Pro-Israel Coalition Calls on Hillel International to End Partnership with “Breaking the Silence”
(Washington, DC March 28, 2016) Today, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) announced that it sent a letter to Eric D. Fingerhut, President of Hillel International, signed by a coalition of pro-Israel organizations who are “deeply concerned” with Hillel’s hosting of Breaking the Silence (BtS). “Breaking the Silence” is an Israeli NGO that features former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers that “have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories,” according to the organization’s website.
BtS hosts biased speaking tours in both Europe and the U.S. of former IDF soldiers that accuse Israel of committing “war crimes,” thereby serving as a mouthpiece for Israel’s enemies and detractors. Hillel International, the largest Jewish student group in the U.S., has hosted Bts on university campuses during past years. Hillel plans to host BtS at Columbia University on Thursday, March 31st, and already hosted BtS this month at Brown University on March 17th.
The EMET letter, sent on March 25, 2016, states, “By enabling the one-sided view of ‘Breaking the Silence’ to be heard on America’s college campuses, Hillel is contributing to an attitude that might well prove to weaken the morale of the IDF and therefore the existence of the State of Israel.”
Hillel is violating its own Standards of Partnership by hosting BtS, according to the letter. Hillel’s Standards read, in part, that it “will not partner with, house or host organizations, groups or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice: Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; Delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel; Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel…”
BtS “seeks to portray a distorted, demonized view of the Israeli Defense Forces” and “supports the BDS movement,” according to the letter. Among others, the letter quotes Natan Sharanksy, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and a former refusenik, who said BtS “’is not a human rights organization but a BDS organization.’” Sharansky also wrote in a recent op-ed in Haaretz: “Breaking the Silence…is not a human-rights organization in any meaningful sense of the term … [It uses] unproven allegations peddled as truths to credulous foreigners in order to override the decisions of a democratic government.”
The letter calls on Mr. Fingerhut to “not allow ‘Breaking the Silence’ to participate in forums at Hillel Houses across the nation.” The signatories encourage Mr. Fingerhut “to instead partner with the Embassy of Israel and the IDF to provide appropriate forums with credentialed spokesmen.”
Sarah Stern, the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), who spearheaded the letter said, “I am deeply dismayed that an organization that is supposed to serve as a home for our Jewish students on campuses and educate them about the beauty of their heritage and homeland is partnering with an organization that seeks to demonize and defame the IDF – the very backbone of the existence of the State of Israel.” Stern added, “By hosting ‘Breaking the Silence’ Hillel is providing the organization with a stamp of legitimacy, and contributing to the spread of anti-Zionist sentiments at our nation’s college campuses, which are already infested with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activities.”
In addition to EMET, heads of the following organizations also signed onto the letter: the Middle East Forum; American Jewish International Relations Institute; Americans for a Safe Israel; the Center for Security Policy; Proclaiming Justice to the Nations; ACT for America; Arabs for Israel; Scholars for Peace in the Middle East; Z Street; Americans for Peace and Tolerance; The Iron Dome Alliance; and Christians’ Israel Public Action Campaign.
About The Endowment for Middle East Truth
Founded in 2005, EMET’s mission is to educate policymakers in Washington and the general public about the importance of Israel to the United States in their common struggle against radical Islam. For more information, please visit www.emetonline.org. Follow EMET on Twitter and Facebook.
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