Hillel’s Actions to Exclude, Target, Censor, and Criminalize Students Who Disagree
Broadcasting false accusations about Palestinian rights protesters
- In April 2016, San Francisco Hillel hosted a speaking event with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who implements policies of home demolitions, de jure discrimination, and racial quotas against Palestinians. When students protested the talk, SF Hillel broadcast false accusations that protesters were anti-Semitic and physically threatening towards Jewish students. The accusations resulted in widespread smearing and cyber bullying of SFSU student protesters, including death and rape threats. SFSU retained a legal expert on discrimination who conducted a factual investigation and determined that SF Hillel’s allegations against student protesters were unfounded.
Hillel International has an institutional policy of viewpoint discrimination called the “Hillel Israel Guidelines” which prohibit campus Hillel affiliates, including SF Hillel, from hosting speakers who support boycotting Israel.
- Hillel International enforces its Israel Guidelines through the threat of legal action against students who dissent. In 2015, Hillel International forced Swarthmore Hillel to disaffiliate because they hosted an event with Jewish civil rights veterans who made connections between their work in the Jim Crow South and current activism around Israel/Palestine.
- Hillel expelled a queer student group at Ohio State University in March 2017 because the group, B’nai Keshet (“Children of the Rainbow”) co-sponsored a fundraiser for refugees alongside another Jewish student group that supports boycotting Israel. This violated the Hillel Israel Guidelines, causing the expulsion. Hillel defended its action by claiming it “showcases” LGBTQ students in other ways.
- Hillel ejected nine students, seven of whom were students of color, from an event on BDS at Boston University (BU) in January, 2016. After a five-month long investigation, BU’s Equal Opportunity Office found that the students should not have been removed, and had done nothing disruptive. When the students asked why they weren’t allowed to attend the event, campus police told them “you’re not welcome” and threatened them with criminal trespass.
- Hillel affiliates have rejected Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) student groups at Brandeis University in 2011, and at UCLA in 2014. At UCLA, the students wishing to form a Jewish Voice for Peace chapter under Hillel’s roof were questioned extensively about their desire to join Hillel and participate institutionally in the campus Jewish community and then sent a confidential political questionnaire with 42 questions.
Censoring and punishing speech supportive of Palestinian rights
- Hillel International threw in its weight to condemn a course on Palestinian history at the University of California, Berkeley, joining complaints from other Israel advocacy organizations and Israeli government ministers, which resulted in the mid-semester suspension of the course, in flagrant violation of academic freedom. The university suspended the student-led course, called “Palestine: a Settler Colonial Analysis” and then reinstated it after an outcry from faculty, students and civil rights organizations who protested the First Amendment and academic freedom violations. The Palestinian-American student facilitator was subjected to a severe international smear campaign.
- In 2014, a representative of Hillel accused students at Barnard College who hung a banner showing the map of historic Palestine of making Jewish students unsafe. The banner was removed.
- In 2014, Hillel at Loyola University in Chicago accused Palestinian students of bias-motivated misconduct, harassment and bullying because they lined up at a Birthright Israel table and requested to register for the program, which excludes Palestinians. The Palestinian students were investigated and punished for their protest.
Encouraging criminal investigation of protected political speech
- In May 2016, after a multi-racial group of student protesters at University of California Irvine, held signs and chanted outside a Hillel-supported film screening, Hillel falsely accused the protesters of physically threatening Jewish students. The case was referred to the Orange County DA for criminal investigation, but no charges were filed when it became clear that there was no evidence. UC Irvine investigated and determined that while the protest was too loud, it did not target Jewish students, and was peaceful.
- In 2014 at Northeastern University, Hillel boasted that it worked closely with police to investigate students who distributed “mock eviction” notices in dorms to raise awareness about Israeli home demolition policies. Accusations that the flyers targeted Jewish students resulted in the suspension of Students for Justice in Palestine. The suspension was lifted after an outcry.
- In 2010 at University of California Irvine, after the “Irvine 11” verbally protested a talk by the Israeli Ambassador, the director of Hillel at UC Riverside met with the Orange County District Attorney (DA) before the DA filed criminal charges against the student protesters. The purpose of the meeting was presumably to encourage filing criminal charges, even though the protesters had already been punished by the school. This is the same DA who faced charges of prosecutorial misconduct during the trial. The case was widely viewed as a shocking attempt to criminalize peaceful political protest against Israel.
- In 2010, Hillel accused students at Rutgers of material support for terrorism when they fundraised for humanitarian aid to people in Gaza. As a result, the money could not be sent to the students’ selected humanitarian organization.