Latest update: February 21st, 2014
A senior official close to Hillel with authorization to speak about the matter explained that “at this point, the only thing that has happened at both Swarthmore and Vassar, is an expression of a viewpoint.” Virtually any viewpoint can be expressed without triggering any negative consequences.
“If, however, either of the campus groups which have disavowed the guidelines acts in a manner that is inconsistent with the guidelines, such as holding an event at which a BDS proponent speaks, that will trigger a response,” the official said.
“That organization then will lose the right to use the name Hillel, as well as lose access to resources which Hillel provides.”
The official explicitly referenced not only funding that comes directly from Hillel, but also resources used for professional training, grants and development, all of which would be forfeited should a campus group explicitly and affirmatively violate the guidelines.
And the disaffiliation would not simply apply to the particular event which triggered the response, it would be a long-term consequence which could only be rectified through a re-affiliation process.
It is relatively easy to understand that an invitation to an advocate of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement would trigger a disaffiliation from Hillel.
“But how will Hillel determine whether an event is one that “delegitimizes or demonizes the Jewish State,” this Jewish Press reporter asked.
“Those questions are ones that will be answered with a localized view, on a case by case basis,” was the response.
Another murky area is whether certain viewpoints which some students might consider to be too “right wing” would be protected by the guidelines.
Still more questions are raised by situations in which the college Hillel group has not renounced the guidelines, but where it has hosted events or speakers that violate those guidelines.
Several Hillels have hosted “Breaking the Silence,” an organization which some would readily classify as one which demonizes and delegitimizes Israel. But those terms are subjective; there may not be a clear-cut consensus about to who or what they should apply.
There are, however, Hillels which have hosted BDS advocates. For example, the Brandeis Hillel, through its affiliate group J Street U, hosted the Palestinian Arab Sam Bahour in the fall of 2013. Bahour is an ardent BDS supporter. There have been no apparent consequences to date. Multiple messages were left for members of the administration at Hillel at Brandeis, but no calls were returned before this article was published.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com
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