University of Houston Hillel ‘Very Concerned’ by Upcoming On-Campus National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference
The director of the University of Houston (UH) Hillel center told The Algemeiner on Tuesday he was “very concerned” by the announcement of a notorious national anti-Israel student group that it will hold its annual conference at the Texas campus.
Rabbi Kenny Weiss said he was worried about “the potential for increased BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) activity [on campus]” due to the National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) event later this year.
Since NSJP’s announcement on Sunday that the conference will take place at UH — its first-ever gathering in the southern US — Weiss said he has been on the phone with student leaders, who have already left campus for summer break, and local groups.
“Our students are going to coordinate with each other, and with local and national origination to prepare a response, if any is warranted, and to strategize about our Israel advocacy for next year,” Weiss said
He has also contacted the school’s administration, hoping to secure a promise to provide whatever support Hillel might need, including the possibility for extra security during the conference, whose date has yet to be announced.
“We’re ecstatic to be hosting! Looking forward to an amazing conference!” wrote SJP Houston on Twitter after NSJP’s announcement.
Weiss said he was not surprised by the choice of UH for the meeting, given the higher profile of the Houston chapter over the last several years and faculty support for the group.
“We’ve very clearly seen an increased level of organization [in UH’s SJP], which has paralleled the increased professionalism of the SJP nationally,” Weis noted.
Recent SJP Houston activities have included an “expressed intention BDS to student government, though it has not yet materialized,” according to Weiss.
The group has organized an annual Israeli Apartheid Week for years, and in April 2016, it held a fundraiser for convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh, who was then fighting a legal battle to counter an immigration fraud charge for concealing her terror activities on US naturalization forms (Odeh has since plead guilty and is set for deportation).
Hillel will not be seeking to get the NSJP conference relocated.
“We and our students have never and would never try to suppress SJP’s freedom of expression,” said Weiss.
UH representatives were not immediately available for comment.
At last year’s SJP conference, held at Virginia’s George Mason University, Israel activists expressed disappointment with the “Jewish establishment” for opting not to participate in a peaceful protest of students and locals.
UH Hillel’s Weiss said he “it won’t be an issue” at his campus to organize a unified front.