Talk about good intentions gone wrong.
In late March, the Republican leadership of the Senate convened a meeting to discuss anti-Semitism on campus. Hillel presented to the panel, along with the U.S. Department of Education, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the Zionist Organization of America. The meeting raised the problem of campus anti-Semitism to the national level and provided a useful forum for the exchange of ideas.
Now, the Palestine Media Center, a Web page sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, and other groups are promoting a bizarre version of the meeting based on a report circulated by Rense.com and attributed to the newspaper The American Free Press (www.americanfreepress.net). This was disseminated by the Progressive Faculty Network to campuses.
The American Free Press, the successor to the Liberty Lobby's Spotlight newspaper, is described by the ADL as a "conspiratorial and anti-Semitic weekly newspaper." It recently editorialized: "Israeli involvement in the Sept. 11 massacre may be much deeper than even this newspaper has speculated."
The newspaper writes that the meeting was called "to discuss the senators' concerns about growing criticism of Israel on American college campuses." It further reports that Sens. Rick Santorum (Penn.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.) proposed "ideological diversity" legislation to stifle anti-Israel speech on campus. This inaccurate account creates the impression that Hillel participated in the meeting in an effort to quash debate on campus.
The meeting of the Republican leadership was arranged to discuss campus anti-Semitism, not to combat anti-Israel groups. Hillel, the largest Jewish campus group in the world, was honored to address the panel and to provide an accurate appraisal of anti-Semitism on campus. We did so as a non-partisan, pro-Israel organization that includes Jewish students across the ideological spectrum. We take no position on candidates for office or pending legislation. We believe that campuses should be vigorous academic communities in which all students and faculty can express their opinions free of fear and intimidation.
The intention of the March meeting was not to suppress free speech but to address hatred against Jewish students. It is unfortunate that some groups are using this noble objective to fuel their theories of international conspiracy.
For More Information:
- Hillel Reports to Senate Republicans about Anti-Semitism on Campus, Hillel, April 29, 2003
- Senators Threaten Universities Critical of Israel with Funding Cuts, The Palestine Media Center, April 24, 2003
- Rense.com: Schools Not Teaching Pro-Israel Views to Lose Funding, Michael Collins Piper, American Free Press, April 21, 2003
- Senators Plan Crackdown on Campus Anti-Semitism, by Timothy Starks, The New York Sun, March 27, 2003