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Student activists are recognized for dedication to pro-Israel policies.

Greg Horton October 12th, 2011

Shayna Daitch was one of four University of Oklahoma students honored as Activists of the Year for promoting pro-Israel politics on and off campus. In May, she accepted the award from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C.

In her role as vice president of the campus organization Sooners for Israel, Daitch, a Putnam City North graduate, has been instrumental in planning events to raise awareness of issues related to Israel, the Middle East, foreign aid and U.S. politics.

“Foreign aid is critical to the U.S.’s ability to maintain alliances, enhance our security and represent our interests internationally,” she said. “We want to bring other student groups in and educate them on the importance of foreign aid.”

The organization focuses on developing relationships with local, state and federal elected officials to influence policy decisions.

right, Hunter Ligon

Daitch said her Jewish faith initially inspired her to get involved with pro-Israel politics. She grew up attending Emanuel Synagogue, and remembers references to Israel and Jerusalem shaping her worldview.

“The seder concludes with ‘Next year in Jerusalem,’” she said. “It was a reminder every year to think about Israel, and that reminder focused my attention on Israel.”

Hunter Ligon, president of the OU College Republicans and a Sooners for Israel member, said he, too, was shaped by his faith upbringing. As an evangelical Christian, he said he grew up with those who emphasized “the biblical importance of helping our Jewish friends.”

He brings to the group a different set of ideological assumptions, but the same commitment to a free, independent Israel.

“Some people seem to think that Israel is to blame for many of the world’s problems,” Ligon said. “We’re trying to raise awareness in creative and fun ways, awareness that Israel provides true democracy in the Middle East.”

He sees the award as recognition that Oklahomans, and especially OU students, are becoming increasingly aware of such issues.

“I’ve been involved in politics since (volunteering for Mick Cornett’s re-election campaign), and what I saw was that Israel is constantly on the radar screen, especially in shaping foreign policy discussions,” he said. “It’s difficult for people to stay focused on these issues, not just in Oklahoma, so we hope to help redirect their attention back to important foreign policy issues.”

Both Ligon and Daitch say the group is intentionally bipartisan, and it appears to be working.

“Most of the group supports a twostate solution for Israel and Palestine,” Daitch said. “I’m sure there are some fringe members on both sides, those who want to see Israel pushed into the sea and those who wish to see Israel occupy everything.”
 
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