TEL AVIV – Princeton University’s Hillel House cancelled a talk by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely following protests from a liberal Jewish campus group which accused the foreign minister of racism.
Hotovely in response said Hillel was kowtowing to a “liberal dictatorship” and “silencing the voice of Israeli democracy.” The Monday night talk went ahead but was moved to the Chabad on campus instead.
In a letter to the Israeli Consulate in New York, Rabbi Julie Roth, executive director of the Center for Jewish Life which is affiliated with Hillel on Princeton’s campus, stated “The Center for Jewish Life at Princeton decided to postpone the program with Member of Knesset Tzipi Hotovely until we can properly vet the program through our Israel Advisory Committee. We are fortunate that our colleagues at Chabad agreed to host the program today as originally scheduled and we are encouraging our students who are interested to attend. We regret the last-minute change and apologize to Ms. Hotovely for the inconvenience. We look forward to a continued robust and healthy debate around Israel in our community.”
A group called Alliance of Jewish Progressives (AJP) reportedly pushed CJL into cancelleing her scheduled appearance on campus, claiming Hotovely planned to hand out pro-Israel pamphlets “blatantly disregard any Palestinian claim to the land and amount to little more than propaganda.”
“Hotovely’s work causes irreparable damage to the prospects of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She has stated her opposition to a Palestinian state and has made it her mission to expand settlement construction in the West Bank,” the group wrote in a letter published in the student newspaper The Daily Princetonian.
“We in no way support Hotovely’s racist statements. We refuse to let Hotovely use us to legitimize her goals… We will not sit by quietly as the Israeli government continues to entrench its control over Palestinians,” AJP added.
Hotovely said she was “shocked” by the last-minute cancellation.
“By canceling this lecture, you are infringing on the fundamental academic freedom of the students,” Hotovely wrote. “You are denying the basic freedom of students to hear different points of view, to question, challenge and think for themselves.”
“Furthermore, by agreeing to the demands of radical voices, you are silencing the voice of Israeli democracy,” Hotovely added.
Former Harvard law professor and pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz, who also had several talks cancelled at by progressive campus groups, described the nixing of Hotovely’s speech as “outrageous censorship.”
“It suggests that the students lack the ability to assess a speaker’s ideas and need a committee to tell them who they can listen to,” he said.
Earlier in the week Hotovely spoke at Columbia University and is scheduled to speak at New York University on Tuesday.