Open Hillel Outed as ‘Vessel for BDS Agenda’ by Former Campus Co-ordinator
Back in October, Holly Bicerano, a Jewish student at Boston University, penned an article for the Times of Israel entitled “Why Hillel Should Welcome Anti-Zionists and BDS Backers.” Extolling the virtues of a group calling itself “Open Hillel” – a moniker adopted in protest at the refusal of the official Hillel student organization to host speakers at its events who advocate the elimination of the State of Israel – Bicerano wrote that excluding such organizations and individuals “would be a serious mistake…Doing so will only serve to divide the community.”
Two months later, however, Bicerano has undergone a dramatic change of heart.
In a fresh piece for the Times of Israel, Bicerano, who served as Campus Outreach Co-ordinator for Open Hillel, said that the organization “has something else in mind” other than its stated goals of “open dialogue and inclusiveness.”
“The people who claim that Open Hillel’s main objective is to garner support for the BDS movement may not realize just how right they are,” Bicerano asserted.
Bicerano said that while Open Hillel zealously insists on tolerance for the BDS movement, “many Open Hillel leaders are intolerant of pro-Israel voices that they dislike.”
Bicerano discovered this fact when she invited Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and the author of “Night,” the classic account of his incarceration in the Nazi Auschwitz concentration camp, to a recent Open Hillel conference.
Shockingly, Bicerano recalled that her Open Hillel comrades “took this as an opportunity to demonize and reject him. They felt that they could not make their point without resorting to name-calling and using curse words against Wiesel.”
Bicerano also recounted that Open Hillel’s attempts to address the issue of “anti-normalization” – an anodyne term used by pro-Palestinian activists to harass and marginalize pro-Israel students – consisted of inviting two members of the violently anti-Semitic hate group, Students for Justice in Palestine, to address Open Hillel supporters.
“By presenting the topic from only this ideological standpoint, the committee actually indoctrinated people to hate Israel, rather offering a balance of views – from which people could decide for themselves what to believe,” Bicerano wrote.
Most damningly, Bicerano stated that “Open Hillel has become a vessel for the BDS agenda.”
“It is hard to feel bad for a group that complains of being alienated when they have joined forces with those who make campuses hostile to many Jewish students,” she wrote. “Moreover, it is pretty clear that empowering these groups in a major Jewish institution like Hillel would estrange many more people.”
Bicerano also voiced criticism of Safe Hillel, a Zionist group that has protested the involvement of left-wing Jewish groups like J Street, which opposes sanctions on Iran and supports targeted boycotts of Jewish communities in the West Bank, for creating “similar problems.” Both Safe Hillel and Open Hillel, she said, “have cultivated animosities in the Jewish community.”
Daniel Mael, a Jewish senior at Brandeis University who has been active in combating anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic agitation on American campuses, welcomed Bicerano’s revelations about Open Hillel.
“After attending multiple sessions at the Open Hillel conference I find Holly’s revelations entirely on par with what I observed,” Mael told The Algemeiner. “The Open Hillel movement is infested with hatred, vitriol and a desire to destroy the organized Jewish community.”
Mael said that Open Hillel is led by extremists who “would like nothing more than to see the end of Israel.” Rejecting Open Hillel’s description of itself as a liberal group, Mael said that “there is nothing liberal about them. They are leftist ideologues unwilling to engage in critical thinking.”
“Perhaps they have been dishonest in order to fit in with their colleagues at J Street,” Mael speculated.
Bicerano’s article is the second time in recent weeks that Open Hillel has been exposed for dishonest tactics and rhetoric. In November, Daniel Blinderman, an Open Hillel activist, was fired from his job with the American Jewish Committee after attempting to leak the details of a private call with Hillel International President Eric Fingerhut to his comrades.
“As your resident inside person, it will be my pleasure to listen in on the call, and pass along any and all things of relevance Fingerhut says,” Blinderman wrote in an email to Open Hillel activists.
It is not clear whether the American Jewish Committee was aware of Blinderman’s Open Hillel affiliation before hiring him.