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“And I am a supporter of BDS.”

With those seven words, uttered at the Harvard Hillel last Wednesday night, the great Dorothy Zellner violated the Hillel International standards that bar speakers who have endorsed Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Open Hillel celebrated the moment:

Victory! Harvard Hillel breaks the Hillel International Standards of Partnership!

This is historic (and should make Jews of conscience weep). The event was titled “From Selma to Ferguson: Religious Tradition as Solidarity.” At 16:00 in the video below, Zellner describes her Palestine work: She is a founding member of Jews Say No. “We demonstrate in largely-Jewish neighborhoods about what we consider the evils” of the Israeli occupation. She’s a volunteer for Jewish Voice for Peace, and a board member of the Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre. Then she states her support for BDS.

From the Forward: 

Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, the director of Harvard’s Hillel, denied any violation of the guidelines, noting that Zellner only briefly mentioned her support for BDS….Despite Steinberg’s claims, the guidelines make no exception for speakers who only briefly discuss their support for BDS. Nor do they make a distinction between supporters of BDS who use events to advocate for isolating Israel and those who primarily discuss other subjects.

Zellner also speaks about taking the solidarity tradition she learned from the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to Israel and Palestine. Zellner has said that “we are winning” the struggle for Palestine inside America. Her appearance is further evidence of that trend.

But. It seems like Hillel is invoking those standards after all. Hillel at UMass Amherst barred a presentation by Zellner and two other veterans of the civil rights movement on Thursday night, citing the fact that it was Israeli Apartheid Week on campus. The panel went off at another location on campus.

We got this press release last night from Open Hillel.


Jewish Civil Rights Veterans Barred from Speaking at MIT, UMass Amherst Hillels

Students decry exclusive “Standards of Partnership”

Boston, MA—Hillel staff at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Massachusetts (UMass) at Amherst have declined to host three white Jewish veterans of the Civil Rights Movement in campus Hillels.

The veteran activists — Dorothy Zellner, Ira Grupper, and Larry Rubin — served as Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizers in the 1960s. They traveled to Massachusetts as part of a national tour to promote open discourse on Israel-Palestine in campus Jewish communities.

The speakers are touring to share their experiences working for human rights in the 1960s, in modern-day America, and in Israel-Palestine. They spoke at UMass Amherst Thursday, and will speak at MIT on Sunday evening.

Despite their heroic work fighting for civil rights in America, the three Jewish speakers were not allowed to speak in the campus Hillels at MIT and UMass Amherst.

“These are the exact type of speakers Hillel should be sponsoring–they are examples to all of us of how to apply Jewish values of tikkun olam to our lives,” said Josh Strassman, a freshman at UMass Amherst. “The fact that UMass Amherst Hillel would decline to assist at all with the event speaks volumes about their lack of commitment to open dialogue.”

Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership bar the Jewish speakers because of their views on Israel. Two of the speakers endorse the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.

MIT Hillel told student organizers that there would not be time to perform the “due-diligence” to see if the invited speakers were “in line with MIT Hillel’s values.” UMass Hillel declined based on the timing of the event, which they said coincided with UMass’s first Israeli Apartheid Week. By contrast, Harvard Hillel hosted an event with one of the speakers on Wednesday night at a civil rights-themed panel.

“I see this as an obvious political litmus test,” said Caroline Morganti, a junior at MIT who serves as the Open Hillel Communications Coordinator and coordinator for the Massachusetts leg of the national tour. “I encourage MIT to reconsider and to put more trust in students, like myself and my friends, who now are organizing the event on campus outside of Hillel. Jewish students are capable of creating the discussions we would like to see on campus, and Hillel should facilitate that, rather than dictating from above.”

The national tour will run from February 25th through the end of April.  During this time, the Jewish veterans of the Civil Rights Movement will visit over a dozen schools across New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, and the South.

More about From Mississippi to Jerusalem here. Open Hillel describes itself as “a national grassroots organization of Jewish college students and young alumni working to promote inclusion and open discourse on Israel-Palestine within campus Jewish communities.”

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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43 Responses

  1. Sycamores on February 28, 2015, 12:49 pm

    Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance an affiliated group of Harvard Hillel. i’m surprise HCJA has ‘from Selma to Ferguson’ video (their only video) on their youtube account.

  2. pabelmont on February 28, 2015, 1:19 pm

    Curious attitude of Hillel-Int’l (“HI”). You cannot visit (or speak publicly or something) if you ARE a BDS supporter. Means more than something about your secret thoughts I guess. Support must be visible I guess. But your reason for seeking to visit HI-occupied-territory seems irrelevant. Even to speak about green Martians, you are proscribed. You’re toxic. Wonder if it corrects things for you to (later) publicly have said that you don’t support BDS. Or don’t support all of it. Do you stay toxic?

    “Toxic”. Try it on, see if it fits. If you ever, ever in your life, spoke bad words (“bad” as defined by HI), you are thereafter toxic. Cannot do (something) in HI-occupied-territory. Cannot visit? Cannot speak? Cannot stand in the cafeteria line? Something. (I don’t write the rules.)

    Think of the American south, ca 1960. Separate water fountains. Guess HI is not a place of public accommodation. Thought police! (Didn’t Germany and Japan have thought police during WWII?) Well, that’s OK because HI is not the government. Just a private censorship club in which frightened Jews may huddle, there to be protected from hearing unbearable opinion — never mind that such opinion is freely available outside HI-occupied-territory.

    So it goes.

    • Mooser on February 28, 2015, 6:30 pm

      ” Do you stay toxic?”

      Certainly no more than if you had been rendered unclean by consumption of trefe or other transgressions from the Covenants. With the right prayers, the right ritual, I’m sure it can be atoned for, and a purification effected.

      • RoHa on March 1, 2015, 10:47 am

        So if you don’t atone, you won’t go to Hillel?

      • Mooser on March 1, 2015, 12:21 pm

        I think we will see some spectacular in-and-out running before this whole steeplechase ends.

      • Mooser on March 2, 2015, 2:34 pm

        “So if you don’t atone, you won’t go to Hillel?”

        Nobody said it was simple. It’s complicated.

  3. hophmi on February 28, 2015, 3:12 pm

    I am hopeful that National SJP will now drop their ban on Zionist speakers and Palestinian dissidents who disagree with BDS, such as human rights activist Bassam Eid, and follow the lead of the Harvard Hillel by inviting speakers who dissent from their point of view on Israel, particularly since most members of SJP are ignorant about Israel. Will you join me in this call, Phil?

    • Mooser on February 28, 2015, 6:20 pm

      “Jewish Civil Rights Veterans Barred from Speaking at MIT, UMass Amherst Hillels” it looks like the answer, straight from the mouth of Hillel, came back showing which line they will take. Looks like they’ll be going to Hillel in a handbasket soon.

    • Cliff on February 28, 2015, 8:24 pm

      hoppy said:

      […]Palestinian dissidents who disagree with BDS[…]


      You mean all 3 of them?

      What is SJP ignorant about regarding Israel, you troll?

      Israel is a settler-colonial state that only exists through constantly waging war on a captured civilian population.

      You are the enemy and your community supports terrorism and apartheid.

      • hophmi on March 1, 2015, 9:51 pm

        Yes, I mean people like the President of the Palestinian Authority, the founder of Rawabi, and a substantial portion of the Palestinian business community. Oh, I’m sorry, Cliff, do you really expect people to believe that a couple hundred NGO’s is the same thing as popular support? It isn’t true in the United States, and it isn’t true in Palestine. But you’re a Westerner, Cliff. You know better, right?

    • jon s on March 2, 2015, 5:08 am

      I get it: people who support a boycott don’t like being boycotted themselves. They can complain about being banned without any apparent sense of irony.
      I’ve always said that anti-Zionists are a legitimate part of the community and their voices should be heard, as long as they don’t cross certain lines. However, those who support a boycott don’t have a moral leg to stand on when they demand to be heard.

      • eGuard on March 2, 2015, 5:39 am

        jon s: wrong. BDS does not boycott people, and so not for their opinion. Hillel does and does.

      • seafoid on March 2, 2015, 5:43 am

        “However, those who support a boycott don’t have a moral leg to stand on when they demand to be heard.”

        Israel kills children to keep the status quo going and people don’t have the right to call for boycott because it is “immoral”. Are you for real? What is moral about blowing up mothers in the name of security for Jews ?

        Israel is completely unsustainable. Boycott is an effort to save what can be saved before it all blow up.

      • hophmi on March 2, 2015, 1:17 pm

        “BDS does not boycott people, and so not for their opinion.”

        Really? So I can expect BDS to invite Zionists to share their point of view?

      • Mooser on March 2, 2015, 2:39 pm

        I’ve always said that anti-Zionists are a legitimate part of the community and their voices should be heard, as long as they don’t cross certain lines.”

        And if they do “cross certain lines” Jon s, what the f–k do you intend to do about it? Will it be the same penalty Judaism imposes for eating pork? Or even not getting their kids circumcised? Or worshipping mostly in English? Or marrying Gentiles?

        Tell me, Oh powerful one, what you intend to do when anti-Zionists “cross certain lines”? I’ll tell you, you’ll do bugger-all about it, chump. C’mon tell us what punishment, what disciplinary power you intend to use.

      • hophmi on March 2, 2015, 3:16 pm

        “Tell me, Oh powerful one, what you intend to do when anti-Zionists “cross certain lines”?”

        They just won’t be permitted the platforms afforded to them by Jewish institutions. Nor should they desire them, for that matter. The Jewish communal tent is really quite large as far as minority communities go. It takes quite a bit for us to exclude someone from it. But I can’t see the purpose of providing space for critics who have no interest in being part of our community, except insofar as it provides them with a platform to spread their radical politics and to bash the community relentlessly. There are many places for them to do that with our subsidizing of it.

        As far as controversy goes, the Jewish communal tent is really quite large. We have many critics of Israel inside of it, albeit not anti-Zionists who endorse full-on boycotts and engage in demonization. Catholic organizations tend not to be very welcoming to pro-choice voices. The African-American community is not especially welcoming to critics of affirmative action. Mecha isn’t going to invite a speaker who believes undocumented immigrants should be deported en masse. CAIR isn’t going to invite Muhdi Jasser.

      • Mooser on March 2, 2015, 6:46 pm

        “It takes quite a bit for us to exclude someone from it”

        What you mean-um “Us” Hophmi? Which organizations are you talking about, and how do they achieve consistency and discipline in knowing who to ban, who to allow?

        “Us”? Yeah, okay, Head Rabbi Hophmi.

      • Mooser on March 2, 2015, 9:33 pm

        “It takes quite a bit for us to exclude someone from it”

        Unless of course, you are Dorothy Zellner. In that case, your standing is so low that all it takes is those seven words “And I am a supporter of BDS.”

        And comes back the answer from Hillel: banned. I guess that’s what you call “quite a bit to exclude someone from it”. A really fair exhaustive and public “quite a bit” too.

    • pjdude on March 3, 2015, 12:21 am

      your comparing to very different things and pretending their the same. Zionists are actively opposed to peace. it would be like inviting david duke to speak at the NAACP. jews who are for BDS aren’t opposed to jewishness or even zionism they just don’t think Israel should be commiting war crimes. and SJP is not ignorant on Israel that they don’t agree with your dishonest and distorted view doesn’t mean their ignorant it means they’re informed. so once again you demand SJP to invite people inimical to there interests as the same same as your pressure terrorist supporting hillel for once not banning any and all dissent. your a hack

      • jon s on March 8, 2015, 5:51 am

        As to”crossing certain lines”, here’s an example: Gilad Atzmon, who crossed into outright anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, which puts him out of the “Jewish communal tent”.

      • seafoid on March 8, 2015, 6:39 am

        The jewish communal tent reeks of hasbara urine which the Zionists attempt to piss out. It’s all over the walls of the tent now and it smells dreadful. Neighbours have been complaining about the odours. They are branded as anti semites but it’s more like a mental health and safety issue.

      • Walid on March 8, 2015, 10:09 am

        “which puts him out of the “Jewish communal tent”. _(jon s)

        You surely meant out of the Zionist tent, unless of course you are of those that believe that Judaism and Zionism are the same thing. I believe Atzmon is still very much a Jew.

  4. Karin on February 28, 2015, 4:42 pm

    I totally clicked on that “Mississippi to Jerusalem” link and donated money for their Freedom Summer Veterans Tour. They are still trying to raise matching funds.

    • jon s on March 8, 2015, 5:37 pm

      No, Walid, I did mean the Jewish community, As I’ve said, I think that Jewish anti-Zionists are a legitimate part of the community, and should be heard. After all, Jewish anti-Zionism has been around since the birth of modern Zionism: assimilationists and autonomists, Reform and Ultra-Orthodox and Communists, they were all part of the conversation. What makes us Jews, if not the way that we continuosly argue among ourselves?
      I used Atzmon as an extreme, atypical, example , of a person who has placed himself beyond the pale, out of the conversation.

      • Walid on March 8, 2015, 5:47 pm

        Jon s, so you’ve made Atzmon an outcast eventhough you admit there are Jews of many colours. What’s so exceptional about him or his behaviour that makes you say he is no longer a Jew?

  5. lonely rico on March 1, 2015, 3:08 am

    they’ll be going to Hillel in a handbasket
    soon, or not,
    you can count on them taking the long view –

    from Hillel to eternity.

    • seafoid on March 2, 2015, 6:15 am

      Hillel was hijacked by right wing extremists with money just like the NRA was in the 60s. Every single nationwide major Jewish org has been infiltrated by Zionists and corrupted. What is the point of an Anti Defamation League that stands behind the torture of children or a Hillel, (named after a Jewish “saint” known for his erudition, wisdom and goodness) that supports carpet bombing ?

      • hophmi on March 2, 2015, 1:21 pm

        ” What is the point of an Anti Defamation League that stands behind the torture of children or a Hillel, (named after a Jewish “saint” known for his erudition, wisdom and goodness) that supports carpet bombing ?”

        Don’t know. What’s the point of a CAIR that cannot condemn Palestinian terrorism?

        In any event, you’ll have to ask all of the victims of hate crimes who have benefited from the hate crimes legislation ADL worked hard to pass throughout the country, or the students on campus who primarily attend Hillel to celebrate Jewish culture, and not for Israel activism, what the point of these organizations are, because I can assure you that they’ll see a point. Despite your ignorant ranting, these organizations are not primarily concerned with Israel.

      • Mooser on March 2, 2015, 2:54 pm

        ” or the students on campus who primarily attend Hillel to celebrate Jewish culture, and not for Israel activism,”

        And even the most cursory examination of Hillel will show how completely segregated these two aspects are at Hillel.

        Or is Hophmi trying to say the “Israel activism” arm of Hillel is a secretive underground organization which does not expose itself to ordinary Hillel members? Okay!

      • hophmi on March 2, 2015, 3:07 pm

        It’s not secretive. It’s just not what most kids go to Hillel for, just as most Catholic kids don’t go to Catholic Fellowship to talk about abortion.

      • Mooser on March 2, 2015, 9:35 pm

        “It’s not secretive. It’s just not what most kids go to Hillel for, just as most Catholic kids don’t go to Catholic Fellowship to talk about abortion.”

        I can’t respond to that, the reek of flop-sweat speaks for itself.

      • seafoid on March 2, 2015, 9:44 pm

        Nice try hoppy but you’ll have to do better. Why does the ADL have 2 personalities, one Jekyll, the other Hyde ?

        Bad news keeps comin’, hard to keep somethin’ on your stomach
        Your sick ’bout what ya life is becomin’
        But your use-to’s has-beens raggin’ bad ’bout all the new dudes
        Talking tough on the Youtube
        ‘Bout what you use to do but that’s old school to the new crew
        They doin’ numbers like Sudoku

        There’re the new you and it’s damn near inevitable
        They’ll experience deja vu too
        Fight and you’ll never survive, run and you’ll never escape
        So just fall from grace, damn

      • Mooser on March 3, 2015, 12:04 pm

        “It’s just not what most kids go to Hillel for, just as most Catholic kids don’t go to Catholic Fellowship to talk about abortion.”

        Nettie hasn’t even spoken yet, and Hophmi is reduced to this. Not to mention the disquisition of Phil’s “self-hate”. That will do you a lot of good, Hophmi. Wouldn’t be surprised if Commentary or Tablet picks it up. Or one of your outreach orgs puts it in the newsletter.

        But what have you got left, Hophmi? Did you blow your wad, already? Look, get a good night’s sleep, let the Ziocaine Syndrome Amnesia phase do its blessed work, and you can say all the same dumb stuff again tomorrow. Sleep tight, Hophmi, and don’t let the pre-traumatic stress get you.

    • jon s on March 9, 2015, 2:21 am

      Walid, I already regret having mentioned Atzmon because I now find myself discussing him, how distasteful.
      I didn’t say that he’s not a Jew. Who am I to make such a determination?
      On the other hand, I doubt that he considers himself to be one.
      He’s made himself an outcast- as you put it – by descending into blatant anti-Semitism , including Holocaust denial.

      • Walid on March 9, 2015, 2:38 am

        It’s OK, jon, we’ll drop Atzmon and wait for the next issue to be discussed.

      • RoHa on March 9, 2015, 4:59 am

        I understand why holocaust denial is forbidden on this site, but I don’t understand (a) why it is bad, and (b) why it is deemed anti-Semitic. Can you explain?

      • annie on March 9, 2015, 1:15 pm

        do you also not understand why promoting the idea palestine was a land with no people for a people with no land is bad? what about there are no palestinians? have a hard time understanding why that’s racist? it’s not quite the same as denying mary was a virgin. it takes a certain kind of willful ignorance to deny that many people were murdered, and to what end roha? i think denying mike brown was murdered is racist and i am sure there are many who disagree with me on that. but denying the germans willfully murdered jews, what’s the point in that other than the argument that’s spelled out in our comment policy as being a discussion we’re not allowing. so, if you understand why holocaust is forbidden on this site why asked for a discussion that invites counter arguments that are forbidden?

      • Mooser on March 10, 2015, 3:52 pm

        “He’s made himself an outcast”

        Because you don’t like him? Who the fuck are you, “Jon s” the Head Rabbi?
        So you think there are so many of us that we should throw some of the weaker specimens to the lions? There’s that good old tribal unity I’m so proud of.

        You would sell out any Jew who didn’t meet your specifications.

        And Atzmon seems to be doing quite well in spite of you “outcasting” him. Gosh, what an exclusive group you balbatiseh yiden are. Most Jews aren’t good enough for you.

      • RoHa on March 14, 2015, 3:03 pm

        Well, I tried, but if anyone knows the answer, they are not allowed to tell me. My attempts to clarify the question are not published, so I am not allowed to ask it again. I will have to remain puzzled.

  6. seafoid on March 2, 2015, 6:23 am

    “Forcing aboriginal people to move from their communities is a form of cultural genocide,” says Tammy Solonec of Amnesty International Australia.

    So is what Israel is doing in Gaza. And we are supposed to accept it because it’s good for Jews?

    • jon s on March 9, 2015, 5:16 pm

      RoHa, Because Holocaust denial is considered to be a form of hate speech.

  7. Kay24 on March 2, 2015, 6:27 am

    Boycotting begins in the West Bank shops. Some Israeli products already not on shelves:

    “AP – Most West Bank shops no longer carry the products of six major Israeli food companies, as a boycott triggered by rising Israeli-Palestinian tensions is taking hold, a boycott leader said Sunday.

    Activists in the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the boycott plans last month, after Israel halted transfer of vital tax revenues to Abbas’ cash-strapped Palestinian Authority. Israel took that step after the Palestinians joined the International Criminal Court to seek war crimes charges against Israel.”

    Good job.

    • Walid on March 2, 2015, 8:26 am

      “Activists in the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the boycott plans last month, ” (Kay)

      This is President Abbas’ second drive around the block with this, the last time was about 3 or 4 years ago and included the preventing Palestinians from working in Israeli companies. Merchants selling Israeli-made or produced goods were threatened with fines, confiscations and worse. The campaign lasted something like 2 or 3 months before it fizzled out and the campaign became yesterday’s news. This time, the president has targetted 6 Israeli companies only selling mostly non-essential foods and has given the merchants 6 weeks to liquidate their stocks of Israeli goods before the fines kick in.

      Ironically, one of the companies on the current black list sells bottled water from Israel’s theft of water on the Golan. But of course this has nothing to do with President Abbas’ decision to launch the boycott. All Israeli products without exception should be boycotted. The PA’s notices of condolences for Charlie Hebdo and the Chapel Hill victims were touching, even joined in the Paris parade and for the 3 Moslem American kids because thay all had Palestinian roots.

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