web analytics
April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Hillel’

‘Breaking the Silence?’ I Was Silenced.

Friday, April 4th, 2014

On March 31, I attended a disturbing lecture at Washington University in St. Louis. It was co-sponsored by St. Louis Hillel at Washington University and J Street U. The speaker, a former Israeli soldier with the group “Breaking the Silence” (BtS), misrepresented and demonized the Israel Defense Forces, Israel, and Israeli policy. BtS is known for bringing in speakers like this, so I could not understand why Hillel and J Street U had sponsored a talk whose only purpose appeared to be to misinform audiences and instill hostility towards Israel.

As an Israeli reservist who had been stationed in the West Bank, I sat in disbelief as the speaker described attitudes and policies that were entirely divorced from reality.

The former soldier, Oded Na’aman, claimed that Israeli soldiers are trained to oppress the Palestinians individually and as a people, that they maliciously mistreat Palestinians in the West Bank, and that they are taught to make Palestinians fear Israeli soldiers. He argued that there are no civil rights for Palestinians and that the Jewish people who now have a state use their power to oppress Palestinians.

I had no idea what he was talking about or what motivated him to lie.

He did not describe the Israel or IDF that I know so intimately.

As a reservist and a soldier, I had been stationed in the West Bank. My job was to protect the Palestinians’ human rights, coordinate humanitarian aid, and tend to the needs of civilians living in the West Bank. I always felt that Israel’s concern for the welfare of the Palestinians was impressive, and I was proud to be part of it.

My experience taught me that even during wartime, Israel made it a priority to meet the needs of Palestinians even though they had made themselves enemies of the State of Israel by launching the second intifada.

I recall that during my service in Hebron, I had to adhere to international humanitarian law and ensure that the soldiers in the Judea Brigade were educated about the Geneva Convention and the rules of engagement—or face punishment. We sometimes went beyond these strict rules to help Palestinians. Once, when I served in my unit’s headquarters, we arranged a complex operation so that my unit, with the help of another unit, could save the life of a Palestinian boy living in Gaza whose mother had died. We did some investigating, and discovered that his uncle lived in Ramallah. In a special operation in the middle of the night, we moved the child to his uncle so that he would not be left alone in the streets of the Gaza Strip.

It was torture for me to sit there quietly and listen to the distortions of this former soldier who had served during the most violent period of the second intifada (2000-2003), when suicide bombers and snipers were wantonly murdering Israeli men, women, and children. But he never described the terrorism that forced the IDF to take measures to protect our families.

If he has complaints about the IDF, he should be an activist in Israel. Soldiers don’t always do the right thing or live up to the IDF code. They should be disciplined. Israel’s policies can be debated. But Israel is constantly examining itself critically, and debates in Israel are energetic and promote the full variety of views. Why, then, would he come to the U.S. to complain about his own army?

I think I know why. It’s because there are groups who are parading him around to tell half-truths and lies to defame Israel. When he was asked that very question during the question-and-answer period, he said, “I came here to tell Americans what their tax money is funding.” He said that attacking Israel with F16s is not the right answer, but that Israel needs to be pressured. I wondered what kind of twisted thinking would make a person who lives in a vibrant democracy, where he can campaign for his political positions, instead ask outside forces to pressure his country? What motivated him? Is he a post-nationalist who doesn’t want Israel to exist at all?

Michigan Students Soundly Defeat Divestment Motion

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

From Michigan Daily:

After hours of discussion and debate, the Central Student Government reversed the indefinite postponement of the controversial divestment resolution and subsequently voted to not pass it in a 25-9 vote with five abstentions early Wednesday morning.

Hundreds of students lined the second floor of the Michigan Union and entered the Rogel Ballroom on a first-come, first-served basis Tuesday evening, and more than 2,000 viewers watched CSG’s live-stream of the six-hour-long event. University Police regulated the large crowd that formed both inside and outside the Union and organized the crowds to line up on State Street. Students allowed into the meeting were given tickets and encouraged not to leave the room once they entered. When the meeting began, the number of people in the room exceeded its 375-person capacity. An additional 200 students were seated in the nearby Pendleton Room as an overflow space.

It was voted on in a secret ballot, an amendment to the rules decided by the assembly to ensure the safety of individual representatives.

Pro-Israel students were insulted and threatened for opposing the BDS resolution, so the student government felt it had to vote secretly to ensure their own safety. It is obvious which side they were afraid of. This pretty much explains how the anti-Israel crowd works in a nutshell – with threats, intimidation and creating a toxic environment.

I watched part of the livestream of the debate. The haters brought in Max Blumenthal who didn’t address the actual issues of the resolution so much as he launched a 30 minute anti-Israel screed filled with half-truths, slanders and lies about supposed Israeli crimes going back to 1947. He hilariously described himself as a “professor” in a university in Gaza that was a victim of Israeli “scholasticide.” He mentioned his book many, many times and even displayed it a few times as he was talking.

He was followed by a Hillel representative who, while effectively calling Blumenthal out for challenging Israel’s existence rather than working for peace, often attacked Israel herself by distancing herself from its policies and history, saying at least twice that Israeli actions she disagreed with were “shameful.”

A few law students then described in detail why the resolution should not pass according to the criteria within student law itself, and one pointed out a number of historic lies within the resolution.

This was followed by a professor who gave a lecture about the history of the conflict. It was reasonably even-handed, if poorly organized and somewhat boring, but the anti-Israel crowd attacked him mercilessly in their tweets as being pro-Israel for saying things like Israel’s 1967 war was defensive and the only violations of international law in that war were from the Arabs who intended to mass murder Israelis. In the end, answering a question, he said that he felt the BDS movement had made impressive gains.

Then the pro-divestment crowd sent out a large set of anti-Israel speakers, who instead of addressing the resolution simply rehashed anti-Israel rhetoric.

As usual, the pro-Israel side appealed to logic, law, even handedness and real peace, the anti-Israel crowd simply appealed to emotions.

No one, as far as I saw, attacked Palestinian Arab rejectionism, antisemitism, corruption, misogyny, honor killings or infighting.

My poster made for the occasion was retweeted a few dozen times by those following the proceedings, and then it was attacked by the haters as well.

Visit Elder of Ziyon. / Elder of Ziyon

Hillel Responds to ‘Outrageous’ Attack on Israel Guidelines

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

This op-ed was written in response to another op-ed, one in which a long-time Hillel professional, Rabbi Bruce Warshal, announced that he was quitting his position with Hillel because of the organization’s staunch support of its own Israel guidelines.

*******************

Rabbi Bruce Warshal sadly announced his departure from the Hillel movement in the Sun Sentinel newspaper on March 4, 2014. As the chairman of the Board of Directors of Hillel International, I join Rabbi Warshal in expressing a heavy heart.

My sadness results from Rabbi Warshal’s decision to leave the remarkable organization I am proud to serve based on a gross mischaracterization of Hillel’s positive values and inclusive policies. It is my hope that a clarification of Hillel’s true values and mission will encourage Rabbi Warshal to remain part of the Hillel family, where he is quite welcome.

Contrary to what Rabbi Warshal claims, no individual is banned from Hillel, and no issue is off limits to our students. Indeed, Hillel encourages students to bring all their ideas, questions, and concerns about Jewish life and identity through our doors and to our dedicated professionals. It is only through such openness that we can fulfill our vision of “inspiring an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.”

Hillel creates opportunities for students to travel to Israel, to learn about Israeli culture, history and current events, to forge relationships with Israelis, and to build a culture of civility on campus where students can engage with Israel and Judaism in a positive and authentic way. Hillel’s tent is big enough to welcome Jews no matter their politics, level of religious observance, or perspectives.

The guidelines Rabbi Warshal deplores clearly articulate a commitment to inclusion and to the fostering of “civil discourse about Israel in a safe and supportive college environment that is fertile for dialogue and learning.” To fulfill this commitment, Hillel proudly partners with many organizations and groups from across the political and religious spectrum.

Within the rich environment of open debate and learning Hillel cultivates, we steadfastly maintain our commitment to support “Israel as a Jewish and democratic state … as a member of the family of nations.” For this reason, Hillel rightly refrains from hosting or partnering with speakers or groups who deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish democratic state, delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel, or support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.

Those who advocate the destruction of the Jewish people, Jewish values or the Jewish state will not be offered a platform or partnership. How Rabbi Warshal gets from this legitimate position to the claim that “liberal Jews who love Israel but disagree with the current Netanyahu government” are banned from Hillel is impossible for me to explain. It is a false and outrageous accusation.

The stories Rabbi Warshal tells to condemn Hillel’s Israel guidelines are similarly false. They have been refuted by Hillel time and again, yet live on in the blogs and media stories upon which the rabbi apparently relies. Had Rabbi Warshal checked with Hillel, he would know these stories are inaccurate.

For example, contrary to Rabbi Warshal’s claim, Avrum Burg was, in fact, welcomed to Harvard Hillel where he spoke to students. Yes, Harvard Hillel did decline to co-sponsor a public event later that same evening with an organization that annually has brought “Israel Apartheid Week” to Harvard, and that ceaselessly seeks the alienation and the dissolution of the Jewish State. My colleagues and I on the Hillel International Board of Directors think Harvard Hillel got it right.

Hillel provides a welcoming, open and pluralistic environment for Jewish students of all backgrounds on 550 college and university campuses across North America and in 13 countries on five continents. We offer Jewish students a home away from home, and serve to protect and enrich Jewish life on campus. Hillel is dedicated to enriching the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world. It is a vital and growing organization, to which thousands of volunteers, professionals and student leaders dedicate their time, energy and resources every day. Their work is a credit to the Jewish people, and they deserve our thanks.

Disgruntled Employee Planned to Bomb U. of Washington Hillel

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

A former employee at the University of Washington Hillel was arrested after threatening to blow up the building.

The man, who was fired recently as a maintenance worker, was arrested Monday after making the threat in the basement of the Karen Mayers Gamoran Family Center for Jewish Life building and mixing toxic chemicals in a supply closet, according to the Seattle Times.

As many as 30 employees and students evacuated the building and called police. A police SWAT team entered the building and found the man, who has not been named, overcome by fumes from the mixed chemicals, which included ammonia and bleach.

Police closed roads to traffic around the building during the incident. The Hillel, which is located about two blocks from the campus, was set to reopen on Tuesday, according to the Seattle Times.

Hillel director Rabbi Oren Hayon told the Los Angeles Times that he did not believe the attack was anti-Semitic.

White House Briefs Students on Israeli-Palestinian Peace Efforts

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Obama administration officials briefed Jewish and Arab-American student leaders on the peace process.

Among the participants in Thursday’s three-hour White House briefing were students affiliated with Hillel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American Jewish Committee, J Street and Americans for Peace Now.

“As part of our ongoing efforts of working with key stakeholders throughout the process of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, yesterday a group of U.S. officials met with a diverse group of youth leaders who are involved in various ways with the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” an administration official told JTA on Friday. “This meeting was an opportunity to update the leaders on the status of the negotiations as well as to solicit their views and have them contribute their thoughts to the policy process.”

Shaina Lowe, the U.S. outreach director for OneVoice, a group that promotes grassroots peace activism among Israelis and Palestinians, attended.

“It was an opportunity for her to discuss One Voice’s parallel campaigns underway in Israel and Palestine to mobilize a political center on each side to support the negotiations and the ultimate goal of a two state solution,” said a spokesman for the group.

Additionally, there was a representative of the Peres Center in Israel.

Officials who attended the off the record briefing say briefers included Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, and Ilan Goldenberg and Laura Blumenfeld, advisers to Martin Indyk, the top U.S. Middle East negotiator.

They said that the meeting appeared to be part of a broader effort by the administration to prepare public opinion for Secretary of State John Kerry’s planned unveiling of a framework peace agreement.

J Street, Marginalized in D.C., Leeching into the Hillels

Friday, January 24th, 2014

The controversial organization J Street had its first annual conference in 2009.  The organization initially snagged a large number of members of congress to speak at the conference, and an even larger number to merely allow their names to be used as “co-sponsors” of its Gala. But when word got out that despite its self-description as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization, most pro-Israel folks – including the actual Israeli government – had quite the opposite view of the organization, many congressional members beat a hasty retreat.

J Street has had its public ups, and even more public downs, with Americans who believe themselves to be pro-Israel. There was the revelation that while J Street said the virulently anti-Israel George Soros was not a donor, in fact J Street’s tax records proved that not only he, but members of his family were bankrolling the organization. There was also the J Street claim that the vast majority of its donors were American Jews, when it was later revealed that there were quite a few non-Jewish donors, and actually the largest donor for at least one year was neither Jewish nor American.  The list goes on.

J Street has recently been reduced to publicly crowing not about how many members of congress were willing to speak at its conference, but instead how many were willing to take its money. Imagine that! your biggest achievement is that a politician was willing to take your money.

But as J Street was slowly eased out of its comfort zone in Washington, D.C., it proved itself to be very adaptable. It oozed out into the countryside, where it was harder to mobilize a critical mass of knowledgeable critics.  At least in part because of that diffusion, J Street found homes at the municipal level. The Big Tent approach of most mainstream Jewish Federations was a tremendous boon, even more so are the fecund, ultra-liberal, anti-authoritarian pastures known as university campuses.

While some Hillels were initially wary, others were welcoming.

One Hillel which initially responded to J Street’s approach very gingerly was the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, a Hillel whose campuses include not only the University of Pennsylvania, but also Temple University, Drexel University, Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College and Swarthmore College, as well as some smaller schools.

J Street approached HGP and asked to have the roll-out of its local J Streets hosted at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel, on Feb. 4, 2010. The roll-out was going to be webcast to 20 other cities across the country. The HGP leadership, anticipating the objection of at least some board members, extracted a firm commitment from J Street Chief Jeremy Ben-Ami. That commitment was an element of an agreement to rent the space to J Street as part of a business transaction. It was affirmatively not an ideological vote of confidence.

Not to worry, said J Street to the local Hillel leadership: “We promise not to mention that we’re using your facility, and to make clear in our written and oral statements that Hillel does not endorse us.”  That condition was agreed upon—it was “not just a promise, it was an agreement”—according to Rabbi Howard Alpert, the executive director of all the Philadelphia area Hillels.  On the strength of that essential agreement, Hillel went ahead and rented J Street its space.

And then? Within seconds of beginning his welcome to the live audience in Philadelphia and to all those listening and watching through the livestreaming, J Street’s Ben-Ami said exactly what he’d promised not to say—that he was speaking “here at Penn Hillel.” He failed to say a word about what he’d promised solemnly to make clear: that Hillel does not endorse J Street or its message.

Academic Group Hosts BDS, Bars Pro-Israel Groups at Panel on Israel

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

The pro-Israel campus groups Hillel International and the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) have been denied the right to present a discussion on Israel at the Jan. 9-12 Modern Language Association (MLA) convention in Chicago, JNS.org has learned.

MLA’s convention includes a roundtable discussion that will feature supporters but no opponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

The discussion – titled “Academic Boycotts: A Conversation about Israel and Palestine “– is seen as a possible precursor to an MLA academic boycott of Israel, which would mirror recent boycotts by the American Studies Association and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.

The MLA convention will consider a resolution that condemns Israel for alleged “arbitrary denials of entry to Gaza and the West Bank by U.S. academics who have been invited to teach, confer, or do research at Palestinian universities.”

Hillel and the ICC asked the 30,000-member MLA for the chance to present what they called an “open discussion featuring MLA members regarding academic freedom in Israel, its territories, and Gaza,” but MLA said the deadline to book a meeting at the convention had passed.

“The MLA convention has procedures for its members to organize sessions, and that deadline was 1 April [2013],” MLA Executive Director Rosemary G. Feal, the MLA’s executive director, wrote in an email to ICC Executive Director Jacob Baime. “We do not rent space at our convention for nonmembers to hold discussions.”

The existing MLA session’s speakers will include BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti; University of Texas professor Barbara Jane Harlow, who has stated her support for the ASA boycott of Israel; University of Southern California professor of English David Lloyd, a well-known BDS activist; and Wesleyan University professor Richard Ohmann, who signed a 2009 letter that described Israeli treatment of Palestinians as “one of the most massive, ethnocidal atrocities of modern times.” University of Texas professor Samer M. Ali, who publicly defended the ASA boycott, organized the roundtable.

“We believe the members of the MLA deserve to hear a far more diverse set of perspectives on the issue of academic freedom in Israel and nearby countries. The MLA members, as academics, certainly can appreciate the value of multiple perspectives on what is a very controversial issue,” ICC’s Baime said.

ICC and Hillel said they are now considering organizing a “balancing panel” discussion at a nearby location during the MLA convention. The panel would feature MLA members who oppose the anti-Israel resolution being considered at the convention.

Ali, the organizer of the convention’s roundtable on BDS, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that the roundtable assumes that Israel violates the rights of Palestinians, and that the debate will center on what to do about it.

“If people want to come and debate occupation, I think it will be a waste of their time, because that’s not what the roundtable is about,” Ali said.

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.

*******

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/guess-what-2013-was-a-great-pro-israel-year-on-us-campuses/2014/01/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: