“How can we fight the rise in anti-Semitism worldwide?” “How can Israel support peace missions in Syria?” “Human rights organizations criticize Israel’s handling of African refugees – how do you view the situation?” and “What is Israel’s stance on the Arctic?” The students had many questions for the Israeli envoys, who were visibly impressed: “The questions show that the students are very familiar with the complex topics involved,” Nir-Feldklein said, adding, “I am delighted that they will be representing Israel.”
The 15 students – who are studying law, business administration, political science, North American studies, Latin American studies, mathematics, English language and literature, and history and who come from ten different countries themselves, and none of whom has ever visited Israel – will represent the country’s interests in seven committees. Given their upcoming role, the student delegation wanted to understand the Israeli government’s stance in detail. “This is the only way for students to put themselves in ‘their’ country’s position and credibly represent and assert its positions, identify the right negotiation partners, and work out compromises,” said Peggy Wittke, director of Freie Universität’s Model United Nations program at the Department of Law. In New York, the students will work within individual committees, like active diplomats, drafting resolutions and reports together and voting on motions.
Leon Aretz, 24, found the dialogue with the envoys helpful. “During the preparations, we put together Israel’s positions based on written documents. Now we can go into more depth and learn how different matters are approached in real-world diplomacy,” says Aretz, who is studying law. Isa Adriane Günther, who is studying to be a teacher, was certain that representing Israel would not be easy. “A lot of countries are against Israel and will vote against its interests. The biggest challenge will be dealing well with criticism and representing Israeli positions with conviction,” she said.
Diplomat Rachman expressed regrets that his country is “often vilified,” saying, “Israel is always viewed only through the lens of the conflicts.” He asked the students to work while they are in New York to help ensure that the conflicts are also viewed “from the Israeli point of view” for once. Rachman also stressed that Israel was “much more” than just a country in conflict: a country of startups and writers, a place that has embraced high technology and a leader in science and academia. He invited the young diplomats to visit the embassy and travel to Israel, saying, “Anyone who has been there will view the country with different eyes.”
Since November the students have been studying Israeli history, politics, economics, and culture as well as issues relating to social topics. To be able to present their statements convincingly, the delegates regularly make trial presentations in front of each other in the project group. In New York, the students will meet up with 5,000 of their peers from all over the world. Each university delegation will represent an organization or country other than its own. To prepare even better, the group also plans to meet with Israel’s representatives in the UN while they are there.
This text was originally published in German in campus.leben on March 5, 2014.