Brandeis Hillel Excludes Jewish Peace Group
The Latest Failure of the American Jewish Establishment
WALTHAM, MA — The Brandeis University Hillel has formally voted to exclude a Jewish peace group on campus.
On March 8, 2011, Brandeis University Hillel rejected the campus chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) from becoming a Hillel member group. In line with controversial guidelines recently issued by National Hillel, the decision was based on JVP’s support for targetted boycotts of goods produced in Israeli settlements.
In response to the decision, Brandeis senior and JVP activist Jon Sussman stated “Brandeis students have lost an opportunity to learn from one another. Jewish students must demand the national Hillel organization change its condescending guidelines which marginalize progressive Jewish opinion on campus.”
Hillel is the center of Jewish life on-campus , and its constitution affirms “the necessity of a pluralistic Jewish community on campus, with partisanship to none.” Regardless of this affirmation, Hillel’s new guidelines exclude Jewish groups on the basis of political opinions.
These guidelines are representative of a trend in the Jewish community to prevent open dialogue on Israel. The Israeli Knesset, for example, is currently hearing legislation to criminalize support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. “Jewish Voice for Peace opposes any ideological litmus test to participate in organized Jewish life,” Sussman said.
Brandeis sophomore and JVP activist Morgan Conley added that Hillel’s ban confuses the settlements with the state of Israel. Israel’s settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. “We were rejected on the grounds that boycotting settlement goods is the same thing as boycotting Israel. The reality, however, is that the settlements are not in Israel – they are in the Occupied Palestinian territories. By blurring the line between the state of Israel and the occupied territories, Hillel is unfortunately appearing to support a Jewish state at the expense of a democratic one.” Conley remarked.
Support for targeted boycott is an increasingly mainstream position within the Jewish community, shared by national organizations such as Meretz USA. Leading Jewish artists including Stephen Sondheim, Tony Kushner, Frank Gehry and Amos Oz have defended several of Israel’s best-known actors who are boycotting performances in the settlement of Ariel.
“Hillel needs to give groups like Jewish Voice for Peace a place at the Jewish communal table,” Sussman insisted. “If not, Hillel will alienate a generation of young Jews committed to our values of peace, justice and self-determination.”
ABOUT JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE
Jewish Voice for Peace is the only national Jewish organization that provides a voice for Jews and allies who believe that peace in the Middle East will be achieved through justice and full equality for both Palestinians and Israelis. With 27 chapters, a Rabbinical Council, 100,000 online supporters and an advisory board composed of many of the leading Jewish thinkers and artists of our time, Jewish Voice for Peace is the country’s fastest growing grassroots group dedicated to promoting a US foreign policy that respects the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians to peace and self-determination. www.jvp.org