Princeton Hillel cancels Hotovely speech after dovish Jewish groups protest
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Princeton Hillel cancels Hotovely speech after dovish Jewish groups protest

Deputy foreign minister to speak at Chabad instead, laments 'silencing of Israeli democracy,' after students raise hackles over her hard-right views

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

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

After protests from a dovish Jewish campus group, the Hillel of Princeton University canceled a scheduled talk by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely that was to take place Monday evening at the last moment.

Fuming about a “liberal dictatorship,” and accusing Hillel of “silencing the voice of Israeli democracy,” Hotovely was set to deliver her speech at the Chabad on campus instead.

Hotovely was scheduled to speak Monday night at Princeton’s Center for Jewish Life, which is affiliated with Hillel, a network of Jewish organizations across North American campuses, 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.

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 sent to The Daily Princetonian campus newspaper.

The Foreign Ministry pamphlets commissioned by Hotovely

“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.”

Your actions are counter to the core tenants of education

But Hotovely would not be appeased.

“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.”

Hotovely later said the cancellation of her talk at Princeton reveals “a deep and severe crisis of values.” She added: “A liberal dictatorship is ruling here.”

Famed US-Jewish lawyer and pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz backed Hotovely. “This is outrageous censorship,” he told her in an email, according to the deputy foreign minister’s office. “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.”

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, she is scheduled to address New York University.

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