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Hillel Tag

At Cornell we mostly have great students. This is a story about some of those great students at an Israel Independence Day event who reacted in a powerful way when a small group of students from the anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine disrupted the event. You may recall that there have been problems with anti-Israel activists on campus disrupting any positive event about Israel. Anti-Israel activists were the vanguard of the campus anti-free speech movement, as I documented in With campus shout downs, first they came for the Jews and Israel. At places like Berkeley, Jewish students have to find non-disclosed locations for pro-Israel events. Intimidation tactics by anti-Israel students have not been as big a problem at Cornell as on some other campuses, but a dozen or twenty people can cause a lot of trouble. In November 2014, anti-Israel students, assisted by Ithaca activists, tried to physically intimidate pro-Israel students. I covered the story, Cornell Pro-Israel students taunted: “F**k You Zionist scums” (Video at the link).

I know a cover-up happened at Brown/RISD Hillel over an anti-Israel "Nakba Day" event held on the premises organized by a small group of leftist Jews and anti-Israel campus allies. How do I know? I was there. Such an event arguably violated Hillel International's Israel Guidelines (aka Standards of Partnership), but it is not an isolated event. And that is the bigger picture, how some local Hillels promote anti-Israel narratives and turn the one place on campus where pro-Israel students can feel comfortable into just another anti-Zionist forum. Here is the story of what happened:
  1. Left-wing Activism and Planning "Nabka Day" at Brown Hillel
  2. What is Zochrot?
  3. What is the Nakba?
  4. The Public Event
  5. The Decoy
  6. Caught Red-Handed
  7. The Aftermath
  8. A Problem from the Top
  9. Conclusion

Hillel is the international organization dedicated to Jewish students on campus and with a pro-Israel policy. Among Hillel's policies is that its space on campus is not open to those who argue for the destruction of Israel or support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement. Hillel does not argue that anti-Israel speakers be barred from campus, just that its specific space and the use of its name not be used to further that anti-Israel agenda. As readers know from the hundreds of posts we have written about the campus BDS movement, there is no shortage of places on campus and sponsoring groups and departments at which anti-Israel messaging takes place.  Hillel often provides the one place on campus at which pro-Israel students can feel at home. Because Hillel provides the home on campus for pro-Israel students, Hillel has come under attack seeking to destroy that role. In the past year or so, some "progressive" Jews at Northeastern liberal arts colleges started an "Open Hillel" movement, refusing to abide by Hillel's pro-Israel guidelines, and demanding that anti-Israel speakers and events be hosted at Hillel. The first group to go "Open Hillel" was at Swarthmore College. The movement held a national conference recently in Boston, at which anti-Israel, pro-boycott (including academic boycott) speakers such as Judith Butler were featured. Open Hillel was viewed by the pro-Israel community as just another attempt to divide and conquer, forcing the most visible pro-Israel group to do what no other private campus group is forced to to -- sponsor speakers and groups hostile to its mission. Much like the viciously anti-Israel "Jewish Voice for Peace," Open Hillel was viewed by the pro-Israel community as a Trojan horse, using a Jewish identity to provide cover for the most vicious anti-Israel (and often anti-Semitic) voices. Now a former Open Hillel insider has blown the whistle on the Open Hillel fraud. Writing in The Times of Israel, Holly Bicerano recounts her experience, Standing athwart lies: Why I left Open Hillel:
Those who lie about themselves are not in a position to judge others.