Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Whither American Jewry and Berkeley’s Hillel?

The campus Jewish organization makes common cause with Israel's enemies while rejecting Jewish values.

Abraham H. Miller
07 December 09

When the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick engaged the topic of “divergence” — the parting of ways between Israelis and the American Jewish left — she culled appropriate examples from Berkeley’s Hillel, a liberal Jewish campus organization. Even in Berkeley, Hillel’s antics are more than a source of embarrassment to the activist, pro-Zionist component of the Jewish community.

However, Hillel’s repeated bad behaviors of anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist activities are absent opposition from Jewish community leaders. Their tactic is to deny every episode that reaches the public agenda, while giving a wink and a nod to what happens on campus. Caroline Glick is sure to be bombarded with denials, either from here or from the national organization. She should be comforted as to the accuracy of her renditions in direct portion to the intensity of these denials.

The current mantra concerning Hillel from those doing damage control is that Hillel has now changed. But the reality is that Glick’s description of a Hillel that is both anti-Jewish and anti-Israel is as true today as it ever was.

Yes, Hillel did finally celebrate Passover, after two years absence. And much is made of this as a harbinger of change. We are showcasing to the world that an organization committed to the preservation of Jewish values is actually celebrating Passover.

But what we would prefer not to publicize is that Hillel’s students were involved in this years’ Zionist-bashing, Israel Apartheid Week, sponsored by the virulent, anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine. Hillel’s Valentine’s Day invitation took an insensitive and provocative swipe at orthodox Jews, calling them “scary,” perhaps suggesting that they were somehow the equivalent of Islamist suicide bombers.

All of this came in the absence of a learning curve from past bad behavior that included celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a barbeque party on Yom Hazikoron, the day of remembrance for fallen Israeli soldiers, and holding a dance party on Yom Hashoah, the solemn day of mourning for the Holocaust.

While Hillel students have been cautioned by Hillel leadership not to demonstrate on behalf of Israel and have been told that the Israeli flag is an offensive, militaristic symbol, there has been no such cautions when it comes to Hillel-sponsoredKesher Enoshi working with Students for Justice in Palestine and bringing in Israeli John Kerrys to discuss war crimes in Gaza in an event known as “Breaking the Silence.”

Even the name itself is a misnomer. Israeli soldiers are free to speak their minds and to put up what they want on the Internet. There is no silence to break. There is no incarceration that awaits them for taking their ideas to the public. And among all soldiers, there is always the fringe of the fringe, the John Kerrys of the world, whose ego can only be sated by turning the deviant to the commonplace.

What of programs that will extol the behavior of the Israeli military as a professional and moral army, as former British Army Colonel Richard Kemp described them? Such programs are as likely to be held at Hillel as a program on the value of covert operations is likely to be held on the Berkeley campus.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science and a former head of the Intelligence Studies Section of the International Studies Association.


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