Chloe Simone Valdary, 19, a non-Jewish student of international relations at the University of New Orleans, has just opened a pro-Israel student group on her campus called Allies of Israel with the support of CAMERA, a pro-Israel organization in the United States that often assists pro-Israel student groups. For their opening event, Allies of Israel is hosting the world renowned Middle East expert Daniel Pipes, who will be discussing the threats that Israel deals with on a regular basis. This is all happening on a campus that has less than 100 Jewish students, lacks kosher food and offers no Jewish studies courses. Yet, thanks to the courageous efforts of Chloe, even students at the University of New Orleans will learn about Israel despite the lack of a strong Jewish presence at the school.
Chloe is a special young woman, who was raised to believe in the “notion of walking before G-d in an upright and just manner,” as well as the principle of speaking the truth, “no matter how unpleasant it may be to dissenting naysayers.” Also, Chloe was brought up to greatly value the study of history. One of the books in her family’s library is Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews. As she studied history, Chloe, as an African American woman, saw many parallels between her own peoples’ history and that of the Jewish people. According to Chloe, “Both of our peoples were enslaved for extensive periods of time and so from a historical standpoint, we share that history. […] The awareness of my history and my people’s history inevitably led me to the point I am at today.” Thus, these ethics that Chloe was raised with are what prepared her to become the pro-Israel activist that she is today.
However, it was not until Chloe read Leon Uris’ Exodus that she would become actively involved with Israel. Chloe was particularly inspired by the character Arie Ben Canaan, because of his “absolute refusal to take no for an answer.” She believes that this “reflects the resilience and determination of the Jewish people today.” Reading Exodus inspired Chloe to do a research paper on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While researching, Chloe was struck by “the incessant level of anti-Semitism in the disputed territories.”
Chloe asserted, “It is truly insidious and because of this I believe it is the bedrock of the conflict. I found in my research that it was everywhere in Palestinian society and it is in point of fact the foundation of, at its core, the ‘Free Palestine’ movement. It’s in the government, it’s in state-run media, it’s in the universities, it’s in the newspapers; I mean its everywhere. And so I thought that was interesting because I had just read a book on how Jews reestablished their national homeland in Israel and if you juxtapose reading such a glorious book as that with subsequently finding out that Jew hatred is still so rampant, it startles you.” Thus, after doing this paper, Chloe was propelled into action.
Like many other young pro-Israel activists on American college campuses, Chloe is going to be facing an uphill battle on campus. While there is no Israel Apartheid Week and no Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of New Orleans, Chloe has still dealt with hostility. According to Chloe, “Our group has had anti-Semitic epithets hurled at us. I’ve had personal looks given toward me. We encountered a group of students once who claimed that Haj Amin El Husseini was a wonderful person, for example, and claimed that the Jews in Israel were not “real Jews.” He also claimed that 6 million Jews didn’t die in the Holocaust.” Nevertheless, Chloe and the Allies of Israel are determined to fight against such viewpoints and to promote Israel at the University of New Orleans.
By Rachel Avraham