In February, Harvard University’s Hillel center for Jewish students co-sponsored an event entitled “From Selma to Ferguson,” purportedly aimed at addressing aspects of the civil rights movement in America. The event’s featured invitee was Dorothy Zellner, a harsh critic of the Jewish State and more importantly, a proponent of the anti-Semitic “Boycott Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement.
Zellner’s inclusion in the event violates Hillel International’s own guidelines pertaining to partnering with groups or individuals associated with BDS. These guidelines state explicitly that Hillel will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice:
•Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders;
•Delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel;
•Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel;
•Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.
The guidelines are clear, unequivocal and leave no room for ambiguity and Zellner, who maintains close ties to a myriad of anti-Israel and assorted hate groups, falls quite neatly into the top three bulleted categories. In 2014 she attended an anti-Israel rally where she referred to the terrorist group Hamas, as the “victim” and condemned Israel for defending itself while Hamas was busy firing rockets at Israel’s civilians. In 2012 she co-authored a rancid screed where she advocated a Nazi-like boycott of the Jewish State and criticized Israel’s supposed human rights violations while uttering not a single word on the orgy of violence and cesspool of depravity surrounding Israel.
Amazingly, Harvard’s Hillel leadership sought to justify its co-sponsorship of the event by absurdly claiming that the subject of the event had no nexus with Israel and addressed an entirely different matter. David Eden, chief administrative officer for Hillel International noted that “BDS [was] not the subject matter of this event.” That sentiment was echoed by Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, director of the Harvard Hillel who stated that “Harvard Hillel does not by policy or in general pass judgment on a speaker for topic X because of that speaker’s views on topic Y.”
Hillel’s guidelines however, make no such exception. Moreover, if we subscribed to that convoluted logic, Hillel could conceivably invite the notorious French anti-Semite and so-called comedian, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, to give a lecture at Harvard on the subject of comedy so long as Israel and the quenelle are not on the agenda and Mussolini could lecture on the fascist myth of how he had the trains running on time so long as he steered clear of discussing his fascist ideology. The notion of separating the message from the messenger is preposterous, absurd and offensive.
Though Harvard’s Hillel leadership claimed that the panel discussion only addressed issues involving civil rights in America, someone forgot to give Zellner the memo. She immediately made no pretense about her pernicious views concerning Israel. “I am a supporter of BDS” she stated and noted further that “as a Jew, I feel a Jewish obligation to stand up for the oppressed,” adding that she viewed “Palestinians as being the oppressed.”
Quite obviously, Zellner’s malevolent and defamatory statements ran completely counter to what Harvard’s Hillel leadership would have us believe. Moreover, even if we were to accept Hillel’s benign explanations, it is a given that when provided with a public platform, anti-Semites and haters of Israel rarely shy away from proclaiming their odious views and this is something that Harvard’s Hillel should have been cognizant of.
The actions taken by Harvard University’s Hillel in connection with Zellner represent a small but disturbing pattern by campus groups, purporting to be pro-Israel, partnering with Israel’s anti-democratic enemies and assorted BDS characters. Last week, a guerilla poster campaign at UCLA and other college campuses nationally, highlighting the perniciousness of the student hate group “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP) ran afoul of J Street U and other Jewish groups, who condemned the campaign and sent volunteers to assist with taking down the posters. These actions and those of Harvard’s Hillel are inexcusable and shameful and represent total capitulation to the forces of fascism and anti-Semitism.
Of course, it’s not all bad news on college campuses these days and I would be remiss if I neglected to note victories at UC Davis and the University of Georgia. At UC Davis, a student judicial review panel struck down an anti-Israel divestment resolution by 5-0 claiming that the resolution was political in nature and had nothing to do with advancing student welfare. And at the University of Georgia, pro-Israel and pro-democracy advocates went on the offensive and succeeded in having the Student Government Association, which represents some 35,000 students, pass a pro-Israel resolution which recognized Israel’s democratic character and called for greater cooperation with and investment in Israel.
Israel today faces a plethora of challenges from the region’s anti-democratic actors. To the north is Hezbollah, the malevolent spawn of the Islamic Republic that has over 100,000 rockets facing Israel. To the south is Hamas which is currently rebuilding its military infrastructure following its defeat during Operation Protective Edge. To the east is the Islamic State which revels in beheading and immolating people and just beyond, is the Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation led by apocalyptic mullahs who continue to foment regional unrest and are intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. And of course there’s the consummate wolf in sheep’s clothing, the Palestinian Authority, which leads international, anti-Israel de-legitimization efforts and just last week, was found liable by a federal district court of financing and promoting terrorism.
In the scheme of things, the public opinion battles being waged on today’s college campuses seem trivial by comparison but we should not for an instant be complacent and underestimate the influence these deleterious divestment resolutions and anti-Israel campaigns have on shaping public opinion. It is therefore incumbent on university pro-Israel groups to up their game and take the fight to the enemy. Instead of reacting and responding, they should follow the lead of their colleagues at the University of Georgia and put forth resolutions encouraging a deepening of ties between Israel and their respective universities. Only in this way will pro-Israel and pro-democracy advocates defeat the fascist SJP and their malevolent, anti-Semitic propaganda. Moreover, pro-Israel groups should never allow political correctness to trump moral fortitude. Sadly, this was the case when Harvard University’s Hillel violated its own guidelines and co-sponsored an event that featured an advocate of the Jew-hating BDS movement.
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