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      American Israelis Ask Hillel to Take U-Turn on J Street

      Americans in Israel asked Hillel to withdraw its invitation to J Street to speak on a US campus. Hillel said it is not taking a political stand.
      By INN Staff
      First Publish: 1/26/2010, 5:14 PM / Last Update: 1/27/2010, 7:49 AM

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      The American Israeli Action Coalition (AIAC) has called on the Hillel organization's “Foundation for Jewish Campus Life” to rescind an invitation extended to Jeremy Ben Ami, executive director of J Street, to speak at the University of Pennsylvania campus next week.

       

      J Street is promoting the event as a “call to action” to move forward its “pro-peace agenda.” The lobby backs negotiations with Hamas and applauded the Goldstone Report accusing Israel of war crimes in the war aganst Hamas terror last year.

      The Hillel Jewish student organization responded to last week's Israel National News report of the planned event and insisted that it does not necessarily agree with the agenda of the pro-Palestinian Authority lobby but that J Street's voice has a right to be heard.

      However, Harvey Schwartz, chairman of AIAC, a non-partisan, non-political, issue-oriented NGO based in Israel where approximately 250,000 Americans live, stated, "Although J Street describes itself as a 'pro-Israel, pro-peace’ organization, the American-Israeli community is well aware of the truth that J Street is a far left, radical, anti-Israel group, funded by Arab and radical far left sources, whose purpose is to undermine the safety, security and continued vitality of the State of Israel.

      “There is no room for more anti-Israel propaganda on campus. Hillel has for many years done a wonderful job in promoting Zionism and pro-Israel attitudes on the nation’s campuses. There is more than enough Israel and Jew-bashing on today's campuses by resident and imported anti-Semites. The American-Israelis believe that it is inconceivable that Hillel--with its venerable history of defending Jewish interests on campus--will collaborate with the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people."

       

      Aaron Tirschwell, AIAC's Executive Director, said that "the American Israelis believe that Hillel should recognize J Street for what it really is. It should encourage its followers on campus to unite with groups already on campus which promote pro-Israel, pro-Zionist messages. This is not a question of non-censorship or academic freedom. Rather, it is a question of whether Hillel should be giving a platform to Israel and Jew-haters to spout their venomous falsities, without an opposing speaker to be present at the same time.”

      Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, refused to speak at the lobby group's convention late last year, stating that J Street constantly opposes the Israeli government. J Street calls for strong American pressure on Israel.

      In a written response to a query from Israel National News, Rabbi Howard Alpert, executive director of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, explained Monday that the student group had “considered J Street's request and applied to it the same criteria we would apply to other Jewish communal organizations.”

      Those criteria, he said, included a commitment to accept and subscribe to the Hillel mission statement of support of Israel 'as the Jewish state with secure and recognized borders and as a member of the family of free nations'; that they do not (sic) advocate actions that will materially harm Israel or its representatives such as boycotts, sanctions or judicial action; and that they present their views with civility.”

      J Street, funded by leftist philanthropist George Soros, has supported the PA's demand for a total, unlimited building freeze in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, opposing Israel's government policy on the issue. The lobby supports dividing Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including the neighborhoods containing Judaism's holiest sites, the Western Wall (Kotel) and the Temple Mount.

      On its website, J Street openly refers to the hundreds of thousands of residents living in Judea and Samaria, which the organization refers to as “the occupied territories,” as “an obstacle to peace.... Continued settlement growth undermines the prospects for peace by making Palestinians doubt Israeli motives and commitment, and by complicating the territorial compromises that will be necessary in final status talks,” the J Street policy statement reads.

      During Operation Cast Lead against Hamas rockets, the organization called for an immediate end to Israel's actions, writing that the time had come for "shedding a narrow us versus them approach to Hamas."

      Hillel's Rabbi Alpert made an effort to dissociate Hillel from any activities of the group, saying the organization's event “does not constitute an endorsement by Hillel of the policies of the group of of the opinions expressed during its meeting.”

      Nevertheless, he reiterated, “we believe it is important that all voices that abide by our principles regarding Israel's right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish-People have an opportunity to express their opinions in our building as long as they commit to maintaining civility in their presentations.”

      Readers can express their opinions to the Hillel organization by calling 215-898-8265 or by faxing a letter to 215-898-8259.