Saturday, December 14, 2013

Two Sides to the Coin

In response to the controversy regarding Swarthmore Hillel's flouting of Hillel guidelines by permitting anti-Zionist speakers and organizations, Hillel has stood firm but insisted that its guidelines will be "applied across the political spectrum."
Will the guidelines, which insist that partners and speakers accept “the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state,” be used to bar far-right speakers who promote the deportation of Palestinians or argue that it is more important that Israel be Jewish than that it be democratic? Fingerhut answered that the guidelines will be “applied across the political spectrum and has been applied,” but he declined to discuss specifics.
This would be good news if I believed it, although I'm not sure that I do. If they threaten to expel a group for hosting the Zionist Organization of America, then we'll talk.

Hillel's (potential) hypocrisy aside, I'm not sure the Swarthmore kids come out looking much better. Their rhetoric about "open Hillel" and "free discussion" sounds good until you think about it for more than seven seconds and remember that it's complete nonsense (and rightfully so). Presumably the Swarthmore Hillel still will not be inviting David Duke or Gilad Atzmon; they still do have some boundaries on what speakers are or are not acceptable. So all Swarthmore Hillel is doing is adjusting the boundaries. Now, it may well be that Hillel's guidelines are too restrictive, but the point is the validity of Swarthmore's decision depends on how we assess their particular decision regarding borders -- not some abstract and fictive view that they are eliminating them altogether.

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