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February 12, 2015 5:41 pm

Hillel President Vows to Stop Hatred Against Jewish Students After Call to Expel Jews From South African University

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Hillel CEO Eric Fingerhut warned that anti-Israel activity could easily slip into open antisemitism. Photo: Twitter.

Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut vowed on Thursday that his organization will not allow hatred against Jewish students to escalate, following a demand to expel Jews at a South African university.

“We will not permit such hatred to take root on any campus in the world where Hillel can extend its reach and offer support,” he said in a statement. “Hillel International stands in solidarity with Jewish students everywhere in their right to experience a safe and welcoming higher education.”

Fingerhut issued the statement in response to reports of the student council at Durban University of Technology  (DUT) in South Africa calling on the school to expel Jewish students who do not support the Palestinian agenda. DUT Vice Chancellor, Professor Ahmed Bawa, rejected the demand calling it “totally unacceptable.”

Fingerhut said he found the suggestion by DUT student leaders to expel Jews “positively chilling.” He connected the incident to the current environment Jewish university students are facing in the US.

“With US campuses continuously tested by BDS, we are mindful of the short leap between contending with an anti-Israel movement and one that is dangerously and unabashedly antisemitic,” he said.

In a subsequent interview with The Algemeiner, Fingerhut elaborated: “I think there is now very clear evidence that in every case where we have seen the anti-Israel activities on campus, that are evidenced by BDS resolutions and apartheid walls etc., that they are increasingly associated with these types of behavior; with the types of harassment of students who identify themselves as pro-Israel. The types of verbal violence and frankly, sometimes now too often, physical violence that can only be categorized as antisemitism.”

Fingerhut added: “The very short path from what is respected political activity regarding issues in the Middle East to antisemitism is being easily crossed and creating an atmosphere that is denying Jewish students in some places their right to an education free of harassment and intimation… and what I saw in Durban was the logical conclusion of that movement. Clearly we are not there yet in the US, but to think that the continuum of hate that we have seen the beginning of in places like UC Davis or other locales does not end at Durban is to mislead ourselves.

“I want us to be aware that we are not immune from the antisemitic consequences of this very significant campaign of hate against Israel that is coming to our campuses.”

Still, according to a recent report by the Israel on Campus Coalition, the hard work by pro-Israel organizations across the US resulted in a surge in campus support for Israel during the fall 2014 semester. The Fall 2014 Campus Activity Report showed there were 63 percent more pro-Israel events in the semester than anti-Israel events. There was also a 53 percent growth in pro-Israel events since 2012 and 36 percent since 2013. Overall, campuses hosting pro-Israel activity jumped by 25.4 percent in 2014.

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