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Swarthmore Hillel should invite Blumenthal and Abulhawa into the schoolhouse door

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Why doesn't this man have a speaking gig at Swarthmore Hillel?

Why doesn’t this man have a speaking gig at Swarthmore Hillel?

Swarthmore Hillel and Hillel International are firing verbal shots across one another’s bows over the resolution by the Swarthmore chapter that it will hear anti-Zionists under its roof. Now Jewish Voice for Peace has come out strongly for Swarthmore Hillel (see below).

Swarthmore Hillel should now heed Obama’s lesson at the Mandela memorial, that words mean nothing next to action, and it should invite Max Blumenthal and Susan Abulhawa to speak on the Main Line campus. Both are young anti-Zionist writers who have important new books out: Goliath and My Voice Sought the Wind. Both are excellent speakers. (Watch Abulhawa demolish Dershowitz.)

Swarthmore Hillel should not seek to balance these writers with Zionist writers. No, it should put paid to its claim that young Jews are smart enough and sophisticated enough to hear a speaker and not turn into blithering parrots.

Swarthmore Hillel should rise to the occasion and firmly take its place as Jewish leaders. It should recognize that it is the University of Alabama in a generational conflict involving the Jewish version of Jim Crow (support for racial discrimination in Israel and Palestine). It should treat Blumenthal and Abulhawa as the Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood of intellectual manumission and bait the heavy, Eric Fingerhut, president of Hillel Int’l, to assume the George Wallace role and take his stand in the schoolhouse door.

Hillel Swarthmore’s stance will get international attention and help free all Jews from the orthodoxy of Zionism that has blindered our community for decades.

Hillel Swarthmore should heed the greatest words of its namesake, Hillel, his call to all people who dream of action but are afraid:

If not now, when?

P.S. Blumenthal has the added resume item of being Jewish, and Hillel serves the Jewish community. Abulhawa has the added resume item of being Palestinian, and American Jews are bound to Palestinians by the Nakba and the Israel lobby.

From Jewish Voice for Peace’s statement:

Rabbi Alissa Wise, co-founder of the Jewish Voice for Peace rabbinical council: “Swarthmore’s Hillel is the biblical Nachshon of our time–the first to take the step into the sea, trusting it will part to reach the shores of freedom. Though it is disheartening that so many campuses tolerate Hillel International’s repressive Israel guidelines, I am inspired by the bold defiance, the sacred chutzpah, of these students. Hillel is making a big mistake in writing off these students as irrelevant to the future or well-being of the American Jewish community.”

Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace: “The
tides are changing. An October 2013 Pew Research Poll revealed that 89% of American Jews state that being strongly critical of Israel is compatible with being Jewish. If Hillel International insists on maintaining their intransigent policies, it will find that more and more Jewish students will either declare themselves Open Hillel <>
or voluntarily exclude themselves from a group that does not welcome them.”

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8 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    December 12, 2013, 11:52 am

    Open Hillel has a related petition:

    Petition: As members of the Hillel community, Jewish students, and alums, we believe that campus Hillels should acknowledge and engage with a full spectrum of political views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We see cooperation with Palestinian groups on and off campus as an essential step towards peace. Furthermore, if Hillel truly wants to be “The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life,” it cannot exclude Jewish groups simply for their political beliefs.

    Therefore, we ask Hillel International to remove its guidelines for Standards of Partnership for campus Israel activities, which currently exclude groups and individuals with particular political views from campus Hillels.

  2. doug
    December 12, 2013, 12:20 pm

    Interesting that Andy Bachman, a rabbi that I’ve had thoughtful email exchanges with in the distant past, supports Open Hillel. He’s a mensch, deeply pro Israel, but more deeply believing in traditional Jewish values. The dissonance is obvious and I feel for him.

  3. Citizen
    December 12, 2013, 2:03 pm

    Here’s part two of the Abulhawa vs. Dershowitz debate

  4. joemowrey
    December 12, 2013, 5:47 pm

    “Swarthmore Hillel should now heed Obama’s lesson at the Mandela memorial, that words mean nothing next to action…”

    Sorry, but I just can’t let that little gem slip by. What lesson of Obama’s should Swarthmore Hillel or anyone else heed? The lesson that gross hypocrisy is an acceptable behavioral norm on the international stage? The fact that Obama, who clearly supports the world’s most egregious apartheid regime (among his many other international crimes and violations of human rights) would even attend a memorial for Mandela should sicken us on every level.

    Lynn Washington has a good piece at TCBH highlighting another aspect of the hypocrisy of Obama’s presence at the memorial.

    The United States (the CIA to be specific) was responsible for the initial betrayal of Mandela to the South African government which resulted in Mandela being imprisoned for 27 years.

    When are we going to get it that we can’t talk about Palestinian rights while enabling (even in a small way with an offhand remark) those who blatantly defy those values? There is really no finer example than Obama of someone who repeatedly uses words that indeed mean nothing next to his actions. He has elevated that strategy to an art form.

    If the reference in the article is to Obama’s handshake with Castro (just guessing here) let’s remember that Obama has done everything in his power to continue the criminal embargo against Cuba. Once again, the lesson is one of gross hypocrisy, nothing more.

    So let’s hope that Swarthmore Hillel does not follow Obama’s example. If they do, chances are they will talk eloquently about allowing anti-zionists to speak, but then follow those words up with the exact opposite behavior.

  5. tombishop
    December 14, 2013, 8:29 am

    An article from the Philadelphia Inquirer about Swarthmore Hillel’s position.

    • W.Jones
      December 14, 2013, 7:21 pm


      The Philly article says: “a pro-Palestinian campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine, has plastered eviction notices on dorm rooms of Jewish students on various college campuses “as a symbolic thing. . . . We find that unacceptable.”

      The problem is that this makes it sound like it was about evicting Jewish students from their rooms. Basically Palestinians are trying to evict Jews.

      In fact, the reality is much different. It was about raising awareness by putting signs on all students’ doors about evictions of Palestinians.

      • W.Jones
        December 14, 2013, 7:35 pm

        Also, the article ended in a strange way:

        Emily Unger, the Harvard graduate who cofounded Open Hillel, said… Jewish values support having an open debate even with people you strongly disagree with. Eden, the international group’s spokesman, agreed…. “the debate has to be done… with groups that do not promote the end of a Jewish state.”

        I think that they are not really “agreeing” about open debates, considering that the latter actually intends to attack the former.

  6. jayn0t
    December 17, 2013, 12:19 am

    “Why doesn’t this man have a speaking gig at Swarthmore Hillel?”
    Because ostracism gives Blumenthal’s half-assed criticism of Israel credibility. It makes his attempt, in “Goliath”, to make Israel look like an ordinary Western society, in which “racism” can be gradually abolished, look radical. He makes it look as if the struggle against Zionism is like the struggle against apartheid. But it’s not like that at all.

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