Ho­tovely and the ice­berg


Prince­ton Univer­sity Hil­lel’s last minute de­ci­sion on Mon­day to can­cel Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Tzipy Ho­tovely’s sched­uled ad­dress was the tip of a very dan­ger­ous ice­berg.

The ice­berg it­self was re­vealed the next day on Capi­tol Hill. On Tues­day the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee held a hear­ing on the An­ti­semitism Aware­ness Act of 2016. The bill is in­tended to fa­cil­i­tate the fight against an­ti­semitism on cam­puses by re­quir­ing univer­sity author­i­ties to re­fer to the State De­part­ment’s def­i­ni­tion of an­ti­semitism when they con­sider whether ha­rass­ing acts were “mo­ti­vated by an­ti­semitic in­tent.”

Nine wit­nesses ap­peared be­fore the com­mit­tee. Five sup­ported the leg­is­la­tion. Four op­posed it.

The State De­part­ment’s 2010 def­i­ni­tion of an­ti­semitism was for­mu­lated to fight what is re­ferred to as “the new an­ti­semitism.” Un­like the an­ti­semitism of the first half of the 20th cen­tury which was di­rected against Jews as in­di­vid­u­als, an­ti­semitism to­day is in­creas­ingly ex­pressed as ha­tred of Jews for their sup­port for Is­rael – the col­lec­tive Jew.

The State De­part­ment’s def­i­ni­tion of Jew-ha­tred in­cludes the dele­git­imiza­tion of Is­rael’s right to ex­ist, de­mo­niza­tion of the State of Is­rael, in­clud­ing by liken­ing it to Nazi Ger­many, and the use of dou­ble stan­dards to judge Is­rael’s ac­tions. It also de­fines as an ex­pres­sion of Jew-ha­tred the al­le­ga­tion that Jews are more loyal to Is­rael than they are to their coun­tries of cit­i­zen­ship.

US Jewish or­ga­ni­za­tions have re­peat­edly asked univer­sity of­fi­cials to use the State De­part­ment’s def­i­ni­tion of an­ti­semitism as a ba­sis for judg­ing al­le­ga­tions of an­ti­semitic at­tacks and ha­rass­ment against Jewish stu­dents. Most uni­ver­si­ties have re­fused.

Pass­ing the bill into law is ur­gent. As ADL CEO Jonathan Green­blatt noted in his con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony, at­tacks against Amer­i­can Jewish stu­dents rose 59% in the first nine months of 2017 in com­par­i­son to the same pe­riod in 2016.

De­spite the in­crease in an­ti­semitism, four wit­nesses on Tues­day – all Jewish – in­sisted the bill is un­nec­es­sary.

Two of the bill’s op­po­nents are Jewish stud­ies pro­fes­sors. Pamela Nadell, di­rec­tor of the Jewish Stud­ies Pro­gram at Amer­i­can Univer­sity and the pres­i­dent of the Jewish Stud­ies As­so­ci­a­tion, ar­gued that while there are acts of an­ti­semitic ha­rass­ment on cam­puses, th­ese acts have not “cre­ated a cli­mate of fear that im­pinges upon Jewish stu­dents’ abil­ity to learn and ex­pe­ri­ence col­lege life to the fullest.”

Barry Tracht­en­berg, holder of the Pres­i­den­tial Chair of Jewish His­tory at Wake For­est Univer­sity, took things a few steps far­ther. Tracht­en­berg not only dis­puted that there is a prob­lem with an­ti­semitism on col­lege cam­puses. He re­jected the State De­part­ment’s def­i­ni­tion of an­ti­semitism.

Tracht­en­berg said that it is le­git­i­mate to com­pare Is­rael to Nazi Ger­many. He said that it is le­git­i­mate to re­ject Is­rael’s right to ex­ist. And he claimed er­ro­neously that a cen­tral tenet of Zion­ism is that Jews are more loyal to Is­rael than they are to their coun­tries of cit­i­zen­ship.

The two other wit­nesses who op­posed the law, Ken­neth Stern from the Rosen­berg Foun­da­tion and Suzanne Nos­sel, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the non-Jewish PEN Amer­ica Cen­ter, both couched their op­po­si­tion to the civil rights bill as sup­port for free­dom of speech.

Stern, Tracht­en­berg and Nadell cited a Stan­ford study of cam­pus an­ti­semitism to sup­port their claim that an­ti­semitism on cam­puses is not sig­nif­i­cant enough to war­rant the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion.

The study, pub­lished in Septem­ber by a team led by Prof. Ari Kel­man, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tion and Jewish stud­ies at Stan­ford, con­cludes that US Jewish stu­dents do not feel threat­ened by an­ti­semitism on their cam­puses. The study also claimed that in­so­far as dis­cus­sions of Is­rael are con­cerned, Jewish stu­dents are equally of­fended by Is­rael ad­vo­cates and Pales­tinian sup­port­ers. In the study’s words, “They are turned off by the tone of that de­bate on both sides.”

As Kel­man ad­mit­ted and Nadell ac­knowl­edged, Kel­man’s study has no sci­en­tific value what­so­ever. Its data are based on a sta­tis­ti­cally in­signif­i­cant, de­lib­er­ately non­rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of non-af­fil­i­ated Jews on five Cal­i­for­nia cam­puses. That Nadell, Tracht­en­berg and Stern all used a worth­less study to jus­tify their op­po­si­tion to the an­ti­semitism bill in­di­cates they de­lib­er­ately dis­torted the na­ture of the prob­lem of an­ti­semitism on cam­puses to block pas­sage of the bill.

Kel­man’s and Tracht­en­berg’s work to be­lit­tle the big­otry plagu­ing Jewish stu­dents on cam­puses is in line with their po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism. Kel­man is a mem­ber of the Aca­demic Coun­cil for Open Hil­lel. Open Hil­lel is a pres­sure group that de­mands that Hil­lel per­mit ac­tiv­i­ties sup­port­ive of the Boy­cott, Di­vest­ment and Sanc­tion move­ment to be car­ried out un­der its aegis.

Tracht­en­berg signed a pe­ti­tion ad­vo­cat­ing an aca­demic boy­cott against the He­brew Univer­sity. He has signed pe­ti­tions vil­i­fy­ing Is­rael or­ga­nized by the an­ti­semitic Jewish Voices for Peace BDS group.

As the Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter’s di­rec­tor Rabbi Abra­ham Cooper, who tes­ti­fied in fa­vor of the bill, said hav­ing Tracht­en­berg tes­tify is “like invit­ing peo­ple from the Flat Earth So­ci­ety to a hear­ing about NASA.”

This brings us back to Prince­ton and Rabbi Julie Roth, the Hil­lel di­rec­tor who dis­in­vited Ho­tovely.

Like Kel­man and Tracht­en­berg, Roth also has a pub­lic record. As Yis­rael Medad re­ported in The Times of Is­rael, Roth is a mem­ber of the New Is­rael Fund, which sup­ports BDS.

Her hus­band, Rabbi Justus Baird, is an ac­tive mem­ber of J Street and Rab­bis Without Bor­ders. The cou­ple has do­nated to the BDS group T’ruah.

As David Bedein re­ported at Arutz 7, Roth has a record of can­cel­ing pro-Is­rael events. In 2009 she can­celed a talk by Nonie Dar­wish, a for­mer Mus­lim Is­rael ad­vo­cate.

In an open apol­ogy to Ho­tovely pub­lished on Wed­nes­day in The Jerusalem Post, Hil­lel In­ter­na­tional’s Pres­i­dent Eric Finger­hut and Roth in­sisted that her treat­ment was “an iso­lated in­ci­dent.”

But a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent oc­curred just weeks ago at Stan­ford Hil­lel.

Stan­ford’s Hil­lel can­celed a sched­uled event with Re­servists on Duty, an Is­raeli anti-BDS group that brings IDF re­servists to US cam­puses. Last month’s event was sup­posed to fea­ture non-Jewish IDF re­servists, who came to Stan­ford to share their mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ences.

Like Ho­tovely’s speech at Prince­ton, the Re­servists on Duty event at Stan­ford was held at Chabad House after Hil­lel boy­cotted it at the last minute.

Finger­hut and Roth pointed to Ho­tovely’s speeches at New York Univer­sity and Columbia Univer­sity this week as proof that they are not dis­crim­i­nat­ing against her. Yet ac­cord­ing to a se­nior For­eign Min­istry source, min­istry staffers had to fight to get those events sched­uled. And once they were sched­uled, Hil­lel re­fused to widely pub­li­cize Ho­tovely’s speeches. Only 10 stu­dents were in­vited to at­tend her lec­ture at Columbia. And only 40 stu­dents at­tended her un­pub­li­cized event at NYU.

Hil­lel’s de­sire to make light of its dis­crim­i­na­tion against cen­ter-right Is­raelis is em­i­nently sen­si­ble. The vast ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­can Jews sup­port Is­rael. It wouldn’t do for pro-BDS Hil­lel di­rec­tors to pa­rade their hos­til­ity to the Jewish state in pub­lic.

It makes much more sense to sim­ply block pro-Is­rael speak­ers from ap­pear­ing on cam­puses.

Like­wise, Jewish rad­i­cals who op­pose civil rights pro­tec­tions for Jewish stu­dents be­set by an­ti­semites who ex­press their Jew-ha­tred as anti-Zion­ism are rea­son­able to pre­tend that they are sim­ply free­dom of speech cham­pi­ons.

After all, pro­fes­sors like Tracht­en­berg who call for the boy­cott of Is­raeli uni­ver­si­ties while claim­ing that Zion­ists are in­her­ently dis­loyal to their coun­tries of cit­i­zen­ship wouldn’t want to be ac­cused of truck­ing in an­ti­semitism.

The fact that Hil­lel di­rec­tors like Roth and rad­i­cal pro­fes­sors like Tracht­en­berg, Kel­man and Nadell do not re­flect the views of the wider Jewish com­mu­nity or even of the Jewish stu­dents on their cam­puses does not mean that they do not pose a grave threat both the Amer­i­can Jewish com­mu­nity and to Is­rael.

Th­ese rad­i­cal Jews who have at­tained po­si­tions of power in the Jewish com­mu­nity harm the Amer­i­can Jewish com­mu­nity and Is­rael is sig­nif­i­cant ways.

First, by pre­tend­ing that it is le­git­i­mate to block se­nior Is­raeli of­fi­cials from ad­dress­ing stu­dents, they block US Jewish stu­dents from ba­sic knowl­edge about Is­rael and the views of the ma­jor­ity of Is­raelis who demo­crat­i­cally elect their rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Sec­ond, by per­mit­ting the slan­der of the likes of Ho­tovely and Re­servists on Duty, th­ese cam­pus Jewish lead­ers and pro­fes­sors cul­ti­vate ig­no­rance among Jewish stu­dents while emp­ty­ing the term pro-Is­rael of all mean­ing. In in their zeal to pro­mote anti-Zion­ist li­bels and ac­tivism, they em­power ig­no­rant stu­dents to blithely and falsely slan­der Ho­tovely and other se­nior of­fi­cials as “racists.” By ex­ten­sion, they li­bel the en­tire na­tion of Is­rael whose cit­i­zens demo­crat­i­cally elected their Knes­set rep­re­sen­ta­tives and gov­ern­ment.

If th­ese ac­tions con­tinue, a sig­nif­i­cant di­min­ish­ment in lev­els of sup­port for Is­rael among Amer­i­can Jews can be ex­pected in the years to come.

Most per­ni­ciously, in pur­suit of their agenda, th­ese rad­i­cal Jewish lead­ers and aca­demics seek to deny ad­e­quate civil rights pro­tec­tions for Amer­i­can Jews. By claim­ing that the most sig­nif­i­cant form of an­ti­semitism on col­lege cam­puses – an­ti­semitism rooted in ha­tred of Is­rael and its sup­port­ers – is not an­ti­semitism, and by lob­by­ing to pre­vent the An­ti­semitism Aware­ness Act from be­ing passed into law, they are work­ing to un­der­mine the civil rights pro­tec­tions of Amer­i­can Jewry.

As th­ese events un­fold, th­ese rad­i­cal forces in the com­mu­nity are also seed­ing their ranks in lead­er­ship po­si­tions in the com­mu­nity.

For in­stance, in Septem­ber, backed by deep-pock­eted donors, BDS ac­tivist David My­ers was ap­pointed head of the Cen­ter for Jewish His­tory in New York. My­ers is a mem­ber of sev­eral BDS groups in­clud­ing Jewish Voices for Peace, J Street, the New Is­rael Fund, and If Not Now. Kel­man and other anti-Zion­ist Jewish aca­demics ap­plauded his ap­point­ment.

My­ers’ an­i­mos­ity to­ward Is­rael is re­flected in his schol­ar­ship. Jus­ti­fy­ing anti-Zion­ism is a ma­jor fo­cus of his work. He has au­thored sym­pa­thetic ar­ti­cles about the anti-Zion­ist Sat­mar Has­sidic sect.

When con­sid­er­ing how to stem the grow­ing power of anti-Is­rael and an­ti­semitism-en­abling Jews in the Amer­i­can Jewish com­mu­nity, it is worth con­sid­er­ing the re­sponse to My­ers’s ap­point­ment.

When the Cen­ter for Jewish His­tory an­nounced his hir­ing, a small coali­tion of pro-Is­rael ac­tivists or­ga­nized protests against it. True, the demon­stra­tions failed to can­cel his ap­point­ment. But the in­stinct that in­formed them was cor­rect.

Is­rael ad­vo­cates – sup­ported by the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment – should op­pose the hir­ing and ad­vo­cate the fir­ing of anti-Is­rael ac­tivists in ma­jor Jewish groups. For in­stance, fol­low­ing her dis­crim­i­na­tory treat­ment of Ho­tovely, Is­rael should de­mand that Hil­lel In­ter­na­tional fire Roth and re­place her with a pro-Is­rael Jewish pro­fes­sional.

So, too, Tracht­en­berg and pro­fes­sors like him who truck in an­ti­semitic pro­pa­ganda mas­querad­ing as aca­demic re­search should not be given a free pass. Pro-Is­rael ac­tivists should file com­plaints with his univer­sity for his ad­vo­cacy of an­ti­semitic po­si­tions is sworn con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony.

The abuse Ho­tovely en­dured this week was a symp­tom of a much larger prob­lem. A small but pow­er­ful mi­nor­ity of Amer­i­can Jews seeks to si­lence Is­raeli voices, as part of a larger move­ment to deny civil rights pro­tec­tions to pro-Is­rael Amer­i­can Jews. To de­feat th­ese ef­forts both the symp­tom and the dis­ease must be fought re­lent­lessly.


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