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May 11, 2016 6:10 pm

Heavy Backlash Forces Brown University’s Hillel to Pull Sponsorship of ‘Nakba Day’ Event

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Brown University Hillel House. Photo: Brown University Hillel.

Brown University Hillel House. Photo: Brown University Hillel.

Brown University’s Hillel has pulled its sponsorship of a Wednesday event commemorating the 1948 Palestinian Arab exodus from Israel — more commonly referred to as the “Nakba” — following heavy backlash, The Algemeiner has learned.

Hillel, along with other pro-Israel and Jewish student organizations, initially agreed to sponsor the campus event set to feature a film screening and discussion of the Nakba, an Arabic word which literally translates as “disaster” or “catastrophe.” Nakba Day is generally observed on May 15, the day after Israel’s Independence Day on the Gregorian calendar, and often sees heavy rioting and violent protest by Palestinians across Israel and the West Bank.

The initially planned event, titled “Jews Facing the Nakba,” was cancelled by its student organizers following Hillel’s withdrawal of support, sources told The Algemeiner. However, a new private screening, sans Hillel’s sponsorship, but on Hillel premises will take place Wednesday evening. Several other pro-Israel and Jewish groups remain sponsors of the screening.

According to part of a statement — published by pro-Israel blogger IsraellyCool — that was posted on the private Facebook group for the event:

We regret to inform you that internal and external pressures have made the ‘Jews Facing the Nakba’ event unfeasible at this time. The event was previously backed by a politically diverse coalition of students and Hillel staff…Due to the fact that there is no longer unanimous support from Israel-related student groups for this event taking place within the Hillel building, Brown/RISD Hillel can no longer endorse this event. As a group of Jewish students committed to the well-being of the Brown Jewish community, we strongly believe that watching these films and having the difficult conversations that will follow are critical…In order for Hillel to maintain its integrity as a pluralistic Jewish space, the community must embrace Jews who currently feel excluded from mainstream Jewish discourse and who seek to question dominant narratives about Israel…We invite students in the community to join us in gathering…in the Hillel Meeting Room, despite the lack of official Hillel sponsorship. Join us in creating the pluralism that we want to see reflected in the American Jewish institutions that claim to represent us. Join us in setting a precedent for future critical dialogue and institutional change. Students only.

The film being screened at the now private event was produced by the Israeli NGO Zochrot. According to the watchdog group NGO Monitor, Zochrot engages in raising public awareness about the Nakba and stresses the “Palestinian right of return” to all of Israel. The group calls for a “one state solution” and has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing. “This agenda is equivalent to calling for the elimination of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” an NGO Monitor report stated.

Representatives from Brown’s Hillel failed to respond to The Algemeiner’s requests for comment by press time.

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