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October 30, 2014 / 6 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Hillel’

Loyola U. ‘Suspends’ and Reinstates Students for Justice in Palestine

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Loyola University Chicago suspended and subsequently reinstated its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine following an anti-Israel protest this month by the SJP chapter that blocked an event promoting Birthright Israel.

The university informed the chapter on Sept. 19 that it was “temporarily prevented from hosting any on-campus activities or events until their leadership meets with University representatives and the group complies with stated policies and procedures that apply to all student organizations,” according to a statement released by Loyola.

After meetings with university officials on Sept. 25 and 26, the group was allowed to resume its activities.

The one-week suspension was enough time for the university to win accolades for the suspension of SJP. The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) commended Loyola for instructing SJP to temporarily stop hosting any on-campus activities or events.

It remains to be seen if SJP now will function without violating the rights of others.

The temporary sanctions on SJP came shortly after a member of the group and of the student senate, Israa Elhalawany, was censured by the judicial board of the student government on Sept. 16 for “several Facebook posts over the summer in response to the attacks on Gaza” that included “profanity or expletives.” The board noted that the censure was for the manner of the posts, not the content.

In a protest on Sept. 9, SJP members lined up in front of a table manned by Hillel students promoting Birthright Israel trips. A student news website, The College Fix, quoted Hillel chapter president Talia Sobel as recounting that students from SJP asked Hillel members, “How does it feel to be an occupier?” and “How does it feel to be guilty of ethnic cleansing?”

In March, Loyola’s United Student Government Association took two votes on divestment resolutions. The measure at first passed unanimously. In a subsequent vote, it passed narrowly before being vetoed by the student president.

The university’s president dismissed the resolutions as irrelevant.

JTA contributed to this report.

Inside the Presidents’ Conference and the J Street Vote

Friday, May 30th, 2014

The fractious public reaction to the rejection of J Street’s membership by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has been based on widespread dissemination of false information about the process, according to exclusive interviews with sources close to the Presidents Conference process. The sources declined to be named because, while fully conversant with all aspects of the J Street vote, they were not authorized to speak publicly. But they emphasize that J Street was rejected not by the “Left or Right” or a “right-wing minority” but by the overwhelming voting consensus of the 50-member organization. Moreover, the sources say, J Street supporters were in a smaller minority than initially apparent because just two voting blocs mainly controlled many of the 17 yes votes.

By way of background, after a year of trying, the controversial lobby J Street was rejected by a wide margin for membership in the Presidents Conference, the umbrella group for 50 American Jewish communal organizations. The lopsided vote rang in at only 17 for, and 22 against in a process that required 34 yes ballots out of 50 voting member groups. But digging into the numbers reveals more than previously apparent about who voted yes and who did not, Conference sources say.

J Street bills itself as pro-Israel, but has engendered controversy among the pro-Israel community about its true intentions. Since its April 30, 2014 membership rejection vote, public vitriol by J Street and its supporters in the Conference and the Jewish media have been directed at the Conference as an organization, and, in a few instances, its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, personally. The fallout included a threat by a Reform Judaism leader to break away as well as sarcastic jibes on J Street’s website, which are still live at press time more than a month after the vote.

One such J Street website remonstration declared: “Yesterday’s rejection of J Street’s bid to join the Conference validates the reason for J Street: those claiming to speak for the entire Jewish community don’t in fact represent the full diversity of pro-Israel views in our community. The Conference of President [sic] claims to be the [sic] ‘the proven and effective voice of organized American Jewry.’ Last night’s vote removed that pretense. So join us in thanking Malcolm Hoenlein for clarifying this situation and revealing to all what we’ve long known: a new voice is needed to represent the true majority of American Jews — and non-Jewish supporters of an Israel at peace.”

Getting personal, the J Street rebuke included a mock thank you note: “Dear Malcolm: Thank you for finally making it clear that the Conference of Presidents is not representative of the voice of the Jewish community. We recognize the need for an open and honest conversation on Israel in the United States. We appreciate you being honest. Now we’ll work on the openness.”

J Street’s initial public statement asserted the organization “is disappointed that our bid for membership to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations has been rejected. This is a sad day for us, but also for the American Jewish community and for a venerable institution that has chosen to bar the door to the communal tent to an organization that represents a substantial segment of Jewish opinion on Israel. We are, however, most heartened by the tremendous support we received from many of the largest and most prominent organizations in American Jewish communal life who urged their fellow members to join them in building a robust and representative community body.”

In response to questions for this article, J Street vice president for communications Alan Elsner stated, “We regard the vote as a closed chapter. We were happy to receive the support from the very significant organizations that backed us; and we are heartened that the vote has prompted a debate and examination of the Jewish community’s ability or lack thereof to hear diverse views and to fully reflect the positions of American Jews.”

‘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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/white-house-briefs-students-on-israeli-palestinian-peace-efforts/2014/02/09/

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