–Kudos to Open Hillel and to its organizers. Self-empowerment is a beautiful thing. Leon Pinsker called it “auto-emancipation,” by which he meant…Zionism. Reading the live tweets from the conference is proof enough that Open Hillel is where the conversation is, no matter where you fall along the political-critical spectrum, an open space for Zionists, non-Zionists, anti-Zionists, Jews and Muslims and Palestinians to hash out in good faith what matters most in terms of contemporary Jewish politics and political culture.
— From the looks of the live twitter feed, Rashid Khalidi’s remarks hit the nail on the head. Rather than focus solely on “settler-colonialism,” they highlight the nationalist character of Zionism as a political movement. Khalidi notes the “artificial” and “constructed” character of Zionism along with all forms of nationalism, including Palestinian nationalism, about which he has written quite critically. As a critical and self-critical scholar, Khalidi levels the playing field, politically and morally.
–A word of unsolicited friendly criticism and a little tongue in cheek: Open Hillel will make a stronger impression if they resist the temptation, encouraged by some speakers at the conference, to play the victim card vis-à-vis the “Jewish establishment.” It’s not criticism of Israel per se that bangs up against a wall (that’s a red herring). What gets people hot and bothered are those efforts to throw Israel under the BDS bus. More to the point, it’s not just a little ironic that here at Open Hillel are people who don’t want Israel to define their Jewishness when Israel is pretty much the organizing object that defines the group and around which it organizes. Against the grain, that makes Open Hillel a Zionist organization.
–What will the future of Open Hillel bring and what will the future bring to Open Hillel? Will its presence and example tamp down on the animus that heretofore has defined the discourse and arguments about Israel and Palestine? Will it encourage conversation and partnering rather than rounds of recrimination and confrontation? As an object of open critical debate, Open Hillel transforms Israel as an object of discussion. No longer the idol it has since become for both its supporters and critics, Israel turns into a normal thing, a living thing. Will then Open Hillel lead perhaps to the normalization of Israel on campus and of discourse about Israel in relation to Palestine? How will Open Hillel respond when or if, as so often happens, supporters of BDS shut down Israel- and Zionist-oriented programming? How will Open Hillel respond to situations like the one at Vassar College last spring? What kinds of lines will Open Hillel draw and where will they draw them?
–According to a reliable source, the students were awesome and energetic. It’s high time that they be encouraged and trusted to draw their own lines in order to come to their own determinations, for their own sake and for ours.