Genesis Prize Laureate Michael Douglas, Natan Sharansky Discuss BDS, Anti-Semitism, and Inclusion on College Campuses

06.02.2016

February 8, New York/Tel Aviv:  The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) is proud to announce the successful completion of a three-college-campus tour, featuring Academy Award winning actor, producer, UN Messenger of Peace, and 2015 Genesis Prize Laureate Michael Douglas, and former political prisoner, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, and Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky.

Douglas and Sharansky visited Brown University, Stanford, and UC Santa Barbara, where they spoke with students and university communities on a wide range of issues, including the BDS movement, anti-Semitism on campus, and inclusion within the Jewish community. The tour was organized jointly with Hillel International and the Jewish Agency for Israel, and co-sponsored by the Taube Philanthropies, the BASE Family Fund, and Sobrato Philanthropies. 

Despite well-organized support for BDS and the resulting hostility toward Israel on a number of US college campuses, the Douglas-Sharansky tour was largely free of disruptions that frequently accompany pro-Israel events at many American college campuses. Brown University was the only campus where Students for Justice in Palestine organized a protest, which attracted approximately 30 students. Many carried placards with statements supporting the BDS movement, calling for the end of “occupation,” and accusing Israel of being an apartheid state.

Sharansky approached the protesters at Brown, attempting to discuss the core of their argument, but was met with resistance. “When I tried to have a discussion with these protesters, to have an intelligent conversation about the facts, I was shouted down,” said Sharansky. “The response I received was, ‘We are here to protest, not to debate,’ followed by the chant: ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’”

“This is not a movement based on a desire to represent human rights, its sole purpose is to delegitimize Israel,” said Stan Polovets, Genesis Prize Foundation Co-Founder and Chairman, who also tried to engage with the protesters at Brown University. “This movement must be counteracted forcefully and intelligently.”

At UCSB, senior Michelle Moreh spoke of the challenges she faced as a student, as she worked to advocate for Israel in light of several motions on her campus to divest from Israel. “On campuses across the nation, including ours, student senators are increasingly being confronted with a resolution to divest university funds from companies that conduct business in Israel. The call for divestment is linked to the larger international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement which demonizes, delegitimizes, and places a double-standard on Israel through its demands,” shared Moreh. “I resolved that believing wholeheartedly in a Jewish state comes with the responsibility of being equipped to protect this tiny state from false accusations and skewed rhetoric thrown from all directions.”

In addition to the conversation regarding anti-Semitism and BDS, the Douglas-Sharansky events also highlighted the importance of inclusion in the Jewish community, particularly for those from intermarried families. Douglas has championed this cause since being awarded the Genesis Prize in June 2015, speaking publicly about inclusion and choosing to defer the $1 million Genesis Prize award so it could be used to support initiatives that engage intermarried families in Jewish life. The first grant was awarded to Hillel International, to further its peer engagement program. Over 200 student interns on 40 campuses use engagement techniques to involve children of intermarried families in Jewish life. The remainder of the funds was contributed to a matching grants program, administered by the Jewish Funders Network, which will infuse up to $3.3 million in new dollars into this philanthropic area (http://intermarriedfamilies-genesisprizematch.org/).

To view the video from the event at UCSB, visit: http://hillel.org/jewish/jewish-journeys

ABOUT THE GENESIS PRIZE

The Genesis Prize – dubbed by Time magazine as “The Jewish Nobel” – is a $1 million prize awarded annually to a renowned individual for achieving outstanding professional success, contributing to humanity, and demonstrating commitment to the Jewish people and Israel.

The Genesis Prize seeks to recognize individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and the State of Israel. The Prize — funded through a $100 million endowment established by the Genesis Prize Foundation and awarded by the Prime Minister of Israel — was established by a unique partnership among the Office of the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Genesis Prize Foundation, and the Office of the Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel. 

The Laureate of the Genesis Prize is selected from a list of candidates nominated by leaders of hundreds of institutions and organizations worldwide, including leading universities, major foundations, Fortune 500 corporations, international NGO's and top Jewish organizations. Upon receipt of the nominations for the Prize, the Selection Committee, headed by the Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel (currently Natan Sharansky), selects a short list of candidates and the Prize Committee, headed by Knesset Speaker (currently Yuli Edelstein), selects the Laureate. More information is available at www.genesisrprize.org.

The Genesis Prize Foundation