Monday, December 30, 2013

HuffPost Finds Student to Defend Swarthmore Hillel

The Huffington Post dug deep to find someone to take on the recent decision of Swarthmore College's Hillel to accept "anti-Zionist" speakers and the denouncements that followed. Naturally, that someone is a world-wise college student by the name of Jess Coleman. Does Mr. Coleman attend Swarthmore College? No, Cornell. Well, close enough. Let's see what Mr. Coleman has to say.

If you're expecting Coleman to actually make an intelligent argument, you'd be disappointed. He leads off with a quote from Avraham Burg about how Israel is an established state now and doesn't need crutches (or as Burg puts it, "scaffolding") and then changes the position of Swarthmore's critics:
"The conflict is quickly approaching an inflection point. A new generation of Jews are growing up in a world where they feel comfortable and equal, and they see no justification behind a fundamentally unjust occupation. Israel, to them, deserves to be treated just like any other nation."
First, I'd love to see the election results that gave Mr. Coleman authority to speak for "a new generation of Jews." I'm not that many years out of college myself, and I can think of a lot of justifications for Israel's occupation (if that's what he's referring to when he says 'a fundamentally unjust occupation'). I know I'm not the only one who thinks that, either. Mr. Coleman doesn't speak for me or any other Jew. He speaks for himself.

Second, Mr. Coleman is once against confusing anti-Zionism with being against Israel's policies. There are literally millions of liberal Zionists who are against the occupation, probably just as much if not more than Mr. Coleman. But Swarthmore is welcoming anti-Zionists who are not only against the occupation, but against Israel's existence as a Jewish state and therefore the right of Jewish self-determination. Such people are not merely critics of Israel, but anti-Jewish.

But let's see how Mr. Coleman defines Swarthmore's position, maybe he's getting to it:
"The drama at Swarthmore College is a prime example. Last week, Swarthmore Hillel declared itself an Open Hillel -- one that rejects the Israel Guidelines set by Hillel International. These guidelines -- which prohibit Hillel's from partnering with certain groups on campus -- have long served to undermine or exclude critical views, and thus reasoned debate, regarding Israel."
If you're looking for more detail about Swarthmore Hillel's position, you won't find it in Mr. Coleman's article. He immediately launches after that paragraph into responses to the Hillel and his justifications for their position (which we'll get to in a minute). 

The views of anti-Zionists are not "critical views" any more than David Duke's views are "critical" of black people. They are against basic human rights and come from a bigoted place, and are thus no more welcome in a Jewish community than David Duke would be at a black student union. It's not a question of "reasoned debate." It's a question of legitimizing bigotry, and just like the Hillel he advocates for, Mr. Coleman is doing plenty of legitimizing of his own. He's not even honest enough to name the "critical views" he's defending. 

Why does Mr. Coleman embrace the bigotry of anti-Zionists and other people don't? Well, those other people are old fuddie duddies who are living in the past, man.
"Hillel International advertises itself as "The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life," and takes pride in its self-proclaimed role as the global voice for Jewish students. But in simultaneously "drawing a line," Hillel implies that Jews are inherently in need of protection -- that there ought to be some boundary within which the Jewish community must engage.It's easy to see where such a view comes from. For the older generation -- those who lived through the fear of the 1967 War -- there continues to be a sense that the Jews and the Jewish state are in constant threat of destruction. Israel served as the one safe-haven for Jews across the globe, and unconditional support of that sanctuary was built-in to the Jewish psyche as a means of survival. For Jews, to not be in constant defense was to reject your survival.But times have changed. Israel now has a greater defense budget than all its neighbors combined; With the U.S. as its chief ally, Israel has the world's largest economy and military right at its back; Some of the highest ranking public officials in the world, including the majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, are Jews."
So Israel is so secure there are no longer any existential threats, and therefore anti-Jewish bigots can be embraced openly? Well, not even Mr. Coleman admits that...
"That is not to say there is no room for improvement. But to those of us who have grown up in an age of relative physical security for the Jewish people and for Israel, the biggest threat to Israel's existence is no longer terrorism nor anti-semitism, but rather a consistent refusal to tackle the issues of the occupation. When Israel's existence was constantly in question, it was easy to hide behind the veil of security. But it is time to consider both the existential threat that exists from not resolving the conflict -- certainly with respects to Israel's security, but also to its moral character. "
So there IS an existential threat (which makes me wonder why he even brought up Israel's secure status in the world in the first place) but it's only because of Israel's refusal to address "issues of the occupation." But don't worry, Israelis! Mr. Coleman has the answer, and that is to let people who hate Israel's existence and want to destroy it speak at Hillel! That will help resolve the conflict....somehow.

But wait: Mr. Coleman has an example of a "new threat" that only he has thought of:
"What will happen when thousands of Palestinians march peacefully into Jerusalem demanding basic political rights?" 
 I love the use of the word "when" here, like it's some sort of inevitability that this will happen. Those dumb Palestinians! In 60 years of fighting, why didn't they just think of walking into Israel and demanding stuff? It's not like Israel doesn't have structures of occupation set up to prevent exactly that, or anything.

You also must love the classic leftist talking point: "Why about RIGHTS?" Coleman seriously seems to believe that all a Palestinian has to do is say the magic word "rights" and Israel must and will give him everything he ever wanted.

Newsflash, Mr. Coleman: Palestinians do not have the right to live in Israel. They do not have the right to not be occupied. They do not have the right to take away the rights of Jews. And they and any other anti-Jewish bigot do not have the right to speak at any Hillel. Being welcomed into a Jewish space to speak is a privilege, not a right, and such a privilege can be revoked at any time.

I was really hoping Mr. Coleman was going to make a decent argument about why anti-Jewish, excuse me 'anti-Zionist' bigots should be allowed to speak at Hillels. But unfortunately he just waved his hands and declared Israel's fine and as a member of a younger generation, he knows what's best for it. Very disappointing showing. 

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