Himself an alumnus, Oren wants Princeton's Hillel head fired

After snub, Michael Oren calls for sanctions against Princeton Hillel

‘We must boycott the boycotters,’ deputy minister says after Jewish campus group cancelled Tzipi Hotovely’s speech

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Deputy Minister Michael Oren at the Knesset, June 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel)
Deputy Minister Michael Oren at the Knesset, June 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel)

Deputy Minister for diplomacy Michael Oren on Tuesday called on Israeli officials and politicians to boycott the Hillel at Princeton University after the Jewish campus organization cancelled a speech by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.

“I call on all MKs, past and present, left and right, not to accept any invitation to speak at that Hillel,” he told The Times of Israel.

Oren, who went to Princeton himself, urged fellow alumni not to donate any money to the university’s Hillel, known as the Center for Jewish Life. He also called for the group’s executive director, Rabbi Julie Roth, to be fired.

“A Hillel director, and a campus, can have political views. But Hillel has to be welcoming to representatives of Israel who are democratically elected. They represent a large, if not major share of Israeli public opinion,” the New Jersey-born Kulanu politician said.

Jerusalem urges US states to pass legislation against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Oren said. “We argue that we have to boycott the boycotters, that there’s a price to be paid for people boycotting Israel. And the same things holds true for Hillels at universities or universities themselves.”

After Hillel’s cancellation, Chabad on campus hosted Hotovely’s speech, which took place at the time and location as originally announced, just under the Hasidic organization’s auspices.

Also on Tuesday, Matt Berger, a spokesperson for Hillel International, admitted that it was a “mistake” to disinvite the deputy foreign minister, adding that the organization’s Princeton branch has apologized to her.

Oren, who in the 1980s received a master’s degree and a Phd in History and Middle East Studies from Princeton, said he recalled taking issue with the Hillel there from his days as a student. “It was not a friendly Hillel. It was always a Hillel that was very politically active and on the left. And I had my difficulties with it but I have spoken there many times.”

Hotovely was scheduled to speak Monday night at the Center for Jewish Life as part of her current visit to the US, during which she planned to speak and hand out the Foreign Ministry’s new brochures about Israel at three top universities in the New York area.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely speaking at Princeton University, November 6, 2017 (courtesy)

Citing a recent article in The Times of Israel about the deputy minister’s plan to advocate her views on campus, as well as her hard-right positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a group called Alliance of Jewish Progressives (AJP) protested her scheduled appearance on campus.

The pro-Israel pamphlets she wanted to hand out “blatantly disregard any Palestinian claim to the land and amount to little more than propaganda,” the group charged in a letter to The Daily Princetonian campus newspaper.

“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 letter went on.

It was signed by several campus organizations, including Princeton’s branch of J-Street, and dozens of individual students.

As a consequence, the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton decided to “postpone” Hotovely’s speech “until we can properly vet the program through our Israel Advisory Committee,” the organization’s executive director, Rabbi Julie Roth, told The Times of Israel on Monday.

“We are fortunate that our colleagues at Chabad agreed to host the program,” she said, adding that she encouraged 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.”

Hotovely was livid.

“By canceling this lecture, you are infringing on the fundamental academic freedom of the students. You are denying the basic freedom of students to hear different points of views, to question, challenge and think for themselves,” she wrote in a letter to Roth.

“Your actions are counter to the core tenants of education, contradict the values that an institution of higher learning such as Princeton hold sacred and are obligated to share with its students,” the letter went on. “Furthermore, by agreeing to the demands of radical voices you are silencing the voice of Israeli democracy.”

Earlier this week, Hotovely spoke at Columbia University in New York City, where her hawkish views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were received with much skepticism, according to people who attended the event. On Tuesday evening, she is scheduled to address New York University.

Tzipi Hotovely speaking at Columbia University on November 2, 2017. (Dor Malka/MFA)

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