At the AIPAC Policy Conference, I had the opportunity Sunday evening to meet Daniel Mael, a junior at Brandeis University, who is leading an initiative called “Safe Hillel.” It aims to counter a left-wing movement called “Open Hillel,” which is trying to force Hillel, the national organization of Jewish student centers on college campuses, to change guidelines that prohibit partnering with or hosting anti-Israel organizations.
Safe Hillel insists that Hillel chapters should follow the national guidelines. “Pro-Israel students are often bullied or intimidated into silence on campuses across the country,” Mael says. “Hillel’s mission is to provide a space for safe students to be pro-Israel.” So far, two–Vassar and Swarthmore–have broken with national Hillel and declared themselves “Open.” Over 1300 people have signed Open Hillel’s petition since 2012.
Mael has launched two petitions at the Safe Hillel website. One supports Hillel’s national guidelines against anti-Israel groups and groups that support the “Boycott, Divest, Sanctions” (BDS) movement. The other throws down a challenge to Open Hillel, asking that it exclude any groups that support terror. “Every organization has a boundary. The NAACP isn’t going to invite the KKK to address their national convention,” Mael adds.
Though Brandeis is a predominantly Jewish institution, it is no stranger to far-left criticism of Israel. In 2007, former President Jimmy Carter addressed students about his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid–and famously refused to debate Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz. On Monday, anti-Israel blogger Max Blumenthal will visit the campus to talk about his new and widely-panned anti-Israel book, Goliath.
Blumenthal recently targeted Mael on Twitter for placing protest flyers on campus, showing an infamous Facebook photograph of Blumenthal mocking religious Jews.
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) March 2, 2014
“I laugh it off,” Mael says, “but for some students, getting attacked on social media is a big deal.” He wants “Safe Hillel” to maintain Hillel as a place where students can hear, or air, criticism of Israel, but where they never have to feel afraid to express their love for the Jewish state.
Photo: Brandeis Hillel