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Fire the director of Princeton Hillel for cancelling the event of MK Tzipi Hotovely

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Dear Mr Fingerhut,

On Monday, November 6 Princeton Hillel, with the authority of its executive director Rabbi Julie Roth, made a last-minute decision to defer the scheduled address of Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipy Hotovely. Hotovely's main purpose on her tour of college campuses was the distribution of educational materials to counter the anti-Israel rhetoric of pro-BDS groups on campus. This is not the first occasion on which Roth has cancelled the presentations of pro-Israel speakers. In 2009, she similarly canceled an event for Nonie Darwish, president of the organization Arabs for Israel. Moreover, this pattern of Hillel's blacklisting of pro-Israel speakers is not limited to Princeton. Just a few weeks ago, Stanford’s Hillel nixed a scheduled event with Reservists on Duty, an Israeli anti-BDS group that brings IDF reservists to US campuses. The event was supposed to have featured non-Jewish reservists, who came to Stanford to share their military experiences in the IDF. Furthermore, when Hotovely did manage to hold events at Columbia and NYU, Hillel did little or nothing to publicize them. Only 10 students were formally invited to the Columbia lecture, and only 40 attended the unpublicised NYU lecture. In your Biography on the page for Office of the President on Hillel International's website, it reads: "Our approach is defined by the laws and teachings of our faith, by the mission of this great organization, by our love of Israel, and by what connects us as a people." [emphasis added]

The actions of Julie Roth, and those of Hillel chapters bowed by the influence of pro-BDS Jewish fringe groups such as Open Hillel, contradict the claims made on your website. First, at a time when pro-Israel voices are heckled or banned from university campuses throughout the US, Roth's actions provide tacit support for this kind of political bullying which seeks to stifle those voices expressing their love and support for Israel. Second, the cancellation of Hotovely shows a marked disdain for the people of Israel and their democratically elected leaders. Third, the cancellations of Hotovely and Reservists on Duty impede Jewish students from educational opportunities to gain a broader awareness of the issues faced by the State of Israel. Finally, at a time when anti-Semitic incidents have risen by 60%, and with increasingly anti-Israel protests on college campuses masking new forms of anti-Semitism, the action of Roth in cancelling the lecture of an elected Israeli official augments the efforts of those Jew-haters who uncritically single out Israel for abuse, while simultaneously endangering the welfare of Jewish college students.

I note that you and Rabbi Roth have written an apology in a Jerusalem Post op-ed, acknowledging the poor treatment of Hotovely and regretting the cancellation of her event at Hillel. You characterise this failure as "an isolated event" and as a technical rather than a political issue. However, such an apology is a case of too little, too late and reads more like an embarassed justification than a sincere acknowledgment of the seriousness of the underlying issues. Princeton alumni such as Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, and Michael Freund, former Communication Director of the Prime Minister's Office, have both written opinion pieces urging Rabbi Roth to step down or be fired. They have also urged Princeton's Jewish alumni to cease their funding for Princeton Hillel.

If Hillel is truly sincere in maintaining its purported position on the "front lines of combating anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric on campus and leading campaigns against BDS and other anti-Israel measures", Rabbi Roth should acknowledge the gravity of her error and resign forthwith from her position. If not, she must be summarily dismissed for an action that is an egregious violation of Hillel's stated aims. Only with her resignation or dismissal will an example be set for other Hillel chapters, one which acknowledges unequivocally that suppression of pro-Israel speakers will not be tolerated.

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