Does Hillel's Hosting of J Street Subvert Their Mission?
Esther Levens - Jan 28, 2010
I am gravely concerned regarding a forthcoming event by Hillel and J Street on the Pennsylvania University campus. On Feb. 4, J Street will broadcast live from the university to 24 U.S. colleges across the country, as well as synagogues and Jewish community centers.
It is a travesty that such a strong anti-Israel message should be received by a vulnerable group of Hillel Jewish youth who may be uninformed about Middle East issues. This could not happen if national Jewish organizations were providing a strong factually accurate educational hasbara program. It is past time for them to begin. And B'nai B'rith should be the first to accomplish this mission.
I am often asked, "Where are the Jewish voices that are expected to be heard loud and clear explaining and supporting Israel's positions?" How disheartening to learn that instead of supporting Israel the venerable B'nai-B'rith-sponsored Hillel has actually agreed to provide a platform for the new controversial J Street organization to "launch a new grassroots campaign in the Philadelphia area" on February 4.
The Unity Coalition for Israel (UCI) joins forces with the American Israel Action Coalition (AIAC) an issue-oriented organization based in Israel where 250,000 Americans live. UCI joins AIAC in calling for Hillel's "Foundation for Jewish Campus Life" to rescind their invitation extended to Jeremy Ben Ami, Executive Director of J Street, to speak at and broadcast from the University of Pennsylvania campus next week.
The event is to take place in Steinhardt Hall, the Hillel building at the University of Pennsylvania, thereby subtly lending a Hillel stamp of approval on their policies. The J Street announcement is promoting the event as a "call to action" for their agenda. This showcase will turn around B'nai B'rith's pro-Israel Zionist history and defy common sense by encouraging Jewish students to hear and absorb the J Street doctrine that mirrors Palestinian propaganda.
J Street backs negotiations with the Hamas terrorist organization and endorses the Goldstone Report accusing Israel of war crimes in the war against Hamas terror last year. It has supported the PA's demand for a total, unlimited building freeze in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and supports dividing Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including the neighborhoods containing Judaism's holiest sites, the Western Wall (Kotel) and the Temple Mount. On its website It openly refers to the 300,000 Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria as "an obstacle to peace" and refers to the "disputed" territories as the "occupied territories." During the defensive Operation Cast Lead which Israel finally waged as a response to the 10,000 Hamas rocket attacks launched from Gaza on Israeli civilians, J Street called for an immediate end to Israel's defensive action.
Ambassador to the US from Israel, Michael Oren, the brilliant historian, refused to speak at the lobby group's convention late last year. He explained that "J Street constantly opposes the Israeli government and calls for strong American pressure on Israel… without the real attention to the terrorist policies of both Hamas and Fatah that we all need to more squarely confront if there is ever to be any real progress made in the Middle East."
Hillel will be doing a great disservice to the Jewish community as a whole, which is trying desperately to promote the positive cause of Israel against an array of 22 well-financed Arab states. Jewish university students should not become "the enemy within" and should not be encouraged to spread anti-Israel propaganda by aligning themselves with J Street.
It will be a perversion of the message that should be received by young Jewish students, who represent both Israel's and America's best hopes for the future survival of Israel, and indeed all of western civilization.
Esther Levens is Founder and CEO of the Unity Coalition for Israel.
Aaron Klein - Jan 28, 2010
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Hillel Hosts J Street
J Street, the controversial left-wing lobbying group, will be hosted by a Jewish organization at the University of Pennsylvania as part of an initiative to make the group known in local venues across the U.S.
J Street's inaugural university event Feb. 4 will be broadcast live from the university to 24 U.S. college campuses.
J Street brands itself as pro-Israel. But the group supports talks with Hamas, a terrorist group whose charter seeks the destruction of Israel, opposes sanctions against Iran, and is harshly critical of Israel's anti-terror military offensives.
Next week, J Street is renting space from the Hillel Jewish student organization at the University of Pennsylvania. J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami will broadcast a speech during the event, which will be simultaneously broadcast at other U.S. universities and at local sites throughout the country, including synagogues and Jewish community centers.
J Street's event at Penn will include speeches from a host of characters with controversial views on Israel, including:
* Rebecca Alpert, chair of the Department of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. In a sermon on the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur, Alpert compared Israel's anti-terror activities in the Gaza Strip to genocide in Darfur. Alpert also announced she personally undertook a month-long fast for the Gaza population as part of a protest movement that calls for Israel to talk with Hamas and lift a blockade in Gaza.
* Elliot Ratzman, a visiting professor of religion at Swarthmore University. In an article in the student-run magazine American Foreign Policy, Ratzman accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing." He particularly took issue with Israel's demolishing of Palestinian homes. He did not mention that the demolished homes were mostly built illegally on Jewish-owned land.
* Arthur Waskow, an author and far-left political activist who is highly critical of Israeli policies in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. In a recent posting on the website of the leftist Shalom Center, Waskow strongly defended a UN report penned by South African judge Richard Goldstone that claimed both Hamas and Israel were guilty of war crimes.
Hillel Organization Responds to INN: J Street Should be Heard
by INN Staff
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(IsraelNN.com) The Hillel Jewish student organization has responded to an Israel National News report that it will host J Street lobby's director, Jeremy Ben Ami. at its University of Pennsylvania premises, and insists that it does not necessarily agree with the agenda of the pro-Palestinian Authority lobby. Hillel explained that J Street's voice has a right to be heard.
J Street, funded by leftist philanthropist George Soros supported the PA's demand for a total, unlimited building freeze in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, opposing Israel's government policy on the issue. During Operation Cast Lead against Hamas rockets, the organization called for an immediate end to Israel's actions, writing that the time had come for "shedding a narrow us versus them approach to Hamas."
Michael Oren, Isralei Ambassador to the United States, refused to speak at the lobby group's convention late last year, stating that J Street constantly opposes the Israeli government. J Street calls for strong American pressure on Israel.
On February 4, J Street plans to launch a new grassroots campaign in the Philadelphia area from Steinhardt Hall, the Hillel building at the University of Pennsylvania. The J Street announcement is promoting the event as a “call to action” to move forward its “pro-peace agenda.” Vehemently opposed by counter-protest groups such as 'Z-Street', the announcement has sparked a number of angry responses from those who wonder why such a venerable student group as Hillel, The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, would make its building available for such an activity.
In a written response to a query from Israel National News, Rabbi Howard Alpert, executive director of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, explained Monday that the student group had “considered J Street's request and applied to it the same criteria we would apply to other Jewish communal organizations.”
Those criteria, he said, included a commitment to accept and subscribe to the Hillel mission statement of support of Israel 'as the Jewish state with secure and recognized borders and as a member of the family of free nations'; that they do not (sic) advocate actions that will materially harm Israel or its representatives such as boycotts, sanctions or judicial action; and that they present their views with civility.”
J Street strongly criticized Israel for last year's counterterrorism Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and supports dividing Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including the neighborhoods containing Judaism's holiest sites, the Western Wall (Kotel) and the Temple Mount.
On its website, J Street openly refers to the hundreds of thousands of residents living in Judea and Samaria, which the organization refers to as “the occupied territories” – the same language used by the Arab world – as “an obstacle to peace.... Continued settlement growth undermines the prospects for peace by making Palestinians doubt Israeli motives and commitment, and by complicating the territorial compromises that will be necessary in final status talks,” the J Street policy statement reads.
Rabbi Alpert made an effort to dissociate Hillel from any activities of the group, saying the organization's event “does not constitute an endorsement by Hillel of the policies of the group of of the opinions expressed during its meeting.”
Nevertheless, he reiterated, “we believe it is important that all voices that abide by our principles regarding Israel's right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish-People have an opportunity to express their opinions in our building as long as they commit to maintaining civility in their presentations.”
Readers can express their opinions to the Hillel organization by calling 215-898-8265 or by faxing a letter to 215-898-8259.