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February 2, 2013

Hillel’s BDS Battle and Antisemitism

By Jonathan S. Tobin, COMMENTARY

To listen to the arguments put forward by Harvard students to create what they call an “open Hillel,” their fight with the national Hillel group is about the right of young Jews to free association. The students say that rules mandating that the organization not partner with groups that support BDS — the anti-Zionist campaign that aims to boycott, disinvest and sanction the State of Israel — or host speakers that advocate such measures are unfair and limit their ability to have dialogue with Palestinians. To the thinking of the Progressive Jewish Alliance that is, according to the Forward, organizing the campaign against Hillel, such rules “stifle discourse” and discriminate against those who disagree with Israeli policies.


But this controversy isn’t about the deadening hand of a Jewish establishment determined, as leftists claim, to silence dissenters. Any Hillel branch that regards groups that are struggling to destroy Israel in this manner would in essence be declaring their neutrality not only about the continuation of the Zionist enterprise but that they can no longer be counted among those prepared to bear witness against the discriminatory ideology at the heart of the drive for BDS. Those who wage war on one people and deny the same rights they readily concede to any other group are advocating a form of bias. Such a bias when directed against Jews has a name: anti-Semitism.

Were Hillel to back down on this issue it would not be a victory for free speech or free association. Rather, it would mean the most important Jewish campus organization would be signaling that the war on Israel is neither hateful nor worth opposing. BDS is, after all, not just a point of view about the settlements or borders or the peace process. It is an economic war on Israel whose purpose is not an alleged reformation of its policies but a desire to bring it to its knees and hasten its destruction. It is an attempt to deny to the one Jewish state in the world the right to self-determination and self-defense in the face of armed foes who threaten it with terror and violence.

It needs to be understood that this is a very different argument from those that have divided many Jews in this country about the peace process. Groups like J Street and other left-wing critics of the current Israeli government may take a point of view about the country that is harmful as well as based in a poor understanding of the realities of the Middle East. Those who think Israel should be pressured from abroad in order to make concessions that are opposed by the country’s democratically elected government and the vast majority of its citizens are doing something shameful. But so long as they continue to support the right of Israel to exist and to defend itself and oppose those who seek to wage war on it, such groups must still be considered as having not crossed an important line between legitimate dissent and actions that are beyond the pale of communal conduct.

There is a point of view prevalent in contemporary Jewish life that views any attempt to draw lines between those inside the community and those outside as illegitimate. It values inclusiveness above Judaism, Jewish values and even Jewish survival. It fetishizes dialogue with all comers as the supreme good even if such encounters serve only to legitimize forces that are serve as fronts for those who wish to destroy the Jewish state.

The increasing acceptance of this frame of reference about Jewish life is a dangerous development for an American Jewish community that has spent the last two generations faltering in its effort to maintain itself against the ravages of assimilation. While the idea of welcoming everyone fits in nicely with our pluralistic American ethos, a community that is defined primarily by inclusiveness is one that stands for nothing. Such a community is not only unsustainable; it may not be worth saving.

But the application of the principle of inclusiveness to BDS supporters takes this trend to a new low. It is one thing to say Jews may believe anything about their faith or support any political point of view. It is quite another to say that there is nothing amiss with a nominally Jewish group that is neutral about the war on the Jewish state.

Any student who believes that being “progressive” requires them to be open to working with BDS supporters fundamentally misunderstands not only liberalism but the intent of Israel’s foes. Neutrality toward BDS is no different than neutrality toward belief that stigmatizes Jews. What these students don’t understand that is that their fight for an “open Hillel” means giving a pass to hate.

It is up to Hillel to resist this attempt to transform Jewish campus group into a beachhead for those who make common cause with these anti-Semites. Inclusiveness is not an excuse for acquiescing to an ideology of hatred. There is no alternative but for Hillel and its supporters to stand their ground and to help Jewish students find the courage to stand up against the enemies of their people,

Posted by Ted Belman @ 10:32 am | 6 Comments »



6 Responses to Hillel’s BDS Battle and Antisemitism

  1. Dean says:

    Why would any “Jewish” group want to support BDS, have the freedom to support BDS or consider any Islamist/leftist attack on Jews to be acceptable? The answer is that Hillel is not “Jewish,” it is leftist. Leftism is the religion of Hillel. Therefore, Hillel ought to be honest with the public and tell us that they have no connection to Judaism and no interest in the survival of the state of Israel. I am really tired of these internal debates revolving around to what extent these leftist groups should punish Israel. Is there not enough genocide, anti-Semitism, and global mayhem in the world today to debate without making the shrinkage and hobbling of Israel their primary objective? Those who want to join Hillel to bash Israel and show their fellow man how cool and progressive they are in opposing freedom and democracy (and supporting fascists) should look to other Jew-hating church, Marxist, Islamic and Palestinian campus groups as viable options.

  2. Dean says:

    By the way, committing suicide is not connected to free speech in any way. In a Western society where we enjoy freedoms completely absent from Islamic states that fund BDS, we try our best to prevent a person (or a group of people in Hillel’s case)from killing themselves. Trying to paint this as a free speech issue is a sneaky tactic. It diverts our eyes from the underlying rot in Hillel which has strayed so far from its original mandate that it ought to be renamed and opened to all regressives dressed up as “progressives.” There is anti-Semitism in the notion that Jews should be allowed and encouraged to do themselves harm under the direction of cultish leftist haters and academic ignoramuses indoctrinating Jews to leftism and a world with a firewall between Jews in the diaspora and Jews in Israel.

  3. Dean says:

    One final point: Have a look at the connections between those pushing this kind of inside meddling within “Jewish” campus groups and Islamist, union, church and other groups that now want to undermine whatever is left of Jewish groups on campus. There is a stealth jihad being brilliantly conducted and executed by enemies of Israel on campus from the inside. I would not be surprised to find all kinds of imposters and paid agents specifically targeting Jewish groups. They start with intimidation and domination to instill fear and self-doubt and then they move in for the ideological kill with a meeting of minds.

  4. Laura says:

    Why not have Hillel partner with neo-nazis since that would be “inclusive”?

  5. Davidka says:

    Hillel’s approach seems to differ from campus to campus. In UCLA, its head has been notoriously anti-Israel for years, and has even attacked a woman who protested at an event where the Hillel director kissed an Arab Israel-hater on stage. (Google “Zeidler-Feller criminal case,” for example.) The national Hillel apparently did nothing to remove the director or discipline him in any way, and my phone calls and letters were ignored. The U.C. Berkeley Hillel chapter has also been very anti-Israel to the point of collaborating with Islamic groups in anti-Israel activities.

    Hillel, like many other Jewish groups, has been taken over by the Left and its original mission has been warped or reversed.

  6. Truth says:

    Instead of helping students: “find the courage to stand up to the enemy ” Hillel has supported sending students to “dialog”
    see below Frontpagemag)
    ….
    http://frontpagemag.com/2011/nichole-hungerford/a-chapter-that-should-be-expelled-from-hillel-3/

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