J Street Convinces Hillel to Break the Rules, Support Breaking the Silence

It appears that J Street U is trying to undermine Hillel’s Standards of Partnership by pushing the envelope with whom they invite, even trying their luck with the blatantly anti-Israel organization Breaking the Silence (BtS).

The organization is so anti-Israel that it is banned from coming anywhere near IDF Soldiers and Israeli Schools. Given that Israel has a free press, the only reason the organization can legally be banned is if it spreads libel about Israel, which it does, and is funded by foreign interests to do so.

As an anonymous tipster reports, these efforts are being welcomed with open arms, with Breaking the Silence hosted at Hillel centers across the United States:

As you might be aware, J Street U has been engaged in a campaign to use its affiliation as a Hillel International partner organization to hold Breaking the Silence (BtS) events at Hillel Houses nationwide. This started a while ago. In 2013, J Street U hosted BtS at UPenn Hillel. In March 2014, J Street U hosted BtS at Washington University in St. Louis Hillel.  J Street U was able to secure Hillel’s approval to host two BTS events this month, at Brown University (on 3/17) and Columbia University (3/31).

However, these efforts have not been without external pressures and criticism. As a Columbia Student, I was privy to an invitation to an event that was to be hosted in February. There was a campaign spearheaded by the Facebook group Stop BDS On Campus to get the talk cancelled. Letters were written, phone calls were made to powerful people, and suddenly, the event disappeared! But recently it reappeared.

The first event was originally scheduled to be housed at the Kraft Hillel house last month (February). However, in response to community outrage, Columbia Hillel’s Executive Director Brian Cohen was pressured to ask J Street U to host the event someplace else. Brian Cohen has now convinced his board to bring BtS back to Columbia for a second time in two months – this time for an event in the Kraft Hillel center.

The reaction on the Stop BDS group on Facebook was pretty unanimously: “I wonder who paid him to take such a drastic change of heart?” Clearly no Zionist Jew who loves Israel would make such a decision on his own, without money or some other incentive being involved, as Breaking the Silence is very evidently anti-Israel. In fact, the group isn’t even ethical, with European organizations endorsing the act of paying ex-IDF soldiers to reveal negative things about the IDF, creating a huge conflict of interest, incentivizing lies. I know a lot of people who would make stuff up if they knew they were getting paid and that their names won’t be attached to the falsehoods.

Our tipster explains:

“Breaking the Silence” is a fringe Israeli group touring US campuses, which seeks to defame the Israeli army (IDF), alleging that it has committed war crimes. This group claims that Israel commits “crimes against humanity” and “ethnic cleansing”. You can see in the image below, that “Breaking the Silence” implies that all of Israel is occupied territories!

I fully support the right and freedom of Israeli soldiers to report abuse within the IDF – and to bring these incidents to the legal authorities in Israel for investigation and prosecution. However, while BtS may have started as a group of well-meaning IDF officers with the goal of making the IDF the most moral army in the world, it has lost direction. The ‘testimonials’ that BtS publishes don’t even expose the names of those who give them. Their recent reports have been dismissed as ‘baseless findings’ by highly respected IDF officers.

Their presentations in the U.S. include a range of lies, distortions, and half-truths presented out of context to audiences that do not know better, with the sole goal of demonizing and delegitimizing Israel and its soldiers. This kind of activity must be condemned and opposed by the pro-Israel community.

J Street is a political financial behemoth, bringing in tens of millions of dollars a year in donations. In 2014, JStreetPAC donated 2.4 million dollars to its 95 candidates, more than any other pro-Israel PAC, including AIPAC. It is therefore obvious that the incentive to support J Street policies exceeds the incentive to support AIPAC and others, which might reflect the drastic shift in political orientation of the Democratic party especially since J Street began in 2008 in a more anti-Israel direction. Yes, despite what it might say, the group is decidedly not pro-Israel. And it’s painfully clear that this wolf in sheep’s clothing has an agenda: to poison the minds of pro-Israel college students, and to use the term “pro-Israel” to lure them into eventually supporting policies that are anything but, and to act as a gateway drug to much more blatantly anti-Israel organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace.

It’s clear that J Street U is not satisfied simply by having BtS speak on the Columbia campus; J Street U’s intent is to bring this highly divisive and dangerous group into the building that houses the Jewish Students.

My beef with J Street is that it basically consists of a bunch of Americans sitting in their comfy armchairs and cushy lives telling Israel what to do without understanding any of the context behind what they are talking about and the policies they are advocating for or against. At face value, their policies sound nice: Two state solution, end the occupation, freedom and justice for all… but peel back the facade and you come to understand the sheer combination of ignorance and chutzpah that characterizes this attitude that J Streeters across the ocean knows better than Israelis about Israel. You also realize that if J Street’s policies were to be implemented, it would unequivocally mean the death of Israel as a Jewish State and safe haven. As such, J Street has no business calling itself pro-Israel, and does Israel an immense disservice in doing so for the sole purpose of inflating American egos that want to feel like they’ve made an impact.

The tipster continues:

There are mountains of evidence that BtS harms the state of Israel – and the work of pro-Israel educators, pro-Israel students, and the pro-Israel community as a whole. There is no justification for bringing such a group into Hillel houses – a place that Jewish students rely on as a safe, welcoming, and trustworthy space.

Then why would they bring such a group? This uncharacteristic decision makes me wonder what incentive it was given to sell itself out like that. The tipster’s biggest concern is that in allowing Breaking the Silence, Hillel is violating its own standards of partnership.

By allowing BtS at a Hillel house, Hillel violated its own Standards of Partnership:
“Hillel welcomes, partners with, and aids the efforts of organizations, groups, and speakers from diverse perspectives in support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Hillel will not partner with, house or host organizations, groups or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice: Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; Delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel; Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel; Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.”




Lex is a trained comedy actor who is Montreal's second-favourite export aside from poutine.

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