Student groups plan major pro-Israel festival at Tulane

A coalition of student pro-Israel groups in Louisiana is putting on Declare Your Freedom 2.0, the second annual student-run pro-Israel festival.

Chloe Valdary of the University of New Orleans and Maor Shapira of Tulane University are teaming up for the March 30 event, which will feature a range of speakers and musicians. Valdary said it is a declaration “without compunction or reservation our support of the Jewish state’s right to exist, the Jewish people’s right to live freely, and it is a celebration of the freedoms enshrined in both the great American experience and Israel’s.”

The group’s Indiegogo fundraising campaign received support from around the world, and there is talk of replicating the festival in other states. The most recent campaign includes an endorsement video by Alan Dershowitz, who said “DYF 2.0 speaks truth to power — the best kind of answer to the defamation being heard across the country at college campuses about Israel, Zionism and the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.”

This year’s event will be at the Lavin-Bernick Center Quad at Tulane, starting at noon.

Shi 360 will be a featured guest. The Israeli-born Canadian rapper introduced hip hop culture to Israel after making a name in the Montreal music scene, taking the moniker Supreme Hebrew Intelekt. He quickly learned to rap in Hebrew, released Israel’s first hip hop mixtape and hosted a hip hop radio show.

DJ Booth named him one of “20 Dope International Artists” that are a “must-listen.”

His 2012 album, “Shalom Haters,” decried the lack of media attention given to rocket attacks against Israel and a plea to stop the violence in the Middle East. He said the title states that “there is no energy to be wasted on haters. Just say ‘shalom’ and wave.”

Able to switch among English, Hebrew and French, he has become involved in many cross-cultural initiatives.

“People from different places might not agree on everything, but in the end, we all want the same things as human beings. I’m not apologetic for who I am” he says. “People will only respect you if you respect yourself first.”

Also scheduled to perform is the Ori Naftali Blues Band, the first Israeli group to reach the semi-finals of the International Blues Competition in Memphis.

Simon Deng will also speak at the event. A Christian native of the Shiluk Kingdom in southern Sudan, Deng spent several years as a child domestic slave to a Muslim family in northern Sudan. He escaped after three years. Now an American citizen, he is a noted human rights activist.

By focusing on the Palestinians, he said, true genocides in Africa, perpetrated by Muslim regimes, have been ignored by the international community. He speaks out against anti-Semitism and the demonization of Israel.

Alan Mendoza, founder and executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, is also scheduled to speak. The British think-tank is named for Henry “Scoop” Jackson and promotes “the rule of law, liberal democracy, civil rights, environmental responsibility and the market economy.”

The event, which is also being coordinated with the Israeli Alliance at McNeese State, will include food, a cultural exhibition and giveaways.