Once a lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Hen Mazzig found himself discussing methods to change the perception of Israel on campus with a small group of students last Wednesday, March 29.
He was making a stop at the Cleveland Hillel in a “leadership workshop” open to the public. Mazzig is currently on a speaking tour across college campuses in collaboration with the national non-profit, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), which teamed up with Israel’s CWRU to plan the event.
According to their website, CAMERA exists as a “media-monitoring, research and membership organization devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East.”
“[Israel is] a country that keeps on trying improve itself,” Mizzag said, during the event. “It’s [made up of] people that keep on trying to improve itself.”
During the discussion Israel’s CWRU member, Hannah Pomerantz, asked Mazzig for advice on advocacy on behalf of Israel. She mentioned the backlash to a letter to the editor written by her previously published in The Observer and her concern that others find her opinions discomforting.
Mazzig suggested speaking about issues that are important to the target audience; he suggested taking the Black Lives Matter movement or rights for minorities and connecting them to the situation those in Israel face. He also suggested making Israel more relatable to students and that those advocating share their own story, to make themselves more relatable their peers.
He spoke of questions he has previously been asked by students advocating on other campuses, wherein the LGBT or minority groups didn’t appear interested in joining their event. To remedy the problem these groups faced, Mizzag explained that he pointed out the importance going to the events of other groups and befriending their members.
During his time as a lieutenant in the IDF, Mazzig worked as an “intermediary” with the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations as part of a unit called the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. According to the event page, that unit also oversaw construction of medical and civilian facilities, along with water utilities and roads.
During the event, he explained that he often faced sensitive situations and those he collaborated with held hostile views toward him.
“For it was always seeing the bigger picture,” Mizzag explained. “It was the understanding that [there is] something bigger than what I’m feeling right now, that I’m doing right now.”
Additional reporting by Celia Wan, News Editor.