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March 29, 2016 8:31 am

Coalition of Pro-Israel Groups Urges Hillel Not to Continue Hosting ‘Breaking the Silence’

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Columbia University.   Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Columbia University. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A group of 13 pro-Israel organizations has written to Hillel, International — the world’s largest Jewish campus organization — urging it not to host the left-wing Israeli “whistleblowing” group Breaking the Silence (BtS) in its spaces, as the next such event is slated for Thursday at the Columbia/Barnard Hillel, sponsored by the campus branch of J Street U.

According to the letter, addressed to Hillel’s president, Eric Fingerhut, and obtained by The Algemeiner, by hosting BtS, Hillel is violating is own “standards of partnership,” which preclude the organization from working with groups that “delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel.”

BtS, the letter continues,

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seeks to portray a distorted, demonized view of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), with slanted, one-sided and misleading claims of “crimes against humanity” and claims of “ethnic cleansing.” Like many similar groups, Breaking the Silence presents itself as being simply “against the occupation.” However, the imagery and signage that they use presents all of Israel, including the 1949 armistice lines, or pre-1967 lines, as being “occupied territory.”

The letter continues by quoting Major General (res.) Eitan Dangot — who has served four years as IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, stating that BtS does great harm to Israel by releasing unsubstantiated allegations of soldiers’ abuses — Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who wrote in a recent op-ed that “[BtS] uses unproven allegations peddled as truths to credulous foreigners in order to override the decisions of a democratic government.”

Two weeks ago, Hillel, International released a statement defending its decision to allow local chapters to host the group, as reported by The Algemeiner. It stated that Hillel does “not support BtS or its mission in any way,” and that its staff, when “confronted with BtS on their campuses,” would ensure that “students hear from other voices challenging BtS’s assertions.” Still, it concluded, Hillel had reviewed the allegation that the BtS program violates Hillel’s guidelines and was “confident it is false.”

According to a statement released at the same time by Columbia/Barnard Hillel Executive Director Brian Cohen, “During the same week as this program, a group of undergraduate students who served in the IDF will share their own narrative with our students.”

Neither the BtS event nor the event Cohen described appeared on Columbia Hillel’s online calendar, nor had a request for clarification been answered by press time.

The letter sent to Hillel concluded: “Providing alternative perspectives is not sufficient; the damage caused by the speakers of BtS will already have been done. We encourage you to instead partner with the Embassy of Israel and the IDF to provide appropriate forums with credentialed spokesmen.”

Among the letter’s signatories are the Endowment for Middle East Truth, Middle East Forum, Arabs for Israel, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and Z Street.

BtS is currently under investigation in Israel for attempting to obtain classified military information, as reported by The Algemeiner.

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  • What’s with the comma between “Hillel” and “International” in the first and fifth paragraphs? Are we supposed to read something into this?

  • Alexandra

    I go to Columbia.

    Brian Cohen is lying through his teeth. There is no event this week where Israeli soldiers argue in favour of Israel and tell their story against BtS.

    I have my sources that tell me J Street bought them off. I’m inclined to believe my sources as there is no other reason a pro-Israel org like Hillel would embrace BtS as it has.

    • Harry

      Nonsense. An event called “IDF Code of Conduct,” led by former IDF soldiers, discussing Israel’s humane rules of engagement and their service, is being held after Shabbat dinner.

      Your “sources” are wrong or just a figment of your imagination, as is your libel against Mr. Cohen and Hillel.

      And Hillel is not “embracing” BtS, it’s allowing a discussion to take place. If you’re truly a Columbia student, why don’t you come and ask questions?

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