Breathing Life and Vigor into Hillel’s Pro-Israel/Jewish Advocacy

By Bill Narvey

(This article was first written December 7th, 2007 and has since been amended to incorporate reference to the recent Jewish Tribune report on Betar, Hasbarah launch Islamic State Apartheid Week at York University under the co-sponsorship of Betar Tagar, Hasbarah Fellowships, B’nai Brith Canada and

Two recent Jewish Tribune articles by Atara Beck on November 27th and December 4th, 2007 respectively, being Jewish York students flee from mob and Boycott forum turns into Israel hate fest at Ryerson were doubtless cause for more anguished hand wringing. It should not be.

Rather these and similar articles should be a clarion call for Jewish leaders to re-think the strategies, tactics and goals for pro-Israel/Jewish advocacy in order that more effective action can be taken.

Both articles reveal increasingly hostile anti-Israel attitudes with a concurrent insensitivity for Jewish concerns and feelings, within these universities. This phenomenon is being experienced in many other universities, both here and in the U.S.

Universities by refusing to recognize that they are providing fertile ground for these anti-Israel/anti-Semitic sentiments to grow, are according such views a measure of undeserved credibility and a patina of legitimacy as being worthy of serious debate.

That this situation is worsening however, is clear evidence of the ineffectiveness of our Jewish leadership to halt and reverse this trend.

Hillel is the largest international Jewish student’s organization on campuses throughout Canada and the United States. Being on the front line at our universities therefore, behooves Hillel to rise to the challenges presented by very aggressive and energetic anti-Israel activists and universities that facilitate their advancing their agenda.

Hillel thus should be a strong voice and force to be reckoned with to not only counter, but to undermine the efforts of pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel activists and the facilitation by our universities that enable the dissemination of anti-Israel propaganda on campuses and incitement of suspicion, dislike and hatred of Israel amongst the student populations at large at our universities, which propaganda often descends to the level of raw antisemitism.

Unfortunately, Hillel has consistently failed over the years, to be that strong effective voice and force to be reckoned with.

Hillel does not however bear all the responsibility in this regard. Funded by the UJA Federation and following its lead as well as the lead of the Canadian Jewish Congress and Canada-Israel Committee, Hillel’s pro-Israel/Jewish advocacy is limited to a one dimensional advocacy strategy of promoting the view that democratic Israel shares the same values of all Canadians and to present Israel in a positive light.

Hillel and its backers steadfastly avoid going on the offensive against anti-Israel activists, be they Muslim or non-Muslim left wing useful idiots for Muslim activists or against the universities that are enablers of these anti-Israel activist groups by their allowing their campuses to be used for pro-Palestinian Israel bashing events that are often rife with anti-Semitic rhetoric.

The idiocy of such pro-Jewish/Israel one dimensional advocacy Hillel has stuck with all these years should have been readily apparent from the get go. It was not and still it is not apparent to Hillel and its Jewish leadership backers.

That brings to mind a classic definition of insanity being when one does the same thing over and over the same way and expects the result will be different next time.

Hillel and those Jewish leadership organizations backing Hillel have been unwilling or unable to break free from their ideological one dimensional advocacy approach and thus have been failing not only Jewish students, but have been failing our Jewish community.

B’Nai Brith which apparently does not have such a rigid ideological view on pro-Israel/Jewish advocacy, has not had much if any influence on Hillel and its Jewish leadership backers, at least not until now.

There is a sign that there may be a change in the air.

Hillel and its backers, the Jewish Federation of UJA, CJC, and CIC should take note of the success of a recent initiative at York University, with the launch this past week of Islamic State Apartheid Week under the co-sponsorship of Betar Tagar, Hasbarah Fellowships, B’nai Brith Canada and The February 12, 2008 Jewish Tribune report.

This is but one new initiative. There are other strategies and tactics that can be employed by Hillel and our Jewish leadership to make pro-Jewish/Israel advocacy on and off campuses more effective.

The first step is to admit that pro-Jewish/Israel advocacy is not nearly as effective as it should be and the second is to devise strategies and tactics that the situation demands, some of which are touched on hereafter.

Jews must first cast off their shtetl mentality that cautions against complaining or accusing too much or too loudly about antisemitism for fear that it will only make things worse. When Jews are pushed, that shtetl mentality keeps Jews from pushing back equally or harder.

Secondly, pro-Jewish/Israel advocacy’s strategies and tactics must become multifaceted to meet the various challenges Jewish students are facing.

One such strategy is to look to our legal institutions for redress. Complaints to the Ontario Human Rights Commission are warranted for instance, against both the anti-Israel activists whose angry aggression, intimidated and frightened York and Ryerson Jewish students and against those universities for having facilitated this situation arising and their failure to protect Jewish students when the situation became threatening.

Thirdly, pro-Jewish/Israel advocacy must become more pro-active and on the offensive without giving offence, unless the situation calls for that. One such pro-active strategy could include planning pro-Israel/Jewish events on campus that will both promote Israel’s rights and narrative while seeking to destroy the credibility of pro-Palestinian propaganda and gaining universities’ co-operation to allow such events to proceed.

Fourthly, pro-Jewish/Israel advocacy must become more energized, passionate, sustained, smarter, assertive, aggressive and insistent as the situation demands, short of violence of course.

Fifthly, propaganda techniques should be employed to deliver simple, pithy and punchy slogans, captioned photos and video, cartoons, and symbolism that better ensures that points made, are easily grasped, understood, accepted and retained.

Sixthly, pro-Jewish/Israel advocacy must cease incorporating the Palestinian narrative into their advocacy, but deny it outright until anti-Israel activists are willing to concede that Israel too has rights and entitlements and Palestinians and Arabs bear much responsibility for the plight of the Palestinians and the unresolved Israel – Palestinian conflict.

It is not enough however that pro-Jewish/Israel advocates direct their advocacy at their usual target audience.

They must also focus on making Jewish students more aware and caring about these issues that impact both them and Israel, shaking Jews from their complacency, instilling pride in their Jewish identities and inducing them to want to become engaged to actively support pro-Jewish/Israel advocates in their efforts.

If pro-Jewish/Israel advocates are unable or unwilling to face up to their own inadequacies and accordingly fail to make changes that are crying out to be made, then we can only expect more of the same kind of reports by Atara Beck, bemoaning the fate of the Jewish students at York and Ryerson universities last November, 2007.

The Jewish Tribune report of the Islamic State Apartheid Week, earlier referenced herein, that was just held at York University, hopefully signals that pro-Israel/Jewish advocacy is about to change for the better.

Bill Narvey – February 13th, 2008

February 13, 2008 | 4 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

Leave a Reply

4 Comments / 4 Comments

  1. It is not enough to just vent on blogs, write letters that are ignored and writing to Facebook, which incidentally for reasons beyond me, I can’t log into.

    There must be activism that takes you from your keyboard to make phone calls to and banging on the doors of Jewish leadership to get them to listen and engage in discussion.

    In Canada, the biggest problems are in Toronto right now. The activism must come from those in Toronto. I can’t do much from where I am, beyond writing letters that are ignored and articles that the people I want to reach will not read.

  2. From what I have read most of the professional Hillel leadership agrees with the enemies positions so you really can’t look to organizations like Hillel to be an ans, as they seem to be part of the problem.

  3. Hillel and its backers, the Jewish Federation of UJA, CJC, and CIC should take note of the success of a recent initiative at York University, with the launch this past week of Islamic State Apartheid Week under the co-sponsorship of Betar Tagar, Hasbarah Fellowships, B’nai Brith Canada and The February 12, 2008 Jewish Tribune report.

    Now this is more like it. Hillel needs to quit whining and begging University administrators to protect them and instead begin to aggressively confront the haters and terrorist supporters on campus.