The Jewish campus life organization Hillel came under fire in the Knesset on Monday from an unlikely direction: the Israeli right.
MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) expressed deep concern that representatives of what she termed “post-Zionist groups” had been invited to addresses students at Hillel functions held on campuses around the United States, where they were influencing student opinion.
“I have heard testimonies that the BDS [Boycott, Divest, Sanction] movement and the New Israel Fund have infiltrated some campuses, and this is happening under the supervision of Hillel and with the funding of Hillel,” Shaked told a session of the Knesset Committee for Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, which met to discuss growing anti-Israel sentiment on American college campuses. Participating in the session were Eric Fingerhut, the president of Hillel International, representative of the Israeli Hillel organization and students active in Israel advocacy groups.
The participants at the Knesset session were shown excerpts from a new documentary that accuses Hillel, the largest Jewish campus life organization in the world, of providing a platform to groups that it claims demonize and delegitimize Israel.
“You have organizations like J Street and the NIF [New Israel Fund] that bring representatives of groups that badmouth the Israel Defense Forces and the state of Israel to speak at Hillel-sponsored functions,” the Israeli-born filmmaker, Natan Nestel, told the committee. In particular, he noted that B’tselem and Breaking the Silence, two Israeli groups active in documenting and exposing human rights violations in the occupied territories, were often invited to present at Hillel events, where they had a “destructive influence” on Jewish students.
“Many kids who grow up in pro-Israel homes end up joining anti-Israel movements as a result of their influence,” he charged. As a graduate student at Berkeley, Nestel served as chairman of the Israeli Students’ Organization in North America. He has spent the past few years making this film.
According to Hillel guidelines, organizations that “delegitimize” and “demonize” Israel are banned from participating in functions it sponsors. Nestel claimed, however, that Hillel violates its own guidelines.