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September 8, 2016 1:36 pm

Head of World’s Largest Jewish Student Organization: BDS Activists Resorting to Violence on Campus Due to Effectiveness of Pro-Israel Efforts (INTERVIEW)

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Eric Fingerhut, the next president and CEO of Hillel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Anti-Israel campus activists are resorting to violent behavior due to the effectiveness of the pro-Israel community in combating their efforts, the head of the world’s largest Jewish student organization told The Algemeiner.

“We saw a real reduction in the number of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolutions last year,” said Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International, in reference to a finding from a recent report on anti-Israel campus trends. “Alongside this, there was a dramatic uptick in disruptive and even violent behavior targeting pro-Israel programs and students.” 

This radicalized conduct, Fingerhut told The Algemeiner, is in reaction to the pro-Israel community’s “successful engagement of the BDS debate.”

According to Fingerhut, today’s campus antisemitism is in some ways the “outgrowth of tolerance of an increasingly virulent form of anti-Israel behavior.” Jewish students are coming under attack “regardless of what their individual commitments and relationships are to the state of Israel,” he said.

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“What started as a normal form of debate and dissent about Israel — to which Hillel International wanted and needed to respond — has clearly become an excuse for conduct that has absolutely crossed the line into antisemitism,” he told The Algemeiner.

This “broad base” attack against Jewish students, Fingerhut said, has “led the nature of anti-Israel discourse on campus to become non-rational and has changed campus environments to become havens for antisemitism.”

Antisemitism and its outgrowth — antisemitic anti-Zionism — is one of the greatest threats facing Jewish and pro-Israel students today, Fingerhut said, and Hillel International, which works with 550 campuses in North America alone, is on the front lines combating it.

“We are seeing anti-Israel bias is steadily permeating certain university departments, disciplines and even entire institutions. This bias is manifesting itself in completely unacceptable and intolerable ways, and Hillel International is making sure the universities we partner with understand and address these challenges head on,” he told The Algemeiner.

Pointing to his organization’s proactive approach, Fingerhut said Hillel International is working with its professionals and university officials to “learn from some of the challenges that we have been seeing on other campuses and figuring out ways to get in front of the problem.”

“You can’t just wake up when there is a crisis,” he said. “You have to set the building blocks beforehand.”

As reported by The Algemeiner, according to the above-mentioned campus trends report, released this week by the Israel On Campus Coalition (ICC), while college campuses saw an overall decline in BDS campaigns, there was a major increase in disruptions of Israel-related events. 

The ICC also noted a growing presence of anti-Israel Jewish groups, which have “proved critical [in] helping [anti-Israel groups] legitimize anti-Zionist rhetoric and effectively defend against accusations of antisemitism.”

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