Stanford Hillel defied Hillel guidelines by hosting Gottlieb — ‘and no one burst into flames’

Israel/Palestine
on 45 Comments

As you may know, Hillel International is now cracking down on Jewish student leaders around the country to try and stop the Open Hillel movement, to make sure these students don’t hear speakers who will tell them about Palestinian human rights.

So far Hillel International has had some success in keeping that conversation outside its doors. Swarthmore Hillel declared itself Open, but decided to change its name because of implicit litigation threats by the national organization. So it was as Kehillah that the Swarthmore group hosted an astounding delegation of US civil-rights movement veterans last month who were banned by Hillel International because they spoke out against Israeli human rights abuses.

Hillel International was successful in banning those speakers at UMass Amherst and MIT. But one of them, Dorothy Zellner, spoke in favor of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) at Harvard Hillel, thereby busting the official guidelines there. And all four spoke at Muhlenberg, to 150 people; and the student head of Hillel resigned so she could host the event.

That is why Hillel International’s campaign will fail. Because Jewish students want to have these conversations. Nothing will suppress that discussion in the end.

Harvard is not alone in defying the International. A month ago, Wesleyan University’s Jewish community hosted a Shabbat sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace, which is explicitly banned by Hillel International’s rules because it supports BDS.

And I just learned that Stanford Hillel defied the Hillel International guidelines on January 6. This has never come out before, but Stanford Jews wanted to know what the BDS movement is all about. And the Jewish Students Association, a Hillel-affiliated group, invited the great Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb in to the Hillel house to explain why she supports BDS “as a conflict transformation tactic.” Stanford Hillel’s leader, a rabbi with a lot of status in the Jewish community, Serena Eisenberg, allowed this to happen.

Rabbi Gottlieb told me about the meeting:

Jewish students at Stanford wanted to have an ‘open hillel’ kind of conversation (they didn’t call it that) about Israel/Palestine with rabbis they trusted, without public scrutiny, which is easy to understand, given the intense atmosphere and targeting of people on all sides of the issue. It’s hard for students, and young Jews in general, to find neutral spaces where they are free to pursue their questions about Israel/Palestine without ideological limits. I encouraged them to do their own research in a context which meets the highest academic and journalistic standards. Jewish students across US campuses and young Jews involved in Jewish institutions and programs that serve them, like Avodah, Moishe House, and Hillel, want to be able to pursue their questions about Israel/Palestine in an atmosphere of academic freedom and inquiry without being subject to the criminalization of their academic right to seek knowledge. Granted this is a highly charged issue. They still have that right.

I was invited to Stanford by students who wished to have such a conversation. I know they invited me, in part, because I would try to explain ‘what is boycott, divestment and sanctions?” and put it into a historical context.  The room, even by word of mouth, was packed with about 70 students, mostly Jewish, who stayed for a two hour presentation/dialogue.  The event happened a day before the divestment vote, although I think that was a coincidence. I knew some students from SJP whom I had met at another event I attended at Stanford.  The conversation began with presentations between myself and Rabbi Shelly Lewis. I suggested we ask each other a question in order to model respectful dialogue.  Rabbi Lewis is a gentle soul. He has served the San Jose Jewish community for over 40 years, and is author of a beautiful book called The Torah of Reconciliation. He is deeply passionate about dialogue as a healing path that leads to peacebuilding and spoke of his distress over Israel’s current policies toward Palestinians, but does not support using boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel. He is committed to a peace process, and even though he acknowledges most people have given up hope, two states remains international law and is supported by the majority of Israelis and Palestinians.

I shared personal history growing up with rabbis who were deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement, and my history with The Fellowship of Reconciliation as well as some of my experiences in Israel Palestine from 1966 to the present, and of course explained how I understand BDS and why I support it as a conflict transformation tactic. It was a great conversation, very nuanced and respectful, students were happy, no one burst into flames.

Wishing you a joyous liberating Pesakh.

So there you have it. They had a conversation about the BDS movement inside the Stanford Hillel, and no one burst into flames. It’s happening, no matter what the gangsters at Hillel International want students to think or say.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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45 Responses

  1. James North
    April 9, 2015, 1:07 pm

    Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb. A moral giant.

    • eljay
      April 9, 2015, 1:20 pm

      || James North: Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb. A moral giant. ||

      Yup. Quite the contrast to Zio-supremacists who, day in and day out:
      – advocate Jewish supremacism in/and a supremacist “Jewish State”; and
      – defend the “right” of Jews to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality that they would not have others do unto them.

    • Philip Weiss
      April 10, 2015, 9:12 am

      Thanks James. Well put.

  2. JLewisDickerson
    April 9, 2015, 1:17 pm

    RE: “Stanford Hillel defied Hillel guidelines by hosting Gottlieb — ‘and no one burst into flames’”

    MY COMMENT: Au contraire, there are reports of babies bursting into flames all around the world!

  3. Steve Grover
    April 9, 2015, 1:44 pm

    Are Rabbi Gottlieb and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinenazi facebook friends?

  4. JLewisDickerson
    April 9, 2015, 1:50 pm

    RE: “They had a conversation about the BDS movement at Stanford Hillel, and no one burst into flames. It’s happening, no matter what the gangsters at Hillel International want students to think or say.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Unlike MJ (Rosenberg), Phil can sometimes be quite behind the times. He meant ‘the gangstas at Hillel International’, of course!

    P.S. ■ Coolio – Gangsta’s Paradise (Kulkid Remix) [VIDEO, 05:34] – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0l8Fkd9n7VI

  5. pabelmont
    April 9, 2015, 2:03 pm

    In a way it is amazing hat young Jews do, in fact, want to learn more about BDS and occupation (and Israel). Why amazing? Because the discussion since 1948 has been complete, leaving no room for questions. Complete and completely pro-occupation, pro-Israel, pro-Zionist.

    So enough of something crept in to make today’s young Jews question the received “wisdom”. And now they are hearing an earful and Hillel’s rearguard action to suppress is (it seems) slowly failing.

    Happy days.

  6. CitizenC
    April 9, 2015, 2:30 pm

    What has prevented these students from learning about Palestine outside Hillel? How does the Judaization of the issue—speakers, venues, audiences—affect the message? What is different inside and outside? Why should there be any difference at all?

    • Mooser
      April 9, 2015, 5:06 pm

      Like she said, “it’s their right”. I think it’s maybe not the best way, but they got a right to approach it that (inside Hillel) way. Good luck to them.
      Maybe they are scared about what they will find out, and want to find it out in comfortable surroundings?

      • CitizenC
        April 9, 2015, 6:08 pm

        Then what is wrong with Jewish life in the US today that it produces such uncertain, cloistered young people that they need moral training wheels? This is 2015, not 1975, at Stanford. These very bright young people from advantaged backgrounds were born in the mid-1990s, by which time there had been much bloody water under the Palestine bridge.

      • echinococcus
        April 9, 2015, 8:33 pm

        Their right, of course. Only it hits me as the exact equivalent of White people insisting to hear about the Civil Rights movement from Whites exclusively, Negroes needn’t apply. That was their right too, wasn’t it?
        I guess some good may come of it; not because of any latter-day stirrings within the tribe but because Stanford students are to become movers and shakers within the US plutocracy.

      • Mooser
        April 9, 2015, 9:25 pm

        “Then what is wrong with Jewish life in the US today that it produces such uncertain, cloistered young people that they need moral training wheels?”

        If I am reading this right, Rabbi Gottleib makes an even stronger charge. She says:

        “Jewish students across US campuses and young Jews involved in Jewish institutions and programs that serve them, like Avodah, Moishe House, and Hillel, want to be able to pursue their questions about Israel/Palestine in an atmosphere of academic freedom and inquiry without being subject to the criminalization of their academic right to seek knowledge.”

        I can’t quite get what she means by that by “criminalization”. Who is doing that? But if she meant “ostracized” or something, that seems reasonable. (Of course there is the EU “working definition” of anti-semitism and the FUCU case in England, so “criminalization” might be the right word.)

      • Mooser
        April 10, 2015, 1:49 pm

        “Then what is wrong with Jewish life in the US today that it produces such uncertain, cloistered young people that they need moral training wheels?”

        Oh, give them time. They haven’t been to those Tel Aviv nightclubs yet. They’ll go from training wheels to a moral mountain-bike in no time flat!

      • Mooser
        April 12, 2015, 4:46 pm

        “I guess some good may come of it; not because of any latter-day stirrings within the tribe”

        With the addition of one letter, that seems quite reasonable to me. I’d put an “s” on “tribe” and make it ‘tribes’. I don’t think there was just one to start with and I think it might be the same today. ‘Tribal’, sure, but I suspect the tribes are smaller and more numerous.

      • Hostage
        April 15, 2015, 1:59 pm

        I can’t quite get what she means by that by “criminalization”.

        The Lanham Act makes willful trademark violation or unfair competition a federal crime. Likewise the Sherman Antitrust Act makes planning and organizing a boycott a federal crime. The courts have carved-out narrow exceptions for 1st and 14th amendment political and religious activities that Congress isn’t allowed to regulate under the “Commerce Clause” of the Constitution, but Fingerhut led the charge in Congress to outlaw the BDS movement anyway. He and his ilk employ the hasbara argument that Israel is a vibrant democracy. They falsely claim that the Palestinian civil society’s BDS movement isn’t a human rights boycott similar to the landmark NAACP v. Patterson (No. 91) 357 U.S. 449 – 1958 and NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 US 886 – 1982 cases.

      • Hostage
        April 15, 2015, 2:30 pm

        Only it hits me as the exact equivalent of White people insisting to hear about the Civil Rights movement from Whites exclusively, Negroes needn’t apply. That was their right too, wasn’t it?

        No, it really isn’t equivalent. It’s more like a despotic oriental fiefdom or a mandarin ruling class sitting on a mountain of cash solicited from the general public under false pretenses. Fingerhut is the head of a national Jewish fraternal organization that is also a tax exempt public charity. It doesn’t actually own or fund these independent local Hillels.

        Hillel International claims in its solicitations for donations, legacies, and endowments that it provides campus services for the benefit of all members of the Jewish religion. The USPTO Hillel trademark registration says the same thing – and that the service association promotes Jewish cultural education and discussion of human rights. But Fingerhut has forbidden local Hillels, as such, from sponsoring, partnering, or providing facilities for pro-BDS groups, like Jewish Voice For Peace or Students For Justice in Palestine. So even if your chapter bought and paid for its own facility, he’s threatening to sue you if it is used for one of its stated purposes.

    • piotr
      April 10, 2015, 12:47 pm

      This is a complicated issue. Why people crave approval of their communities, say, “Log Cabin Republicans”, GOP activists who crave to be approved as gay people by their GOP brothers. It would be to facile to dismiss them “apparently, the gays have their share of masochists as well.”

      • Hostage
        April 16, 2015, 3:23 pm

        This is a complicated issue. Why people crave approval of their communities

        No the important question is: How did the Jewish Community get so fucked-up that it forgot the original facts about Hillel? The Talmud says that the House of Hillel and its students were famous for three things:

        1. They had to be put to the sword, before their adversaries in the Palestine Sanhedrin could obtain a majority in favor of adopting legislation to sever all communications or commerce with their Gentile neighbors. (You don’t have to guess about that Hillel House’s position on the construction of the Wall);

        2. That they taught the heathens of Palestine that there is just one Golden rule that comprises the whole meaning of the Torah and that that one law was applicable to the native-born Jews and Gentiles and any strangers living in Palestine;

        3. That a Divine Voice from Heaven said that the law follows the House of Hillel, because they always were polite, courteous, and made sure that their adversaries views were presented first, before presenting their own.

        Hillel doesn’t stand for any of those things today.

  7. JLewisDickerson
    April 9, 2015, 3:47 pm

    ■ THE “LONG AND SHORT” OF HILLEL

    ● THIS IS TREIF AT HILLEL:

    ● THIS IS KOSHER AT HILLEL:

  8. CigarGod
    April 10, 2015, 9:58 am

    “…gangsters at Hillel International.”

    Everytime you say this, I see more gangsterly similarities in their actions.
    People lose their freedoms because they dont call out this kind of behavior.
    Thanks, Phil.

  9. Citizen
    April 10, 2015, 10:36 am

    Watch live conference tackling subject: Is Israel Lobby good for US or Israel? CSPAN backed out of showing it today–guess the management/owners thought they would burst into flames: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=8933&v=c1IIrHsO4fw

    • Citizen
      April 10, 2015, 11:10 am

      Here’s cspan’s mission statement: http://www.c-span.org/about/mission/
      Hard to see how they can refuse to cover this conference today. Guess they caught a lot of zionist flack from showing CIA assessment of US-Israeli relationship in Marfch of 2014: http://www.c-span.org/video/?318179-6/us-israel-relationship

      They showed Bibi addressing US congress; and they always air AIPAC conference.

      Hard to find who’s making such key decisions at CSPAN these days.

    • just
      April 10, 2015, 11:17 am

      It’s great, and shame on CSPAN. Richard Falk speaking now @ National Press Club.

      From your link: Started on Apr 10, 2015
      “Broadcast live from the National Press Club, this unprecedented gathering will focus on the Israel lobby in America. How big is it? How fast has it grown? How interconnected are the organizations and individuals? How much revenue does it raise and where does the money go? What are the common objectives of the lobby? What laws apply to lobbying to benefit a foreign government and are they vigorously enforced? Do coordinated campaign contributions cause American policymakers to act more on behalf of Israel than the United States?”

      Thanks, Citizen.

      Now up is Dr. Alice Rothchild.

  10. just
    April 10, 2015, 11:59 am

    Helena Cobban introduces panel to discuss what is happening on campuses.

    Amani Alkhatahtbeh discussing Hillel and Rutgers and their newspaper, The Daily Targum…

    Not so funny that CSPAN 2 has Ayaan Hirsi Ali on @ NPC

    • just
      April 10, 2015, 1:33 pm

      the next panel of Gideon Levy, Miko Peled and Huwaida Arraf has begun.

      http://israellobbyus.org/default.html

      • just
        April 10, 2015, 2:02 pm

        Gideon just knocked it way out of the park!

        (he got the only standing ovation so far!)

        Completely jaw- dropping and goosebump- worthy honesty.

      • just
        April 10, 2015, 4:16 pm

        Wow.

        Paul Findley just wowed the room and me, and got a standing ‘o’. Bless Paul, he’s 93 and still going at it @ CNI and today at NPC!

        Nick Rahall was good.

        MJ Rosenberg was quite animated. He made clear that he’s no fan of the ‘Lobby’. (he was quite funny, too!)

        I so hope that this is archived and that many people get to see this. My garden (weeds) will have to wait until tomorrow. lol.

        Next up is a panel on Iran~ Gareth Porter, Reza Marashi, and (I believe) Paul Pillar.

  11. Kathleen
    April 12, 2015, 12:25 pm

    A welcome shift…long time in the coming

  12. yonah fredman
    April 12, 2015, 4:52 pm

    Phil- Obviously just complaining about your use of [gangster[ is insufficient. Let me try this. Could you provide us with other current or historical politicians that you would also use the word [gangster[ to describe them, then I might be able to get a better handle on your use of the term. It doesnt have to be a politician, just someone whose name I recognize so that I can get an understanding of what you are getting at.

    heres the quote
    It’s happening, no matter what the gangsters at Hillel International want students to think or say. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/04/stanford-guidelines-gottlieb#sthash.YdT0sTjH.dpuf

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