American Jews Stand Up for Their Own Rights in Israel, but NOT for Palestinian Rights

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The chair of the Union for Reform Judaism, Daryl Messinger, announced this past week that she will boycott El Al, Israel’s national airline. Like other Reform leaders, Messinger is protesting the Israeli government’s decisions to suspend the creation an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall and expand the Orthodox Rabbinate’s monopoly over conversions. (1)
At the same time, the president of the Chicago Jewish Federation, Steven Nasatir, declared that Israeli lawmakers who voted for the Conversion Bill would not be welcome in Chicago. (2) And AIPAC board member Isaac Fisher will suspend his donations to Israel in protest of these recent Israeli government decisions. (3)
Under Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership, all three of these individuals would be barred from Hillel.
Hillel’s McCarthyist Standards bar anyone who supports boycotts as a tactic to change Israeli policy. (4) Yet these Jewish leaders (and many more!) are actively championing boycotts in order to pressure the Israeli government to uphold its commitments to religious pluralism.
Hillel’s Standards also bar anyone deemed to “apply a double Standard” to Israel. (5) Usually, Hillel uses this language to ban student groups and activists who address the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories but don’t simultaneously discuss human rights abuses occurring all over the world. Yet Jewish leaders who are currently standing up for religious pluralism and gender equity in Israel are not calling on Saudi Arabia, Iran, France, or China to uphold these same principles.
Recent events demonstrate that Hillel’s commitment to censoring criticism of Israel is illogical, unethical, and counterproductive.
Tikkun magazine aligns with Open Hillel, an organization fighting for vibrant and inclusive Jewish communities that celebrate our Jewish traditions of discussion, debate, and protest.
The controversy over Israel’s refusal to allow egalitarian prayer groups to pray at the Western Wall of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, popularly known as “the Kotel,” has incensed many elements of American Jewry, who feel that their rights are being denied. We wish they had felt similarly through the past fifty years while Israel has systematically denied the rights of Palestinians. Tikkun salutes Open Hillel for challenging the position taken by International Hillel that Jewish groups that support boycotts, divestments or sanctions against Israel’s Occupation of the West Bank may not hold meetings in campus Hillel facilities.

1. Ben Sales, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Fed-up Reform leaders are thinking twice about their donations to Israel,” July 5, 2017.
2. Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, “MKs backing conversion bill not welcome in Chicago, Jewish leader warns,” June 27, 2017.
3. Aidan Pink, Jewish Daily Forward, “Jewish Philanthropist May ‘Suspend’ Aid To Israel Over Diaspora Controversies,” July 2, 2017.
4. Hillel International, “Hillel Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities,” 2010.
5. Hillel International, “Hillel Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities,” 2010.