JCRC and Hillel Response to Anti-Israel Conference Coming to U of M

September 25, 2019

Minneapolis, MN – Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), and Benjie Kaplan, executive director of Minnesota Hillel issued the following message:

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the most influential proponent of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses, will hold their national conference at the University of Minnesota on the weekend of November 1-3, 2019.

We are alarmed that this closed-door conference is convening in our state with the express purpose of ‘advance[ing] an unequivocally anti-Zionist movement for Palestinian liberation’ and the destruction of Israel.

This conference’s singular focus on creating a world without Israel — the indigenous homeland of the Jewish people and home to half the world’s Jews — as well as their demonization of Israel and all who support the country’s existence, is disturbing. We know this focus will promote the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and maliciously divide our campus and state.

We are troubled by a message which celebrates terrorism against Israeli civilians, dishonestly uses fringe voices to try to redefine Judaism and Zionism, disrupts events and shouts down speakers who offer a differing perspective, and stands vehemently against efforts to find common ground or create a better future for Israelis and Palestinians. Most damagingly, ‘anti-normalization’ tactics are intended to ostracize the majority of Jewish students.

Minnesota Hillel and JCRC are committed to a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians. We want to see Israelis and all of their neighbors living in dignity and security, and we are confident the path to reconciliation is through the difficult work of engagement, investment, and compromise. That work can begin here in Minnesota with honest dialogue and respectful interaction, even when we disagree.

Hillel is already engaging with the JCRC, student leaders, and a coalition of more than 25 campus and community partners to showcase perspectives that honor our values of respect, dialogue, inclusive education, and relationship building—both during the conference weekend and throughout the school year.

Hillel is committed to year-long programming based on these values, including taking another diverse group of student leaders to Israel to experience firsthand the country’s uniqueness and complexity. Hillel will ensure voices from this conference are not the only ones University of Minnesota students hear this year.

Similarly, the JCRC is proud to champion Israelis and Palestinians committed to the challenging, yet crucial, work of genuinely listening to the other, as well as making the painful concessions necessary for reconciliation.

Thank you for your support of Jewish life at the University of Minnesota and throughout our region.