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February 4, 2019 11:11 am

GW Jewish Voice for Peace Chapter Calls for Hillel to Separate From Pro-Israel Group

avatar by JNS.org

The campus of George Washington University. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. 

JNS.org – The Jewish Voice for Peace chapter at George Washington University in Washington, DC, launched a petition calling for the Hillel on campus to cease ties with the Israel on Campus Coalition, whose purpose “is to inspire American college students to see Israel as a source of pride and empower them to stand up for Israel on campus,” according to its website.

The petition has been circulating since last week, despite GW JVP noting in it that “we still do not know the full extent of GW Hillel’s past or present relationship with the ICC,” even though GW JVP has repeatedly asked “for more transparency and earnestness.”

The petition, which had 60 signatures as of Jan. 29, accuses ICC of “[hiring] and [employing] political operatives to combat Palestinian rights and anti-Israel activism on American campuses.” It also implies that it runs an intimidation campaign of “spying on Jewish and Palestinian students,” and launching “targeted advertisements often threaten to expose the identities of student activists [a practice commonly known as ‘doxing’] and report them to blacklists.”

Additionally, it calls for GW Hillel to “clarify the details of its past and present relationship with the ICC,” and “apologize for sanctioning the ICC’s attacks on Jewish, Palestinian and pro-divestment student activists,” as well as “end all engagement with the ICC.”

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Jacob Zionts, a senior and member of JVP at GW’s organizing committee, told GW’s student newspaper, The Hatchet: “We believe that GW Hillel’s engagement with the ICC betrays Jewish traditions of pluralism and free expression. We also think it creates a hostile environment for Jewish, Palestinian and pro-divestment activists, and we want them off our campus.”

However, Shep Gerszberg, a junior majoring in international affairs, rejected GW JVP’s demands, saying “they don’t deserve anything more. We can debate all we want, but that’s what they want: attention. It’s why they are reportedly planning another BDS campaign even though it passed last year. Attention for their ‘cause.’ Just say no and move on.”

“This campaign is based on lies and the same idiocy that infects every anti-Israel individual. BDS is antisemitic and the Hillel is pro-Israel, and should say that publicly,” he told JNS. “But if we do say that publicly, we give them what they want: attention. It’s why everyone hates the silent treatment.”

Neither GW Hillel executive director Adena Kirstein nor ICC immediately responded to a request for comment.

Kirstein told The Hatchet that the organization partners with a variety of groups to involve “students in Jewish life, education and Israel,” reported the outlet.

“We have always been—and will continue to be—open to supporting all students as they explore their own connections to Judaism and define how they live out their Jewish values,” she told the publication.

GW JVP supported a successfully passed student association resolution last year calling for the university to separate its interests in Israel. A similar resolution in 2017 failed to pass by one vote.

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