Letter to the editor:
A few weeks ago, I noticed that the Latino Buckeye Dinner, an annual gathering to celebrate the Latino community on campus, is to be hosted by Hillel this year. At first glimpse, this seemed like a great way to bring together the Latino and Jewish communities on campus. But after looking closer at Hillel’s relationship with the state of Israel, I couldn’t help but feel that the decision to have the event hosted by this group is insensitive toward the Palestinian community on campus as well as the members of the Latino community, like myself, who oppose the Israeli occupation.
Hillel has hosted events glorifying the Israel Defense Forces, a notorious abuser of human rights. It is also an organization that, at both the local level and international level, organizes and promotes so-called “Birthright” trips. For those who don’t know, Birthright trips are propaganda tours led by the Israeli government in an attempt to convince the Jewish community in the U.S. to support Israel, but also purport that it is their right by being born Jewish to visit Israel. The harm of these tours is their disregard of the occupation and the situation of Arabs living in Israel under an apartheid system, arguably comparable to that of South Africa or the Jim Crow South.
Hillel does not limit itself to supporting Apartheid Israel. It actively suppresses opposition to the Israeli state, allowing no room for an alternative voice to be heard. In fact, according to Hillel International’s Israel Guidelines, Hillel will not host or partner with any speakers who “deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state.” In other words, speakers who advocate for the equal treatment of Israel’s Arab population and against Israel’s response to the “demographic threat” of a growing non-Jewish population are barred from expressing their views at Hillel. This is why there has recently been a movement called Open Hillel, which seeks to allow voices who stand against the occupation to speak out at Hillel.
The occupation is not something happening in a faraway place with no effect on the rest of the world. Israeli apartheid directly affects the oppression of the Latino community in the U.S. This can be seen in various ways, the most obvious being Israel’s role developing technology and tactics leading to the increasing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Bloomberg News, the Israeli arms manufacture, Elbit Systems, received a $145 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to use the same technology used to target Palestinians to target undocumented immigrants trying to cross the border. These are immigrants who are fleeing from Central America and Mexico, areas currently engulfed in drug violence and drained of economic opportunity.
This why, as a member of Columbus Latino community and an Ohio State student, I cannot in good conscience attend the Latino Buckeye Dinner as long as it is hosted at Hillel — a place where, as a supporter of Palestinian liberation and, most importantly, human rights, I do not feel safe. I call on other members of the Columbus and OSU Latino community and allies to boycott this event until the organizers of this event change the location. I realize this decision might be unpopular with some members of the Latino community on campus, but I will not stay silent while this event is being hosted by an organization that stands against the values of social justice and equality that have defined the Latino struggle in the United States.
Student in the Department of Geography
Publicity director of The Committee for Justice in Palestine at OSU