The University of Vermont (UVM) chapters of J Street and the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) released two separate but similar statements this month condemning UVM Hillel, a local chapter of an international Jewish student group. Within 90 minutes of each other, both called out UVM Hillel for accepting funding from the Maccabee Task Force (MTF), raising questions about their coordination on this apparent campaign to demonize support for Israel.
A portion of the $100,000 grant UVM Hillel was offered from MTF, which is devoted to fighting against the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, will reportedly be used to organize a trip to Israel for UVM students.
Matt Vogel, executive director of UVM Hillel, reportedly told the Vermont Cynic that “the trip would allow students to develop their own thoughts and opinions about the Middle East… Previously, UVM Hillel had offered birthright trips to Israel to nearly 100 people, according to Hillel’s website.” (RELATED: Linda Sarsour Defends Rep. Omar’s Israel Comments)
The Daily Caller found many parallels in the rhetoric from both groups. For example, the SJP’s statement demonized the university’s pro-Israel community for its “refusal to listen to Palestinian voices,” while J Street U’s announcement denounced the same group for the “oppressive dynamics of omission and erasure of Palestinian voices.”
Both statements also call for a rejection of MTF’s funding and suggest the relationship between MTF and Hillel creates “an unsafe environment” and “unnecessary divides.” In their corresponding statements, SJP and J Street U also criticized MTF for omitting a “Palestinian narrative” on their trip. (RELATED: Jewish Students Split Over Whether San Francisco School Is Anti-Semitic)
SJP has a long history of advocating for BDS on campuses throughout the United States:
- In 2015, for example, UC Riverside had temporarily banned the sale of a popular hummus brand that is partially owned by an Israeli company after SJP made the request. The ban was reversed several days later.
- In 2017, SJP members disrupted a panel discussion at UC Irvine featuring Israeli Defense Force (IDF) reservists. Later that year, the publicly-funded university sanctioned the group with disciplinary probation for two academic years.
- In 2018, SJP members and the off-campus Revolutionary Communist Party violently disrupted a panel discussion on the Middle East’s indigenous communities shouting phrase like, “We want 48! We don’t want two states!”
While J Street claims to oppose the BDS movement, in its policy statement the UVM chapter of the group condemns MTF and Sheldon Adelson for opposing the “movement advocating Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel.” (RELATED: Rep. Omar Ignores Reporter’s Question About Why She Supports The BDS Movement)
David Brog, Executive Director of MTF, issued a statement about the conflict to the Caller:
“For years J Street has told the American Jewish community that the only way to convince students to support Israel is to embrace their critique of Israel. We’ve proven them wrong. We’ve shown that sharing the reality on the ground — warts and all — persuades any reasonable student to shun the one-sided scapegoating of Israel behind BDS. Instead of fighting us, these students should join us. The door is open.”
J Street U did not respond to several requests for comment.