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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘CAMERA Campus Activist Project’

Guess What: 2013 Was a Great Pro-Israel Year on US Campuses!

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

For years those engaged on the pro-Israel side of the battle for hearts and minds of American college students have watched in horror as anti-Israel forces – whether they call themselves “pro-Israel” or not – metastasized on campuses.

The Israel-demonization events, the infiltration by Israel vilifiers into what were formerly at least moderately pro-Israel institutions, and the disruptions of Israeli or pro-Israel events, were met almost always with either complicity or a hands-off response from the academic administrations, faculty, and often eventhe organized Jewish leadership on campuses.

Things were so bad that Arab Israeli journalist Khaled abu Toameh famously wrote that on his speaking tours of U.S. campuses, he found more sympathy for Hamas than he does in Ramallah.

This is how abu Toameh analyzed the ugliness spread across American academia:

What is happening on these campuses is not in the frame of freedom of speech. Instead, it is the freedom to disseminate hatred and violence. As such, we should not be surprised if the next generation of jihadists comes not from the Gaza Strip or the mountains and mosques of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but from university campuses across the U.S.

But things were beginning to look quite different in 2013.

There has been a sea change on U.S. campuses this year, carried out by those who refused to back down when false claims of Palestinian Arab victimhood or Israeli brutality were raised.

Hallelujah. So we are fortunate to be able to write a list of Top Twelve Pro-Israel Bright Lights on U.S. campuses. What follows is the first installment. Part II will run later this week.

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1. Far and away the most significant example of this refusal to accept the tired meme of Israel As The-Worst-Human-Rights-Abuser -And-Biggest-Enemy-of-Peace is The Backlash to the American Studies Association’s vote to boycott Israeli Academic Institutions.  We now know that 95 universities across the United States have rejected and publicly condemned the ASA boycott of Israel.

That includes the most prestigious private schools, state schools, schools at which anti-Israel activity had been flourishing, and almost every other kind of American academic institutions. Condemnations poured in from the likes of Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Yale, University of Chicago, Penn State, Northwestern, Goucher, as well as industry-wide associations of professors and of universities. Several schools, such as Brandeis, Penn State, Kenyon and Indiana University summarily withdrew their membership in the ASA because the boycott so clearly reflected a loss of the association’s mission, an affront to academic freedom and a discriminatory singling out of a single nation for condemnation.

2. and 3. A tie for second place goes to two relatively new leaders of at least nominally Jewish institutions, each of whom staked new ground, rejecting their predecessors’ policies for tolerating abusive positions towards Israel.

Eric Fingerhut became president and CEO of Hillel International this past summer.  For years, many Hillels across the United States have chosen an aggressively passive response to anti-Israel events on campuses, choosing to have their own quiet events instead of confronting viciously anti-Israel events filled with misinformation and lies about the Jewish State. Hillels have even welcomed some of the worst offenders into their buildings or even their own events, in the hopes of showing the enemy that they are really good people. It’s been a disaster.

This past fall the Hillel group at suburban Philadelphia’s Swarthmore College decided it would publicly challenge the pro-Israel guidelines set by Hillel International.  Students bridled against being forbidden the “right” to invite speakers who engage in “demonization, delegitimization or applying double standards to Israel,” or support the economic and legal warfare movement known as the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel.  Swarthmore Hillel students voted unanimously to reject the guidelines and declare theirs an “Open Hillel.” And then they received a surprise.

Students Angered by Hillel’s Pro-Israel Standards

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Hillel, which self-defines as the “center of Jewish life on campus,” and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, are calling attention to their frequent collaboration in an op-ed penned by national Hillel’s new president and chief executive officer, Eric Fingerhut, and Jonathan Kessler, AIPAC’s leadership development director, in this week’s issue of the New York Jewish Week .

The two acknowledge the Jewish community’s concern about this country’s campus environment “that is too often hostile to Israel. Public demonstrations, inflammatory language and personal attacks by anti-Israel organizations seek to exploit the spirit of open debate and public action central to American academic life.”

The article gives examples of the efficacy of their collaboration to “strategically and proactively empower, train and prepare American Jewish students to be effective pro-Israel activists on and beyond the campus.”

In theory, it is a good idea, and there is anecdotal evidence of success.

OPEN HILLEL

However, some students were alarmed by what seemed to be a formalizing of the relationship between Hillel and AIPAC.  These are students and adult mentors who are trying to create a movement known as “Open Hillel.”

This movement started earlier this year at Harvard – although it has not yet been successful there. However, it is cropping up on other campuses. In fact, this Sunday, Dec. 8, the Swarthmore College Hillel student board unanimously voted to declare itself an Open Hillel.

The activists behind Open Hillel are opponents of Hillel’s national guidelines. Those guidelines, crafted several years ago, discuss the many ways in which Hillel is an inclusive institution, but places outside its boundaries those entities that seek to “delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel,” or which advocate the economic and political warfare known as the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) movement.

What’s wrong with that standard?  Well, there are college students who are put out by such rules.  They say:

These guidelines are counterproductive to creating real conversations about Israel on campus. They prevent campus Hillels from inviting co-sponsorship or dialogue with Palestinians, as almost all Palestinian campus groups support the boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel. They also exclude certain Jewish groups because of their political views. Although individual campus Hillels are not obligated to follow the guidelines, they have been used to pressure Hillels into shutting down open discourse on Israel.

Mind you, these students still want to benefit from the goodies they get from Hillel donors, such as the meeting space, the opportunity (i.e. funds) to bring in (anti-Israel) speakers, communication networks and lots of other goods and services for which the Hillel donors pay.  Those guidelines certainly could not stop any independent student groups from engaging in whatever anti-Israel activities they desire.  But the advocates for an Open Hillel want their tent and the right to blow it up, also.

Perhaps there will be a movement by Hillel donors demanding that the money provided to the Hillel foundation not be used for activities that are contrary to the organization’s stated guidelines.  Maybe an open door will be shown to those who want an Open Hillel.

However, in response to this newly formalized collaboration between Hillel and AIPAC, the Open Hillel advocates are lovingly supportive of the high priority Hillel places on inclusiveness. This time it is the “hawkish AIPAC” they resent.

Why?

Because, according to this group, AIPAC’s definition of “pro-Israel” cannot be the benchmark for what is and is not acceptable within the Jewish community on campus. The example of an unacceptable AIPAC position provided in the Open Hillel Response to Fingerhut and Kessler’s celebration of collaboration is “the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.” Why is that unacceptable? “Because the Palestinian Arabs also claim Jerusalem as their capital.”

Again, this is not a question of whether any group can bring anti-Israel speakers or activities to campus, the only question is whether Hillel donors should be required to pay for it.

A quote comes to mind from Cong. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) when talking about the “open-mindedness” of J Street with respect to Israel positions. He said “an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”

There is another direction from which the Hillel/AIPAC relationship may receive criticism. But these students don’t demand that Hillel changes, these students seek out other organizations on campus with which to work.

For these pro-Israel students on campus, the Hillel method of dealing with anti-Israel activity, rather than being empowering, actually seems to empower the anti-Israel activists.

That is because the “behind-the-scenes” diplomacy and interfaith gestures Hillels generally favor seem, some believe, to result in pro-Israel students simply remaining silent and ignoring lies and distortions and the painting of Israel as an evil occupier. A preferred method for responding to, for example, BDS conferences is to host inclusive Shabbat dinners. Those are nice, but do nothing to counter the lies which, when repeated often enough, attain the status of truth to the students who hear them, or who read reports of those events.

For these less passive pro-Israel students, there are the more action-oriented groups such as the CAMERA Campus Activist Project, or StandWithUs or the Chabads on campus.

The students who work with these groups may still utilize Hillel resources for other activities, but turn to other sources of guidance, and resources, in order to pursue their version of Israel advocacy.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/some-students-angered-by-hillels-pro-israel-strds-and-partners/2013/12/09/

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