Groups that demonize Israel put themselves outside the tent
Hillel leaders should enforce National Hillel guidelines forbidding Israel-demonizing events and groups.
Free Palestine T-Shirt, Syria opposition flag Photo: Amir Cohen/Reuters
UC Berkeley’s Jewish Student Union’s decision to deny membership to J StreetU
created controversy. Opponents of the decision claim that J Street is
pro- Israel, no Jewish group should be excluded, and that any exclusion is
undemocratic and alienates students.
Yet those who oppose J Street’s
inclusion have good cause for concern. Consider some of the groups and speakers
that J Street has brought to US campuses:
• “Breaking the Silence” (BTS-Shovrim
Shtika) is a fringe Israeli group touring US campuses accusing the IDF of “war
crimes.” This New Israel Fund (NIF) supported group claims that Israel commits
“crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleansing” and “violates human rights.” BTS
is quoted 27 times in the infamous Goldstone Report, which Goldstone himself has
disavowed. BTS still promulgates it.
This is the same BTS that Students
for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which leads the delegitimization campaign
against Israel on campuses, lists on its website as an advocacy group for its
anti-Israel campaign. BTS programs have been used during “Israel Apartheid Week”
on US campuses.
• J StreetU arranged talks by John Ging, former director
of UNRWA in Gaza. He is known for promoting political warfare against Israel and
supporting the pro-Hamas flotillas.
• J StreetU promotes the NIF-funded
Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement (SJSM). The Jewish Agency describes the SJSM
as “opposing the idea of Israel as a Jewish homeland and promoting an
anti-Zionist agenda.” The group collaborates with the anti-Israel Global
Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement, and defames Israel as a “fascist
state.” They talk about victories over “cowardly Zionists” who are perpetrating
an “apartheid state” and “ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem,” and urge liquidation
of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund.
• J StreetU also
presents B’Tselem, funded by a BDS group and NIF. B’Tselem spearheaded the
international campaign against Israel’s right to build the security fence to
prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel. B’Tselem “provided
assistance to the investigative staff of the Goldstone mission from the
beginning to the end of its research.” It is cited 56 times by Goldstone. It
praised his report as “the result of a serious, professional investigation,
reflecting a deep and genuine commitment to ensure that justice is
B’Tselem has been lobbying foreign governments to adopt the
Goldstone report. The chair of B’Tselem’s board, Oren Yiftachel, called for
“effective sanctions” against Israel during the war against Hamas in Gaza, and
supported the Palestinian “right of return,” which means the destruction of the
Jewish state. Their CEO, Jessica Montell, has stated: “I think the word
apartheid is useful for mobilizing people because of its emotional power.” The
SJP, which delegitimizes Israel, lists B’tselem on its website as an advocacy
group. B’Tselem programs have been used during “Israel Apartheid Week” on the US
What’s common to J StreetU events is not balanced, thoughtful
discussion of Israel but the defamation of Israel, the spreading of falsehoods
and one-sided attacks. According to Alan Dershowitz, “J Street has harmed Israel
more than any American organization.” Its pro-Israel claims constitute
“fraud in advertising.” “It has made a generation of Jews ashamed to be
pro-Israel, and has made it politically correct among young people to single out
Israel to a double standard and for fault.”
J Street is already
entrenched at Berkeley’s Hillel and the JSU. The Hillel group, Kesher Enoshi
(KE), is its proxy there. This year KE, along with J StreetU, brought the
founder of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement in to speak at Hillel. He
demonized Israel, proclaiming, “Jerusalem is a symbol of
evil.” Berkeley’s Hillel director argued that this was “within the
framework of national Hillel’s Israel policy.” However, National Hillel
guidelines explicitly state that “Hillel will not partner with, house or host
organizations, groups or speakers that delegitimize, demonize or apply a double
standard to Israel.” Hillel also funded its members’ trip to J Street’s national
conference in Washington.
The toxic consequences of KE’s Israel-bashing
events – organized in the past three years under the guise of “progressive
Israel activism,” – demonstrate why groups that demonize, or collaborate with
groups that do so, should be excluded.
In the year preceding the Spring
2010 anti- Israel divestment bill at UC Berkeley, Hillel’s KE organized Israel
defamatory events in collaboration with SJP and other anti-Israel groups. At
these events the IDF was portrayed as committing “war crimes,” and Israel as a
country committing “crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleansing” and “violating
human rights.” These demonizing events laid the groundwork for the SJP-initiated
Kesher Enoshi and SJP organized a Breaking the Silence
event, promoted by Hillel as: “testimonies by Israeli soldiers about human
rights abuses committed by the Israeli Military.”
They organized the
“Shministim,” a group of Israeli draft dodgers who defame the IDF and Israel.
Their US tour was organized by the delegitimizing/BDS supporting Jewish Voice
for Peace (JVP along with SJP is on the ADL list of the top 10 anti-Israel
groups in America). Along with SJP, the Muslim Student Association, JVP, Middle
East Children’s Alliance and other Israel delegitimizing groups, Hillel’s KE
sponsored an event that compared the IDF to the Nazis.
The fact that
Jewish students on campus get invitations to Israel-bashing events from their
local Hillel (which controls the list of the Jewish students on campus and the
students who participated in the Taglit- Birthright trips) is highly
significant. Hillel and its groups’ involvement lend legitimacy and credibility
to the Israel-bashing events and to their destructive message.
Berkeley student senate meetings, formerly pro-Israel Jewish students – who were
co-opted by exposure to Kesher Enoshi’s demonizing events – were conspicuously
active in advocating the adoption of the divestment resolution. Many of the
co-opted students are joining the larger delegitimizing/ BDS movement. For
example: Avital Aboudy, who signed pro-Hamas ISM petitions calling for
divestment from Israel, and Eyal Mazor, who is involved with the delegitimizing/
BDS JVP and Code Pink. Eyal’s younger brother, Alon, became a leader of Kesher
Enoshi, and is actively trying to get J StreetU into the JSU. Many Jewish
students now avoid Hillel because of its demonizing events.
disturbing situation is not exclusive to Berkeley Hillel. Many other Hillel
chapters, on major university campuses across North America, are engaging in
Israel-demonizing events organized by J Street in tandem with the NIF. A growing
number of Jewish (and non-Jewish) students, are being affected. Those
young Jews are the future of the Jewish community, its future leaders, and will
determine its attitudes towards Israel.
The immense potential of over
400,000 Jewish students on US campuses is not only untapped to advocate for
Israel against the “industry of lies” advocated by the delegitimization network
on campus, but that the students themselves are influenced by it, and
consequently many of them have become alienated from Israel.
who advocate the inclusion of demonizing groups, under the guise of promoting a
“big tent,” welcome a Kahanist group or Jews for Jesus? In “Is J Street in the
tent, or out?” Dr. Daniel Gordis observes: “It’s one thing to put ‘pro-Israel’
in your tag line, and another to be ‘pro-Israel.’ ...Even a big tent, though,
has its limits.”
Hillel leaders should enforce National Hillel guidelines
forbidding Israel-demonizing events and groups. Demonizing groups and events
place themselves outside the tent.
The writer, as a graduate student at
UC Berkeley founded the Jewish Student Union and co-founded the Israel Action
Committee (IAC) there. He also served as chairman of the Israeli Students
Organization in North America and was on the executive board of the North
American Jewish Students Network, the umbrella organization of Jewish Students
in North America.