This coming long weekend, a group calling itself Open Hillel will be holding a conference at Harvard University. And high on the list of issues they will be dealing with has got to be Hillel’s recent decision to institute a loyalty oath, demanding that anyone who joins their organization adhere to Hillel’s “Missions and Policy” statement which includes taking a stand against BDS.
Whoops! My mistake.
Actually, it is the organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), one of the group’s behind the whole Open Hillel faux-“movement,” that requires anyone joining their organization to:
- Pay them $60 (fair enough)
- Agree to lead or partake in at least three JVP-related activities a year (again, perfectly reasonable); and
- Adhere to the organization’s Missions and Policy statement that includes this paragraph regarding BDS:
Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions:
The boycott/divestment/sanctions movement (BDS) encompasses a variety of tactics and targets. JVP rejects the assertion that BDS is inherently anti-semitic, and we encourage discussion both within our own community and outside of it of the growing BDS movement. JVP defends activists’ right to use the full range of BDS tactics without being persecuted or demonized. We support divestment from and boycotts of companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. This includes companies operating in or from occupied Palestinian territory, exploiting Palestinian labor and scarce environmental resources, providing materials or labor for settlements, or producing military or other equipment or materials used to violate human rights or to profit from the Occupation.
Now it may surprise you that I also find this third principle perfectly reasonable. The only thing I can’t fathom is why a group that insists anyone joining its ranks adhere to its rules and guidelines seems so hell bent on crashing someone else’s organization (Hillel), to the point of running campaigns and holding conferences demanding Hillel allow them in, even if they have no intention of adhering to the anti-BDS Hillel policy JVP doesn’t agree with.
Oh well. Moving on, perhaps Open Hillel will directly address the fact that Hillel is insisting that only those who are already Hillel members or those vouched for by an existing member will be allowed to take part in Hillel events. Such a policy, after all, seems calculated to ensure that no one who disagrees with the organization’s choices and policies will be allowed to contaminate an enforced consensus.
Oops! I blew it again. For in my après fast-and-binge holiday stupor I once again mistook for Hillel policy the policy of another group: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which has placed those very restrictions on anyone attending their upcoming conference (which takes place at Tufts University at the end of October). And, as I recently discovered, those busy bees at SJP will be joining their Jewish Voice for Peace allies at the Open Hillel event next weekend. Meaning that two organizations that readily exclude anyone who does not share their opinion are demanding another organization (Hillel) let them in without pre-conditions, all in the name of “openness.”
I considered asking about this contradiction in the comments section of one of the many web sites run by Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine. But, lo and behold, most every one of those sites doesn’t allow comments. Or, as I keep discovering, pro-BDS sites have a habit of disappearing any comments that contradict official doctrine, ensuring no one can soil their eyes with a dissenting thought.
Come to think of it, doesn’t JVP and SJP already attend all kinds of events put on by the Jewish community (including those organized under the umbrella of the campus organization Open Hillel is trying to “open up”) in order to disrupt them (most recently through the use of threats, intimidation and violence)? And doesn’t SJP’s “de-normalization” policy (which forbids them from talking to anyone who has not already capitulated to 100% of their demands beforehand) mean that they have already refused in advance to partake in the kind of dialog “Open Hillel” is insisting must take place?
It’s tempting to see all of these contradictions as just one more example of the hypocrisy which underlies the entire BDS “movement,” (as in “shut up about the 168 kids Hamas killed digging terror tunnels or I’ll punch you in the face, now let’s talk about Israeli war crimes in Gaza”). But I would suggest a military metaphor provides a more pragmatic explanation for the upcoming Open Hillel event, one which does not require us to guess what’s going on in the brain of a BDSer.
For as groups like JVP and SJP gear up for another school year of propaganda carpet bombing, including numerous BDS campaigns, they would understandably like to remove (or neuter) rival pro-Israel organizations, many of whom are likely to be affiliated with the campus Hillel. And if they can get their nostrils inside that big tent, they can use their usual aggressive infiltration tactics to ensure no consensus can ever emerge on how to deal with the very boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns they will continue to run, regardless of what others at Hillel think about such efforts. Meanwhile, the aforementioned loyalty oaths and screening processes baked into BDS groups like JVP and SJP allow them to greedily guard their own civic spaces while demanding entrance to everyone else’s.
To a certain extent, Open Hillel demonstrates how much cynical organizations like JVP and SJP understand that Hillel actually represents the kind of openness the BDSers only feign. And rather than use this understanding to explore whether they should continue to maintain high fortress walls around their own groups, they instead see Hillel’s genuine open mindedness as a weakness to be exploited, rather than a model to be emulated.
So until JVP eliminates its loyalty oaths and SJP ends its “I’m not talking with you unless you agree with me in advance” anti-dialog policies, I think it’s fair to tell Open Hillel to spend the weekend talking to the folks they see in the mirror every morning, rather than wagging their collective finger at the rest of us.