Statement on The Great March of Return

April 18, 2018

Over the past several weeks, we have watched Israeli forces use live fire in response to the Great March of Return protests in Gaza. Since these protests began, the IDF has killed dozens of Palestinians and injured hundreds more. On the most basic level, we affirm the right of all people -- including Palestinians in Gaza -- to demonstrate and protest free from violent repercussions.  

The Great March of Return and the IDF’s response highlight core issues including the Right of Return, recognition of the Nakba, the siege of Gaza, human rights, and legitimacy under international law. Without addressing these core issues, it will be impossible to build towards justice and peace for the Israeli and Palestinian people.

Yet, our Jewish communal institutions continually silence discussion of these issues.

How do Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership shut down conversations around the Great March? Hillel has barred students from discussing and learning about the Nakba and Right of Return. It has barred Breaking the Silence, an organization of former Israeli soldiers, from testifying about their experiences enforcing the IDF’s policies in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Hillel has even forbidden students from reading poems written by prominent Palestinian authors. And Hillel’s Standards have consistently prevented Jewish students from working with their Palestinian peers and thus learning from those who can speak from personal or family experience about life in Gaza.

Around the country, Jewish students and community members are expressing outrage at -- and protesting -- our institutions’ silence around, and even justification of, the Israeli government’s role in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. These protests demonstrate that policies that censor and silence community members are failing.

We call on Hillel and other Jewish communal institutions to end their practices of censorship, to support students and community members in pursuing justice, and to lift up Palestinian perspectives.