Misrepresentation of Hillel cannot go uncorrected
In Tuesday’s Daily Targum, columnist Sara Zayed made a number of comments and accusations against Rutgers Hillel. We hesitate to respond, recognizing that most of the campus couldn’t care less. Foremost, the back and forth between pro-Israel and anti-Israel voices is just noise. We all have better things to do than add to the noise.
However, the misrepresentation of Hillel by Zayed cannot go uncorrected. Her column references five particular events, dating back to 2010. To set the record straight, the first was Hillel’s opposition to a “U.S. to Gaza Fundraiser.” The event sought to raise funds to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Whatever your opinion of Israel’s blockade, a civilian attempt to violate the naval blockade of a friendly nation violates federal statute plans to violate a federal statute constitute conspiracy to commit a crime. For this reason Hillel characterized the event as a possible violation of federal law and an illegal criminal conspiracy. The University agreed with Hillel and withheld all funds collected at the event, until BAKA identified a recipient with no taint of illegality.
The second event was Hillel’s opposition to BAKA’s rally on the anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. While we truly and profoundly regret the loss of every single civilian life, Palestinian and Israeli, Hillel opposed this rally because it presented a false and biased account of the conflict. The majority of casualties were Hamas combatants and Hamas purposefully placed its militants in civilian homes and even ambulances. This has been verified by Palestinians themselves, and in sworn testimony before the UN Human Rights Council.
The third event was 2011’s “Never Again for Anyone” rally, at which Hillel’s student president was videotaped thanking a woman named Pamela Geller for her support. Students for Justice in Palestine asserts this as evidence that Hillel works with Geller, an outspoken anti-Islamist blogger. In fact, Hillel has never had any relationship with Geller. Rutgers Vice President of Student Affairs at the time, Greg Blimling, investigated the incident at the behest of BAKA and told us he determined Hillel was correct.
The truth is it was a chaotic and emotionally charged event. A woman put a camera in front of Hillel president Sarah Morrison and said “Will you thank Pamela Geller for all her support?” Sarah, having no idea who Geller was, obliged. This is the full extent of Hillel’s “relationship” with Geller, before or since. Blimling informed SJP/BAKA that this was a false accusation.
The fourth incident also took place at “Never Again for Anyone.” A Muslim student was subjected to verbal abuse by a non-student protesting BAKA’s event, which compared Israeli policy in Gaza to the Nazi Holocaust. Hillel deeply regrets that anyone treated Muslim students disrespectfully. We had directed everyone to behave respectfully. Although the offending bigot was not a member of the Rutgers Hillel community, when we found out, we apologized to BAKA. We apologize once again to Hadiya Abdelrahman and the Muslim community. The behavior of that person does not represent us and has no place in the Hillel community.
Finally, there is the recent issue of the SJP eviction notices. Too much has already been said about this, and we won’t belabor it. However, Hillel’s Rabbi Akiva Weiss was criticized specifically by Zayed as biased. We found this ironic, as Rabbi Weiss co-authored the University Chaplains’ statement condemning the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim students at Rutgers, and has participated in numerous interfaith panels. In fact, an SJP supporter libeled Weiss as “a terrorist” on the Muslim Student Association webpage because he participated in an MSA event together with an imam and a priest and the student didn’t like it.
Which brings us full circle. In their quest to marginalize Hillel and the Jewish community, SJP and its supporters label rabbis as terrorists for participating in interfaith events and slander Hillel to detract from a campus-wide “Days Without Hate” event. Thankfully, “Days Without Hate” was a great success, co-sponsored by more than a dozen student organizations and the Committee to Advance Our Common Purposes.
In the end truth and love will win out. It’s a lesson that we hope Zayed and SJP will learn someday.
Ariel Lubow is a School of Arts and Sciences senior and student board president of Rutgers Hillel. Andrew Getraer is executive director of Rutgers Hillel.