By Erin Garry
About 12 students went to Capitol Hill with Terps for Israel on Tuesday to advocate pro-Israel legislation on their biannual lobbying trip.
The group focused on Iran’s nuclear deal, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and Hezbollah. The overarching goal was to promote a good relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
Terps for Israel is a pro-Israel organization at this university that focuses on engaging the campus community through speakers, events and campaigns. The organization supports peace between Israel and its neighbors, a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine and direct negotiations between the two parties.
The BDS movement made headlines at this university just two weeks ago when the SGA killed a bill calling for university divestment from Israeli companies. Freshman letters and sciences student Keren Pickholz was relieved that the bill died in the committee.
“We were all given an unfortunate dose of reality as to how important it is for us as the student body to make sure such a peace-preventing motion is never able to pass on our campus,” Pickholz said.
The group urged Congress this week not to support BDS bills and movements. Freshman finance major Jacob Nelson thinks American companies could create more business opportunities by avoiding compliance with unapproved sanctions created by foreign organizations.
Terps for Israel lobbied representatives in Congress to increase restrictions on Hezbollah, a political party and militant group in Lebanon who poses a threat to Israel’s national security. The group has 150,000 rockets and missiles pointed with the ability to hit any target in Israel, Nelson said. Terps for Israel also supported a bipartisan bill to help fix the current Iran nuclear deal.
While they didn’t bring any new information to Capitol Hill, Pickholz said she thought it was still important to lobby to show support of Israel. Nelson was grateful that the group had the opportunity to be heard by members of Congress, given their ability to directly influence American policy.
“America is a nation by the people, for the people,” Nelson said, “so even if we didn’t directly influence any policy, we still expressed concerns and showed support for Israel.”
Sophomore government and politics major Courtney Kaufman likes to think they did make a difference, as directly lobbying Congress makes a bigger impact than sending an email. Kaufman serves on the political cabinet for the group and helped organize the event with the political cabinet chair, Hannah Kark.
“People today think our generation doesn’t care about these issues,” said Kaufman. “This really proves that stigma wrong and shows that students our age are capable of making a real and noticeable impact on these international issues.”
Kaufman was able to reconnect with U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., whom she interned for this past summer. She said she was able to pick his brain about the foreign policy issues and respected how deeply he cared about the issues.
Different members of the trip shared their favorite moments. Nelson’s was Sen. Chuck Schumer’s fridge for visitors filled with yogurt. He claimed it was the best coffee yogurt he had ever had.
Pickholz’s favorite part of the trip was meeting with a staff member of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. As someone who just completed two years of service, she found him very relatable when he shared stories about his cousin who was recently drafted to the Israel Defense Forces.
“He became instantly relatable and easy to talk to,” she said, “as well as extremely receptive and in compliance with all of our points.”
The group overall, Kaufman said, was successful in showing lobby staffers and Congress members that college students do care about the issues and will voice their opinions.