University of Connecticut (UConn) Hillel is defending its decision to peacefully table near a Nov. 2 pro-Palestinian rally held by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) after being accused of Islamophobia by the editorial board of the school’s student newspaper after the group handed out pamphlets about Hamas terrorism.
In a Nov. 9 Daily Campus editorial, the board accused Israel of ethnic cleansing, human-rights violations and apartheid (citing Al Jazeera and B’tselem). Mostly, the editorial attacked Hillel for its tabling.
It argued that distributing these materials was disruptive, citing an SJP petition demanding that the university hold Hillel and the students involved in the tabling “accountable” for what it called Islamophobic actions.
“The distribution of these materials in counterprotest at an event which was not demonstrating support of Hamas but in support of the liberation of Palestine, and the cessation of UConn’s links to the occupation, is deeply problematic,” the editorial stated. “The use of appeals to anti-Semitism in one Palestinian organization to dismiss the entire cause of SJP and their efforts is unfair and disrespectful. It is unfortunate to see UConn Hillel, an organization which has consistently opposed anti-Semitism on campus, distribute materials which forward other kinds of prejudice against Islam and Palestinian liberation.”
In a Nov. 10 statement, UConn Hillel dismissed these accusations. It said its goal at the protest was to foster “meaningful and productive conversation among students with opposing views.”
According to Hillel, its members and other pro-Israel campus organizations set up a table with literature on the outskirts of the rally to challenge the one-sided anti-Semitic narrative of SJP. They passed out stickers saying “Peace and Prosperity for Israelis & Palestinians,” as well as pamphlets with verbatim quotes from the charter of the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas.
“UConn Hillel stands against all forms of hate,” stated its news release. “We will continue to uphold our mission to be a safe space for Jewish students on campus and help students build personal connections with the land and the people of Israel.”