More than a year ago, Hillel President Eric Fingerhut declared that “‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances.” That statement came in response to the decision by Jewish students at Swarthmore College to open their doors to speakers and groups that oppose Israel’s occupation and those who support the movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel.
This past week, Hillel International dramatically changed its position. Hillel International explicitly endorsed an event at Harvard’s Hillel that included a speaker who supported BDS, recognizing that the conversation taking place was part of a critical conversation in the American Jewish community. Open Hillel is proud to see that its campaign has made a positive impact on the nature of discourse at Harvard’s Hillel — and we hope that these types of conversations continue to take place at Hillel’s across the nation.
As Open Hillel has repeatedly emphasized, we do not support BDS — or any other political position. Open Hillel was founded with the sole purpose of advocating for open dialogue at college campuses across the country. The campaign has repeatedly refused to endorse any political positions relating to the Israel and Palestine conflict, and we have assiduously made attempts to engage all different members of the political spectrum. At Open Hillel we believe that only way to resolve the crisis in the Middle East is by resolving the crisis at home: we must respectfully listen to the other side, despite harsh ideological disagreements.
Harvard students pose at Yasser Arafat’s grave. / Twitter
Last Monday, the Harvard College Israel Trek went to the Muqata’a, the offices of the Palestinian government, in Ramallah. While they were there, the group took a picture with Yasser Arafat’s grave, which was inevitably Tweeted by the group’s tour guide. The photo was picked up by two far-right blogs — one Jewish, one not — and then nailed down by the Jewish Press, which ran the provocative headline “Jewish Donors Funded Harvard Students’ Trip to Arafat’s Grave.”
The headline, of course, is ridiculous: The family foundations and Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies funded a wide-ranging ten-day trip all over Israel for 50 of Harvard’s best and brightest, during which they spent half a day in Ramallah and 30 seconds for a photo shoot at Arafat’s grave.
But that’s not the point. The point is that allowing students to engage in conversation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Palestinians themselves is still taboo among the American Jewish establishment. And it’s high time that changed.
Florida’s Tea Party-backed Gov. Rick Scott announced that he will refuse to implement the Affordable Healthcare Act, despite President Barack Obama’s reelection. Refusing to set up a state exchange doesn’t necessarily matter that much, since the law empowers the federal government to set up an exchange for states that fail to do so on their own. But more than half the expanded coverage in the law is supposed to come from a federally-subsidized expansion of Medicaid. So if Scott refuses to permit his state’s Medicaid to be expanded despite the federal subsidy (the feds cover 100% of the cost of expansion through 2016, dropping to 90% by 2020 – not a big burden on the states), then the impact of the law is crippled.
Conservative groups are urging other governors to refuse.
This raises an interesting question. State nullification of federal law was supposed to have been settled by the Civil War, but it’s suddenly become a big issue again. And not just on the right. The legalization of marijuana in a growing (get it?) number of states is setting up a serious confrontation with Washington, which still classifies weed as a Class I illegal narcotic, right alongside heroin, and is still raiding growers even in states where they’re acting legally.