UW Hillel – A Safe Place to Hate on the Jewish State
A civil war is taking place on campuses across the US, the battle is for nothing less than the hearts and minds of the next generation of Jewish leaders.
Since Israel’s founding, a key component of Hillel’s mission has been to imbue students with a positive and enduring connection to the Jewish homeland. Recently, two extravagantly funded, well organized groups; New Israel Fund and J Street have expended tremendous resources at upsetting the status quo, working hard to achieve the singular goal of compromising Hillel’s tradition of support for the Jewish state.
Hillel is the hub of Jewish, cultural and religious life for tens of thousands of Jewish college students.
The jewel in the crown for those fighting to integrate anti-Zionist groups into Hillel, is to transform individual Hillel branches into what is called “Open Hillel“. While bathed in the language of free expression and diversity, the central component of “Open Hillel” is the embrace and welcome of anti-Zionist groups including those who promote BDS. So far four Hillel branches have declared themselves “Open”, three in the past year alone.
While Open Hillel has made inroads on more left wing oriented campuses, they have struggled to gain a solid foothold in less fertile ground. Thus groups like New Israel Fund play a vital role in softening up these campuses with a goal of creating an environment more receptive to their Israel critical perspective.
New Israel Fund generously funds the one sided anti-Israel website +972 and according to the ZOA, the group “spent a fortune erecting the BDS infrastructure, and continues to fund BDS groups and their co-conspirators”. While NIF has acknowledged their past funding of BDS supporting groups, they have since publicly stated their opposition to boycotts against the Jewish state, and say they have cut ties with groups that supported such actions. NIF grantees currently include groups like Adalah, B’Tselem, and Breaking the Silence whose sole mission is to condemn and criticize Israel. According to the Jerusalem Post, Birthright Israel severed ties with NIF late last year out of concerns surrounding some of their Israel related activities.
LOVE, HATE AND THE JEWISH STATE AT HILLEL UW
Of the more effective tools in the NIF arsenal is a controversial educational series called “Love, Hate and the Jewish State“, a three part series co-sponsored by Hillel UW and NIF which will be held at the University of Washington Hillel this Thursday evening (Yom Tov of Pesach) at Hillel on the UW campus.
Not one session of Love, Hate and the Jewish State offers a theme based on what is wonderful and praiseworthy about the Jewish state.
The format of “Love, Hate and the Jewish State” is a hybrid of group therapy session and college icebreaker. While ostensibly open to pro-Israel as well as anti-Israel, even anti-Zionist perspectives, each session focuses on a different perceived injustice that NIF associates with Israel. With themes exploring “the occupation” as well as racial, religious and income inequality, the workshops read like a laundry list of grievances against the Jewish state. One of the sessions is titled “Airing our dirty laundry“. The associated promotional material explains that “Being critical of the status quo is an inherent part of social change” and goes on to lament that “free expression of critical views of the Jewish state inside and outside of Jewish communities often invokes complicated rules against “airing our dirty laundry.” Not one session of the Love, Hate and the Jewish State program offers a theme based on what is wonderful and praiseworthy about the Jewish state.
Promotional video for “Love, Hate and the Jewish State”
Critics have questioned the secretive nature of “Love, Hate and the Jewish State”, students are sworn to silence regarding what happens in these sessions and observers are strictly forbidden. Organizers explain that “professional dialogue mediation requires such a strict environment” but community members have expressed concern. “The entire program seems designed to create an unobstructed space to expose students to harshly anti-Israel perspectives” said Nachshon Ben-Ami, a Social Worker who resides in the Seattle area. “While the format would be familiar to any psychologist who conducts group therapy, I have never heard of such a controlled environment used to facilitate political discussions”. Richard Allen, a vocal critic of New Israel Fund described Love Hate and the Jewish State as a “bash-Israel event,” and stated that it “trains the younger Jewish generation to hate the Jewish state.”
Students are sworn to secrecy regarding what happens in these sessions and observers are strictly forbidden.
Naomi Orenstein, one of the organizers of the Love, Hate and the Jewish State series in the Bay Area, recently told JWeekly that “What we want to do is change the conversation North American Jews have when they talk about Israel-Palestine.” People who attend, she said, are “not made to feel outside the Jewish communal tent” and don’t have to be fearful “of being called either a self-hating Jew or an anti-Semite.”
Love, Hate and the Jewish State at Hillel UW is sponsored by Hillel UW and New Israel Fund and will be held on April 9th, 16th, and 23rd. The program is only open to students and all in attendance must submit to rules of strict confidentiality.