Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
While Jewish students are terrorized on campus, Hillel CEO Eric Fingerhut took on another mission.
"The Hillel family will watch out for our Muslim brothers and sisters on campus,” the failed Democratic pol declared. And he added, “As we hope they will watch out for us."
There is as much hope of campus hate groups like the Muslim Students’ Association, which has a long history of terrorizing Jews on campus, doing that as there was for Fingerhut in his 2004 Ohio Senate bid which he lost with one of the worst showings by a Democratic Senate candidate in the state. But after taking Ohio Democrats down with him, Fingerhut moved on to tanking Hillel.
In his address to the Hillel International General Assembly, Fingerhut seemed to think the big campus crisis was for Muslims, not Jews. “We will stand by our brothers of the Muslim faith,” he bloviated.
But Fingerhut was only trying to outdo the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt who had won approval from no less a Jewish civil rights figure than J.K. Rowling for declaring at what was supposed to be an event to tackle anti-Semitism, “The day they create a registry for Muslims is the day that I register as a Muslim.”
Fighting actual anti-Semitism isn’t cool. Just ask anyone trying to bring attention to Keith Ellison’s long history of anti-Semitism and association with anti-Semitic groups as he crawls on to head the DNC. Defending Muslims against an imaginary threat however is as hip and trendy as a Williamsburg bar.
There up on stage was Eboo Patel, as one of Hillel’s partners, who had bragged of encouraging Hillel to talk to the MSA. Patel had appeared at Islamic Society of North America events, which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in funding Hamas, and celebrated the election of Ingrid Mattson to head the Islamist group by declaring, "I'm proud to have her elected as my president.” Mattson had denounced Israeli “brutality” and defended Sami Al-Arian, the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
It only got worse from there.
Hillel had silenced pro-Israel columnist Caroline Glick, yet it provided a platform for anti-Israel activist Jill Jacobs and widely promoted her anti-Israel pressure group, T’ruah, featuring it on its social media feed. Jacobs has campaigned against efforts to fight BDS and attacked Jewish charities helping Jews in ’67 Israel.
Jill Jacobs had even signed a letter calling for “constructive engagement” with a Hamas government even after Hamas had broadcast the threat, “My message to the loathed Jews: There is no god but Allah, we will chase you everywhere. We are a nation that drinks blood. We know that there is no better blood than the blood of Jews.”
Despite that both the ADL and Hillel gave her a prominent forum. Hillel’s own guidelines are supposed to bar opponents of Israel. And yet they were as neglected at the GA as they are on many campuses.
Also given a forum was Stosh Cotler, a former sex club dancer turned anti-Israel activist who had called for prosecuting Israeli soldiers for war crimes before she paired up with Soros’ son on Bend the Arc PAC.
Hillel International chose to promote Cotler, like T’ruah, on its social media feed. If Hillel doesn’t live by its own guidelines at its General Assembly, why expect any more from it on college campuses?
But that fit with the theme of the event which, despite the motto, had nothing to do with Israel or the Jewish people, but centered on social justice. Fingerhut echoed the same tired Trump alarmism. Peering at his notes to make sure he didn’t leave any political victimhoods out, he warned that students on campus would have to deal with “Islamophobia”, “Homophobia”, “Mockery of the differently abled” and “oppression of non-white cultures and non-white peoples”.
Fingerhut conceded that Hillel had been meant to support Jewish students and combat anti-Semitism, but he insisted that, “Fortunately we have not needed to focus on safety for many years.”
This would come as news to the Jewish students who were being harassed and intimidated on campus. But the perpetrators are allies of the social justice movement at the core of Hillel’s General Assembly.
Fingerhut instead warned about some sort of phantom “nationalist” movement coming to campus. And he didn’t mean the Arab nationalists who led the way in harassing Jews on college campuses. Besides it wasn’t about them. “Our obligation... is to pursue justice for all people, not just the Jewish community on campus.”
“We must never stand by when we see injustice on campus,” Fingerhut insisted. Unless it is against Jews. Sometimes at the hands of Fingerhut’s own organization. "We could not name all faiths," he quipped, but he then proceeded to offer a special shout-out to Muslims.
"We cannot fail to mention specifically our brothers and sisters from the Muslim community.”
Or the Illegal aliens and the rest of the left’s favorite victims. Unlike the Jewish students struggling with Muslim and left-wing anti-Semitism on campus, they are part of the left’s big victimhood tent.
Fingerhut talked about Jewish continuity, but the younger leadership of the anti-Israel movement is full of Hillel veterans. The Hillel International General Assembly just showcased the situation at many campus Hillels where anti-Israel groups such as Kesher Enoshi thrive. But Hillel’s problem is also structural. The focus on a hard left agenda of identity politics alienates most pro-Israel students and leaves behind those who struggle to reconcile their support for the left’s entire ideological baggage train while leaving the Israel car at the station.
Meanwhile they end up hearing from speakers who encourage them to turn on Israel.
The outcome can hardly be surprising.
The ADL and Hillel are uncomfortable discussing campus anti-Semitism when it comes from its Islamic allies. Instead they would rather climb into the left’s cozy coalition fighting for Muslims and the whole laundry list of social justice identities while pushing the plight of Jews to the back of the bus.
Hillel International’s General Assembly embodied the hollowness of the liberal Jewish establishment in its visible hunger to be part of the progressive consensus, its desperate need to be seen connecting with younger audiences and its incompetent efforts to tap into online technologies and trends.
That hollowness made it all too easy for the anti-Israel left to hijack so much of the establishment. Despite the semi-random interjections of Biblical verses, the liberal Jewish establishment doesn’t really believe in anything. Its leaders reflexively follow the ideological pied pipers of the left. They have no convictions or allegiances that won’t be discarded at a moment’s notice when the piper blows his tune.
And Hillel, like the ADL and many other establishment groups, is hoping that Trump’s victory will allow it to abandon Israel and head as hard to the left as it can without too many protests from its donors.
Hillel is a tragedy and a disgrace. But it’s the tragedy and disgrace of the American Jewish establishment which has nearly run out of time to make a final choice between Judaism, the Jewish people and the left.