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February 3, 2019 11:23 am

J Street U, SJP Chapters at University of Vermont Release Letters Slamming Hillel

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Scene on the campus of the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt. Photo: AlexiusHoratius/Wikimedia Commons. – The University of Vermont (UVM) chapters of J Street U and Students for Justice in Palestine released similar letters on Friday blasting the Hillel on campus for accepting funding from the anti-BDS group Maccabee Task Force (MTF), which will use some of the monies to organize a trip to Israel for students.

SJP’s statement slams the UVM pro-Israel community for “a refusal to listen to Palestinian voices,” while J Street U denounces it for an “omission and erasure of Palestinian voices.”

Additionally, SJP rebuked UVM Hillel for creating an “unsafe environment,” while J Street U condemns it for enabling “unnecessary divides.”

Another parallel between the two letters is that J Street alleges that the MTF trip “obfuscate the reality for many Palestinians by omitting the narratives of Palestinians living in Gaza and Area C of the West Bank who bear the brunt of Israeli military occupation and blockade,” while SJP charges that MTF “offers a guided tour of Israel designed to bewilder them with the complexities of the region so they will step back from any on-campus activism and ‘leave it to the experts.’”

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“This insidious tactic is designed to obscure the ease of access that we all have to information in the Internet age and is rooted in a refusal to listen to Palestinian voices, many of whom have lived in occupied territory for most or part of their lives, and who share their experiences freely and fully online and on campuses throughout the country,” continued SJP.

The groups condemned MTF, which combats BDS on campus, whose views are not aligned with theirs. SJP advocates for BDS on campus, including through pushing for resolutions calling on their respective college or university to separate from its interests in the Jewish state. While J Street has claimed that it does not support BDS, it has partnered with groups such as SJP that do.

MTF refuted the accusations and invited them to join them on its trip to Israel.

“For years, J Street has told the American Jewish community that the only way to convince students to support Israel is to embrace their critique of Israel. We’ve proven them wrong,” MTF executive director David Brog told JNS. “We’ve shown that sharing the reality on the ground—warts and all—persuades any reasonable student to shun the one-sided scapegoating of Israel behind BDS. Instead of fighting us, these students should join us. The door is open.”

J Street U did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

UVM Hillel Executive Director Matt Vogel told UVM’s student newspaperThe Vermont Cynic: “I’m proud that Hillel is an open space where we can talk together. The Maccabee Task Force funds will enable students from all backgrounds and viewpoints to engage in different perspectives on Israel and Palestine.”

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