pictures and captions taken out of context. The editorial board also appears extremely one-sided and unfair in its choice of op-eds and letters

The board prints very inflammatory and hateful letters without cause, and doesn’t respond to many of the pro-Israel letters sent to the paper. Columnists like Mariam Sobh or Ra Ravishankar have repeatedly printed fabricated lies and quotes taken out of context from obscure sources and attributed incorrectly to Israeli leaders. After an extensive campaign waged by CAMERA and others, Sobh eventually printed a complete apology for printing a fabricated quote allegedly by Ariel Sharon.

These offenses should cost columnists their positions and earn condemnation from either university officials or at least journalism professionals and professors.

To combat the DI‘s inherent bias, IllinIPAC started a weekly newsletter, the Newsrael, as well as a letter-writing campaign. The Newsrael includes pertinent news and interesting stories regarding Israel. The front contains a few short briefs, a quote of the week related to Israel, and a main article. The back includes more in-depth articles on a wide variety of topics.

Every Friday on the quad, IllinIPAC members pass out over 1,000 copies, and leave several in the Jewish Greek houses and at Hillel. With over 40,000 copies and 35 issues since fall 2002, the IllinIPAC Newsrael has been a very effective means of educating the campus about Israel and the Middle East. Our success has prompted Muslim students to start a small paper, though it has made an insignificant impact on campus.

The Newsrael as well as the letter-writing campaign has allowed IllinIPAC to aggressively shape the Middle East discourse on our campus. IlliniPAC has also evolved into a respected and highly visible group on campus through these efforts.

Foster Lewin is a former co-president of IlliniPAC. He is studying engineering and biology.  

Rutgers Student Journal of Israel Affairs

by Noam Kutler

The Rutgers Student Journal of Israel Affairs, a student-run initiative which strives to stimulate academic growth and contribute to the study of the State of Israel and Zionism while providing a non-partisan forum to exchange diverse and scholarly opinions, published its first issue last spring. Its editors hope to broaden and inform the discussion about Israel at Rutgers University, which until now has largely focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and has frequently degenerated into a shouting match. To that end, the journal addresses issues relating to Israeli society, history, foreign affairs, political thought, literature and culture.

Each issue will include a section called the Rutgers Forum, which publishes short responses by noted academics, policy-makers and other important people about question relevant to today’s situation in the Middle East. The spring issue’s Forum topic is Israel’s security fence, and it includes responses from David Harris, president of the American Jewish Committee; Professor Shlomo Avineri, a world-renowned Israeli political scientist; Dr. Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute and a Humanities professor at New York University; and Ambassador Fereydoun Hoveyda, a senior fellow and member of the Executive Committee of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.

Although the journal is comprised mainly of undergraduate and graduate student works from different academic disciplines and institutions of higher education, academics and experts are also invited to submit their papers for publication. Our four featured articles in the spring–”The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Politics of Commemoration,” “The Israeli Army as an Engine for Societal Integration: The Case of Mizrachim,” “A Comparison of Foreign Policies towards Israel: Presidents William Jefferson Clinton and George W. Bush,” and “Israeli-Iranian Relations 1950-88: A Study in Understated Diplomacy”–were all written by students from Rutgers and elsewhere.

Funded largely by the Avi Chai Foundation and Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Life on Campus, the Rutgers Student Journal of Israel Affairs will be published semiannually under the guidance of academics and professors.

Noam Kutler, a founding editor of Rutgers Student Journal for Israel Affairs (, graduated in 2004.


Yale Israel Journal

by Dan Fichter

The Yale Israel Journal is an academic publication that aims to provide a forum for scholarship examining the history, politics, and culture of the state of Israel. The journal, published three times yearly, aims to contribute to intellectual life at Yale and at large regarding issues relevant to Israel and to promote interest in and greater understanding of Israel.

The founding editors-in-chief were Yale undergraduates Josh Goodman and Zvika Krieger, and the first issue of the journal was published in April 2003. David Hazony and Michael Oren of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and Yale professors Ayala Dvoretzky, Charles Hill, Paula Hyman, and Ellen Lust-Okar have been serving on our Board of Advisors since then.

Each issue of the journal includes several scholarly articles by Yale students and at least one article by a Yale professor or outside contributor. These articles have dealt with the uncertainty of Israel’s demographic future, challenges facing Israel’s defense industry, contemporary threats to the international state system, binationalism in comparative historical context, expression of Arab-Israeli identity in literature, and numerous other topics. Each issue also contains an interview; among our interviewees have been Israeli writer A.B.Yehoshua, Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi, American negotiator Dennis Ross, and Alexis Keller, the Swiss architect of the Geneva Accords. In addition, each issue features a roundtable discussion with visitors to the Yale campus including academics, news and commentary editors, officials of various governments, and other well known individuals such as New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier and former CIA director James Woolsey.

Subscriptions to our journal are held by numerous prominent think-tanks, major universities including Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and Tel Aviv University, and several dozen individuals across the country. We are in the process of expanding our subscription base to include synagogues and Jewish Federations. We distribute each issue of the journal to Yale professors in political science, international studies, economics and religious studies, and make several hundred copies available to students and faculty free of charge on the Yale campus. We are aware of several professors who have introduced articles from the journal into their course material.

In creating a forum for a broad range of discourse with high academic standards, the journal has shifted Yale discourse about Israel from blunt advocacy to nuanced scholarship concerning Israel.

The journal’s editors have also mentored students at Rutgers University in the formation of their own academic journal dealing with Israel.

Publication of the Yale Israel Journal is made possible through the support of the Avi Chai Foundation, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the Israel Support Fund of the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, and numerous generous private supporters.

Dan Fichter is co-editor in chief of Yale Israel Journal.

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