Israeli diplomat Itay Milner prepares SU reporting class for trip to Israel

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Itay Milner, a spokesperson and consul for media affairs at the Israeli Consulate General in New York, spoke to Syracuse University Professor Joel Kaplan’s class on Tuesday.

He spoke in preparation for the JNL 530: Topics in Specialized Reporting spring break field trip to Israel, which begins on Friday.

The international reporting class trip, which has been sponsored annually by the Jerusalem Press Club since 2018, will spend nine days traveling to Jerusalem, along the Lebanese border and the West Bank and through the Golan Heights to Tel Aviv, Kaplan said.

“We’ll meet different groups, different people and the students will pursue their stories,” Kaplan said.



The students shared their story ideas with Milner, who provided potential sources and explained Israeli politics as well as his job at the consulate general.

Students plan to cover stories ranging from the treatment of Ethiopian Jews in Israel to women wanting to pray at the Western Wall — the holiest prayer site for Jews, where a partition separates women from praying in the same section of the wall as men in Orthodox Jewish tradition, Kaplan said. Some students have decided to cover Ukrainian Jews in Israel in light of the recent Russian invasion.

“We have a lot of sympathy for Ukrainians. We’re doing many things to assist them,” Milner told The Daily Orange. A significant number of Israeli citizens were born in the former Soviet Union and have moved to Israel in the last 30 years, he said.

“Many of them have families there,” Milner said. “This is not a foreign relations issue. This is an internal (one) first.”

The Israeli government recently built a field hospital in Ukraine and has delivered hundreds of pounds of humanitarian aid within the past few days, Milner said. Israel is accepting both Jewish and non-Jewish refugees, he added.

Milner also touched on anti-Semitism in Syracuse and SU. The Student Association passed a bill in February 2021 adopting a portion of International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.

“Due to the widespread critique and the wording used by the IHRA and its implications on limiting academic freedom, and potentially doing harm to Palestinians and questions of Palestinian human rights, I personally did not feel it was SA’s place to endorse this definition,” then -SA President Justine Hastings said at the time. “The resolution equates anti-semitism with anti-Zionism, which is not only false but dangerous for the reasons described above.”

Milner said he disagrees with Hasting’s comment.

“Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. I think that you can’t take this right from Jews to have the right for self-determination,” Milner told The DO “Even the Palestinians — they have their own aspirations and they want to have their own nation state. And I think it’s legitimate. I even support it. I think they should have a nation state. It may (not have worked) until now because we have some disputes, but hopefully it will work in the future.”

Natalie Bono, a student in the class, will be working on a story about the artwork found on the separation wall between the West Bank and Israel.

“My story is about artwork normalizing the existence of the wall for those communities living around it,” Bono said. She said she admires Milner’s journey to becoming a diplomat.

“I’m excited to talk with my sources,” Bono said. “I’ve met a lot of people and so I’m excited to see everyone that I’ve been talking with in person and being in that country for the first time. I think being able to go to Palestine is a really special thing because Israelis are not allowed over that border. So that’ll be an experience that I can have that many others can’t.”

She said Milner helped students prepare for their trip by advising the class that every Israeli has an opinion and will want to speak with them, and that students should always listen to what they have to say.

“They’re going to have a great experience, and for young, aspiring journalists — which they are — there’s no better place to write your own story than the story of Israel,” Milner told The DO “There (are) so many different stories there.”

Contact Katie: [email protected]

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