Hillel’s moment of truth
Two wars today are being waged against Jewish students on American university campuses. One is substantive, the other is institutional. The plight of the Jews at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island is emblematic of both.
The purpose of the substantive war is to deny Jews their freedom as Jews. As the guarantor of Jewish freedom, Israel is the subject of a systematic, multidimensional assault, carried out everywhere on campuses.
On a growing number of campuses in the United States, the only Jews who can safely express their views on Israel are those who champion Israel’s destruction.
Those who support Israel are subjected to continuous harassment by their fellow students.
The substantive battle is being led by Students for Justice in Palestine. SJP is a phantom organization with no national organization. As Jonathan Schanzer from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies testified before the US Congress last month, it is directed by former officials from non-profits including the Holy Foundation, KindHearts and the Islamic Association for Palestine that were forced to shut down after they were implicated in financing terrorist groups including Hamas and al-Qaida.
At Brown, SJP seeks to make it impossible for Jewish students to organize as Jews.
For instance, in late January, Brown Hillel hosted a discussion of Jewish identity featuring actor Michael Douglas and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.
SJP protested the event arguing that since both men supported Israel, the event stood in opposition to “social justice.”
As Ira Stoll reported in the New York Sun, during the event, protesters outside the hall calling for Israel’s destruction made it hard for the audience of several hundred people to hear what Sharansky and Douglas were saying.
Stoll added that rather than protect the audience’s freedom of assembly and the speakers’ freedom of speech, an assistant dean stood with the protesters and “offered to provide further support for students who had missed class to be involved in activism or who were upset by the evening’s events.”
In March, a consortium of student groups at Brown, including a Jewish group affiliated with Hillel, cosponsored a talk by Janet Mock, an African American transsexual activist.
In light of the Jewish group’s co-sponsorship, SJP launched a petition to boycott the speech. Not wanting the protest to eclipse the substance of her remarks, which, of course had nothing whatsoever to do with Israel, Mock canceled her lecture.
These events make clear that for SJP and its allies, it isn’t just Jewish life on campus that must be destroyed.
Jews as Jews must not be permitted to participate with non-Jews in organizing or hosting campus events related to issues of common concern.
In both of its substantive anti-Jewish actions, SJP tipped its hat to the institutional battle against Jewish freedom that its Jewish allies are leading.
In both cases, SJP used the fact that Hillel International – the national organization responsible for Hillel chapters throughout the US – has a policy of banning substantively anti-Jewish events from the premises of Hillel buildings, as one of its justifications for its anti-Jewish actions.
The goal of the institutional war SJP referred to is to destroy Jewish support for Israel by throwing Jewish organizations into disarray in order to destroy Jewish organizational support for Israel and through it, for Jewish civil rights.
This war is led by Jewish anti-Zionists and anti-Semites who not only reject Israel’s right to exist, but reject the right of their fellow Jews to support its right to exist.
The institutional war against Jewish freedom scored a great victory last week at Brown. At Brown, the war is being led by the Open Hillel group.
Open Hillel’s purpose is to deny Jews on campus the right to express their support for Israel free of molestation, on campus generally and at Hillel specifically.
As a general principle, Open Hillel demonstrated its opposition to freedom of Jewish speech in March when it condemned a StandWithUs member for attending an anti-Israel event on campus. The pro-Israel student attended the event with a robot. He did not disrupt the event. He merely stood at the back of the room with a robot and asked a question at the appropriate time.
Following the event, Open Hillel announced that it “opposes the attempts of groups like StandWithUs to monitor students and faculty.”
In other words, the group rejects the right of pro-Israel students to participate in anti-Israel events.
Open Hillel’s main target is Hillel. Its openly stated goal is to deny pro-Israel students the ability to promote Israel freely at Hillel.
Last week, on Remembrance Day, Open Hillel organized a film festival in which three short films produced by the anti-Israel NGO Zochrot were shown.
The films promoted the libelous claim that Israel’s birth and continued existence are a crime against humanity.
The event was deliberately scheduled to take place at Hillel. The provocation was clear. If Hillel hosted the event on Remembrance Day, then it would have abandoned its resolve to prevent the substantive war against the Jews from being waged within its walls.
Jews at Brown would have lost their final bastion of free expression.
When word of the event got out, Brown Students for Israel announced its opposition to the event.
Hillel International was deluged with protests from community members and supporters.
Brown’s Hillel announced that the event was canceled.
Brown Students for Israel publicly thanked their Hillel for canceling the event. Among other things, they stated, “Whereas there is an abundance of anti-Zionist spaces at Brown, …Hillel provides a rare and small safe space for students who believe in the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. The campus atmosphere around Israel/Palestine is so repressive that most Zionist students do not feel able to… discuss Israel in public spaces. Those of us who do choose to defend the single Jewish State are subject to harassment, name-calling, derision from students and teachers’ assistants, and even direct threats to our personal safety. Only in Hillel are we able to speak freely….”
But as it turned out, Hillel betrayed them.
As both pro-Israel activist Alexandra Markus and Open Hillel itself revealed, the event did take place.
Contrary to the direct instructions of Hillel International, Brown Hillel’s executive director Marshall Einhorn was present at the event, which was closed to the public.
In its jubilant statement following the event, Open Hillel declared that its success in holding the event at Hillel is a sign that Brown’s Hillel is now a battlefield in the substantive war against Jewish freedom.
In its words, “This event was a success… because it challenged Brown RISD Hillel to reflect on its ability to facilitate and provide space for [anti-Zionists].
Ultimately, the process of planning this event forced our Hillel to recognize its own lack of openness and to begin reworking its guidelines on Israel/Palestine programming. These guidelines will not be in keeping with the guidelines published and enforced by Hillel International in their ‘Standards of Partnership,’ which have been used time and again to silence critical Jewish voices on Israel/Palestine.”
The ball is now in Hillel International’s court. Brown Hillel defrauded Hillel International. It lied to Hillel CEO Eric Fingerhut. It used Hillel’s facility to host a group that wishes to destroy Hillel as part of its institutional war against Jewish freedom in the US. This institutional war goes hand in hand with the substantive war against the Jews.
Hillel International and its CEO Eric Fingerhut have two choices. They can throw Brown Hillel out of the organization, deny it funding, eject it from the facility and take civil action against it in court for its commission of fraud.
Or they can surrender to Open Hillel and its SJP allies and throw Hillel International into disarray, denying Jews their last bastion of freedom on college campuses.
If it takes the latter approach, then the wider Jewish community must abandon Hillel International. Its sponsors must withhold their funding and start a new student organization that will do the job of defending Jewish freedom on US campuses.