Trending Topics:

Hillel Int’l doubles down, smearing campus critics of Israel as anti-semites

on 19 Comments

Facing a breakaway movement of young idealist Jews who want to be able to hear criticism of Israel on campus, what does Hillel International do? Well, it’s undertaken an effort to smear Palestinian solidarity activists on campus as anti-Semites. Hillel is championing a smartphone app developed by the rightwing Simon Wiesenthal Center to report anti-Semitism on campus. The app purposely blurs the line between criticizing Israel and bigotry against Jews:

 The app is designed to enable students to instantaneously report on anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents as well as serving as a platform to share breaking news relevant to Jewish activists.

“Hillel International Partners with Simon Wiesenthal Center to Combat Anti-Semitism on More Than 550 College Campuses,” is the bold Hillel announcement, from December 11.

The effort is the definition of the word reactionary. CombatHateU’s logo is a shield of vigilance, with several phrases around it and on it:

anti-Israel harassment campus threats anti-Semitism

see it. report it.


If you go to the twitter feed for CombatHateU, you will find that it completely conflates BDS and anti-Zionism with hatred of Jews. Like in this tweet about a BDS measure at Concordia University in Toronto at a time “when anti-Semitic violence is still fresh in the minds of the Jewish community” there. BDS equals anti-Semitic violence– really?

Or when CombatHateU tweets Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor’s alarmist speech at the U.N. saying that Europe abandoned the Jews in the 40s and it is doing so again by supporting a Palestinian state– for a people who “celebrate death” rather than “sanctify life,” as Israelis do. Scary Rhetoric 101.

Bringing the Debate to YouI don’t think this sort of ultraright positioning can last on the part of an organization, Hillel International, whose mission is to represent Jews on campus– all Jews, including those who are not militant nationalists.

After all, the organization is under siege right now by the Open Hillel movement, young idealists who refuse to accept the group’s authoritarian strictures against hosting anyone who speaks in favor of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) or who is thought to delegitimize or demonize Israel. Several campus chapters have broken away from Hillel International over these rules barring free speech; the Open Hillel conference in October was a great success, with a diversity of views and a declaration that it “is time to build the future of the American Jewish community.”

So Hillel International is doubling down.

The organization’s conduct is more evidence that in the wake of the Gaza slaughter, the center has collapsed in the U.S. discourse about Israel/Palestine. Sharp criticisms of Israel’s conduct in the American grassroots produced a reaction in the mainstream Jewish community: that you are with Israel or against Israel. That is why Ari Roth lost his job at Theater J in Washington. He was being pressured by the establishment to acquiesce in uncritical acceptance of the Israeli line (as Tony Kushner put it). And Liberal Zionists are under pressure from non- and anti-Zionists to stop being so lukewarm, and to start doing something to actually counter the occupation. Thus the initiative by the Gitlin/Walzer/Wolfe/Zipperstein group to strip Naftali Bennett of his freedom to travel. I wonder what CombatHateU would make of that.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

Other posts by .

Posted In:

19 Responses

  1. Kris
    December 23, 2014, 11:27 am

    College campuses are the perfect place for a pro-Zionist groups like Hillel International to act out their authoritarianism and intolerance. The more discussion and controversy, the more students will be embarrassed by, and turn away from, Israel.

    There is a great article by Gary Leupp (Professor of History at Tufts University, also a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion) up at counterpunch today, about the power of religious myths. Dr. Leupp goes into detail about the myth of Abraham. If only there were a good way of getting this information out to the Christian Zionist students. This is not what we learned in Sunday school!

    “In world history, few things have proven more destructive than religion in the service of aggression. But that’s what the myth of Abraham is all about, in the minds of Israel’s U.S. Christian allies: the justification of Zionist aggression.”

    • John O
      John O
      December 24, 2014, 11:37 am

      Very good article, thanks for linking to it. However, personally, I can never hear the words “God said to Abraham…” without completing the sentence: “Kill me a son!”

  2. ritzl
    December 23, 2014, 11:42 am

    Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wolf! Wol…

    Chomp. Slurp. Belch.

    Don’t these people get it?!

  3. John Turnbull
    John Turnbull
    December 23, 2014, 11:52 am

    (Concordia Univeristy is in Montreal.)

  4. Mooser
    December 23, 2014, 12:02 pm

    I thought Open Hillel had it wrong, and shouldn’t waste their time ‘opening’ Hillel. Now I see I was wrong. The entire place, once it is opened, and what’s inside comes scurrying out, will fall right into their laps. It’ll be theirs for the taking.

    • Mooser
      December 23, 2014, 1:31 pm

      Why do I think this is a lot more about recruiting the people who do call up, than it is about doing anything about the situations they are calling about?

      • Mooser
        December 23, 2014, 1:48 pm

        And why does the shape of the ‘shield’ design make me uneasy? Isn’t that a Crusader’s shield? Yup, Google seems to think so.

      • Abierno
        December 23, 2014, 3:55 pm

        It’s more chilling – it unquestionably links up with the Amcha Initiative (Tammy Rossman Benjamin) moving directly from videoing students and professors to communicating directly with university administrators/donors regarding “antisemetic” activities. This is McCarthyism on steroids: Professors and students being surreptiously captured on video (which may or may not be edited) and then branded anti-Semites. Even without such intrusive shadowing, several California professors have undergone intense investigation after Amcha-like accusations (Dr. Benjamin is reported as a repeated complainant) . They were cleared after broad faculty support and outrage at violation of faculty senate procedures for such investigations. If tenured faculty have difficulty withstanding such an onslaught of accusation, can we expect students – for whom the power is asymmetrical and who have few resources/supports for opposing such smears – to take risks in class discussions. Food for thought: Amcha has listed 218 professors as “anti-Semites” – encouraging blacklisting of these individuals. How much longer will this list grow? Will it be accompanied by similar lists of students – of course, targeting activist students, those active in student government who may not be trustworthy on Palestine issues and, of course – given the anonymity of the accuser, a great method of settling personal scores.

        Mooser, I have the greatest respect for you and your impressive insights, but in this case I would disagree.

      • Mooser
        December 23, 2014, 6:29 pm

        “but in this case I would disagree.”

        Oh,I don’t mean to exclude the overt activities of ‘catching’ people at “anti-Semitism”. I have no doubt they will work both ends of it. Both the possibility of harassing academics, and the process of compromising and enmeshing the students they work with are exciting possibilities.

  5. amigo
    December 23, 2014, 4:07 pm

    If these Jews spent their efforts creating peace instead of reporting every time someone says booh to Israel, imagine just how little need there would be for Hillel or ADL or AIPAC or any of the myriad of groups wasting their energy and money backing a loser.

    Makes no sense

    Oh, a message to Boteach, this is certainly Nazi behaviour.


  6. OyVey00
    December 23, 2014, 9:33 pm

    I think these NGOs are the cause of much evil today. Elected by no one and financed by rich oligarchs, they wield an enormous influence in the country.

    China recently cracked down on subversive NGOs. When will the US?

    • Mooser
      December 24, 2014, 10:07 am

      OyVey00, just try to remember one thing.
      ‘Cross at the green, and not in between.’
      Can you remember that?

  7. Dutch
    December 24, 2014, 12:04 am

    Interesting escalation. It leaves a big open space at the center of the combined Hillels for the Open Hillel to fill up without resistance. It opens the door for the situation in which Open Hillel is the standard. Looking at the new app, things might go fast.

    • Mooser
      December 24, 2014, 10:09 am

      Couldn’t agree more. BTW, I’m still waiting for somebody to tell us (if it can be put in a family website) what the hell they do at Hillel? Or is it just a half-way house to the settlements? Or occupied Jerusalem?

    • CigarGod
      December 24, 2014, 11:18 am

      It is an escalation.
      David taunts goliath…thinking goliath cant respond with a jewjitsu app.

  8. kma
    December 25, 2014, 12:12 pm

    can someone let us know the actual details of the app?
    what does it ask for? are there fields for people’s names? who does the “reporting” go to? Hillel, or Weisenthal? do you have to give your own name? do they tell you what they are going to do with the info submitted? do they warn users to call police instead if something is real (like the doctor’s office msg that says “if this is a real emergency, hang up and call 911”)?

    oh, and can you report Hillel for smearing Jews?

    I like the “breaking news” part of the app. they can follow BDS news.

  9. kma
    December 25, 2014, 12:19 pm

    p.s. the Hillel article says:

    “the Wiesenthal Center will confidentially share in real-time any reports it receives from college campuses regarding anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents”

    what do they mean, “confidentially share”?

    • Mooser
      December 26, 2014, 11:24 am

      “what do they mean, “confidentially share”?”

      Once somebody calls or texts to “report antisemitism”, Hillel pretty much has their number, don’t they? And has some idea of what they are willing to do. I’m sure Hillel can take it from there.

  10. Mooser
    January 2, 2015, 11:43 am

    Wow, nobody’s got a good word to say for Hillel. I wonder what does actually go on in there? Nobody seems to know.

Leave a Reply