Root And Stem


Hillel-LogoThe recent hullabaloo at Hillel in Providence should come as a surprise to no one. But it’s also dangerous to focus on it. I think it’s amazing that students are the ones breaking the story. They are the ones who understand how pervasive this betrayal is and how dangerous. The mainstream organisations, however, would prefer to keep their heads in the sand, the same tactic they used in 2013 when Swarthmore came out as an Open Hillel and Fingerhut wrote a strongly worded stern message to them and then did absolutely nothing else. Is anyone shocked that the line moved for Hillel when its vacillating, weak and ineffectual leadership has done nothing to stem the tide of anti Israel idiocy within Hillel, and instead has hired openly anti Israel people?

I recently attended an AIPAC event, and overall it was very cool. I met several other people who feel the same way I do about Israel, but I also saw some things I really didn’t like. One was the perpetuation of the bullshit arguments against Jews being able to live on their ancestral lands, couched in leftspeak like “West Bank” and “settlements” and “settlers,” which have become excuses not to support the indigenous human rights of the Jewish people. Those words have become part of the common lexicon and by using them we become part of the problem. The word West Bank needs to go – it’s Judea and Samaria, or Judah and Shomron. The Arab-controlled area is the Palestinian Authority in Areas A and B. Jewish community can replace settlement and Judeans can replace “settlers.” We have to change the words if we want to change the paradigm.

But back to my primary point. When I was at AIPAC, I was literally disgusted to see how many large organisations refused to call out Hillel for what is fast becoming the most obvious symptom of a much larger and deeper problem, the entrenchment of idiocy. Hillel was sitting on panels it has no business sitting on. Until it deals with its own internal issues and gets its house in order, it needs to either acknowledge the problem and deal with it, or it needs to stop misrepresenting itself to donors and supporters. The truth is simple – Hillel has a constitution, and guidelines. If a group does not follow them they should have their affiliation with Hillel removed and any money, property etc donated to them under the auspices of Hillel should be removed as well, and replaced by an actual group that follows the guidelines.

If a McDonalds franchisee started selling Whoppers, they would lose their franchise and end up in court and lose everything because courts recognize the value of branding. If a supposed pro Jewish, pro-Israel group starts doing anti Israel things, is that any different? These people have damaged the Hillel brand. They are misusing it to mislead donors and supporters and it will take a firm hand to reign them in, something Hillel International has yet to demonstrate. It would take a strong leader who feels strongly about his brand to do what it takes to defend it.

But this is not just about Hillel – it goes deeper. Hillel is just the leaves on the plant. This goes deeper to the roots and stem so to speak. Why is it groups like the New Israel Fund are getting away with supporting openly anti Israel organisations and speakers, and still getting funding from the Jewish community? Why is there such an anti Israel bias that recently, when the JNF Canada, took a moral stand against supporting an openly anti Israel singer singing on memorial day, the Israeli consulate in Toronto stepped in? Why are there members of the Israeli government who support organisations like the New Israel Fund? Why are federations and organisations like CIJA supporting them? Why is it that anti Israel garbage is proliferating in the diaspora? I feel like it’s because it’s also proliferating in Israel. The stupidity in the statement of an IDF general recently comparing Israel to Germany, the ridiculousness of Israelis living in Israel supporting organisations that give money to anti Israel organisations, it’s all pointing to some very serious issues that need to be dealt with. Some of those issues are very uncomfortable to deal with because they all lead back to the central issue: Jewish identity. And if so many Jews don’t understand their own identity how can we expect non Jews to even have a hope of understanding Jewish people at all?

I think there are good people out there, who want to support Israel and the Jewish people. They want to be on the right side, but they are confused, often misled and frankly they don’t know what is true and what isn’t. That’s why so many organisations just concentrate on fundraising instead of actually trying to make a difference. The sad part is that the groups and people who focus on making a difference, often can’t because they aren’t able to fundraise.

I am at the point now where I only support a few groups, I just try to do what I think is right and what will help not hurt Israel and my Jewish friends. It’s frustrating but I think if enough of us speak out we can slowly weed the garden.

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A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. Ryan was unsure if his real name was "Go get water!" or "Go get wood!" In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football , reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.