Monday, June 1, 2015

How One Hillel Managed to Set Pro-Israel Advocacy Back

[The following is cross-posted with the author's permission]

Rivka S. Rothschild

hillel concordia

Whoever said, “the older you get the faster time flies”, was correct. Time flies and we develop perspective, with age, and under pressure. When it comes to survival, to self expression, to taking the kind of risks in which we show the world who we truly are, there is urgency. There must be urgency. What are we waiting for then? Why do we take the leap in life sometimes, but not others?

Often, we take that leap because we stop caring what others think, because we become connected to ourselves and to the truth; because we cannot care what others think anymore. Why do you think the underdog suddenly rises up and wins the battle? Why do you think the Jews rose up and won in 1948? In 1967?  Because we were under immense pressure; because we couldn’t afford to care about blending in, in order to avoid upsetting murderous racists, because we were so very connected to ourselves, and the truth that this world must not turn silently on its axis while evil drives systematic torture, brutalization and the theft of precious human lives. Because we simply had no choice.


It was Israel basically, or annihilation. In short, because we had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Beaten. Traumatized. Tortured. And still, no perhaps because, we persevered. We were lean and starving. Israel was re-born and saved, and the raw energy going into this extraordinary endeavor has continued with such momentum that pure human intellect, wit, tenacity, and sweat have built this beautiful nation in a mere 67 years- rich with art, science, technology, human rights and a passion for life.

That was then, and when it comes to Israel activism today, that very drive seems to have gone subterranean. Is it fear, comfort, or sheer exhaustion which has apparently rendered some of us Israel supporters so passive? Quiet and waiting. Waiting for what? Is it that we now have something tremendous to lose and we are rendered paralyzed? What are we waiting for?
I ask that very question to on campus Jewish organizations, because one of the major fronts in this battle to stand up for Israel, is in the minds of the younger generations who are the custodians of the world to come. I ask that very question to one of the largest pro Israel organizations on college campuses tasked with fighting BDS and its false history narrative – Hillel. While some Hillels are passionately outspoken in their support for Israel, honestly and earnestly examining her strengths and weaknesses, some seem more interested in scrutiny of Israel. The kind of unfair, one-sided scrutiny which can lead to seeming sympathy for BDS. Innocents who play with fire? It is admittedly the nature of tadpole college activists – just as much as honest research is admittedly a part of growing up.
Enter Ryan Bellerose.  I first discovered Ryan when I read one of his articles on Jewish indigenous status. When interviewing him for this piece, I asked him what made him interested in Israel in the first place- after all, he isn’t Jewish. He isn’t even Middle Eastern. I expected the deliverance of some dry, political science abstraction. What I got was a story about two friends attending University in 1999. Ryan and Diane. One day, while walking to class together, they came upon an “Israel Apartheid Wall”, constructed with the intent to place fear and guilt into the hearts of non-believers and provide sanctimonious pleasure for the supporters of those “oppressed” by Israeli “brutality”. In short, Ryan was stopped, argued with, nastily confronted by the anti Israel, antisemitic, pro BDS students, “got fed up”, “moved” their wall in a show of strength and confidence, and fearlessly strode on to class. The end? Well, no. Because once he arrived at class, Ryan realized he’d lost Diane. Nothing more than mild confusion came over him when he bumped into her in class and casually asked, “hey, what happened? Where’d you go?”

Her answer is at the heart of this story, at the heart of Ryan’s dedication to the nation of Israel, and what ought to be driving every single on-campus Jewish organization to be openly fighting antisemitism and antizionism. “Ryan, I’m not big and strong like you. I know those people and they could get very mad with me. Ryan, I’m Jewish.” It was at that moment, he described, that it fully dawned on him – Diane’s pain as a Jew, and the profound similarity between the struggles of the Metis and the Jews. Two sets of indigenous peoples who had not only had their homelands violently ripped from them, and been stripped of rights any reasonable man would consider basic, but who, each in their own ways have been historically bullied into the shadows and made to live with chronic pain and fear. Some just get quiet. Some harden their resolve and speak up.
In the end, I was left feeling the pain of Diane’s struggle, of Ryan’s struggle, and, as I continued to digest the story, every Jew, every Metis, and every single, solitary human being on this planet who has been bullied into the shadows and denied what is rightfully theirs –  even if it’s just a safe, dignified walk to class. (If you’re reading this and thinking about the Palestinians’ losses and predicament, to clarify, I’m with you. Their pain is as real as any Jew’s, but in the name of honesty, they are, first and foremost, the victims of their own Arab brethren and corrupt leadership.)
The intersecting paths of Concordia University Hillel in Montreal and Ryan Bellerose brings us back to the core questions asked above, and the impetus for this article. In a nutshell, Ryan was added to a group of so-called Zionist Concordia students on FaceBook for debate and discussion. When confronted with their explicit and tacit approval of BDS, conception of Israel as a racist, apartheid state and overall endorsement of the destruction of Israel as a Jewish nation, he was astounded by their lack of knowledge, attachment to falsehoods, and the racism du jour –  anti-Zionism.

Ryan reportedly proceeded to debate with these students, and, simply put, they did not like to be so challenged that they literally had no answers. Prior to his arrival in this group, it likely was a veritable echo chamber of complaints about Israel, founded on false, rewritten history – and lies. Basically, these students were disturbed to find out that their arguments were flimsy, and that for all their bloviating about fairness and liberty, they had unwittingly been cheer-leading for terrorists, colonizers and murderers. Simply put, Ryan apparently held the mirror up and ruined the party. So much so, that when some of these students discovered that Ryan Bellerose was slated to speak at Concordia Hillel in order to educate and expose students to the factual basis for Jews’ indigenous rights and the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, they took the time and energy to have his talk cancelled.

This seeming over sensitivity to being proven wrong, coupled with their devotion to the emotionally appealing, false narrative they’d apparently been fed at this fine institution, drove their desire to prevent his presence on their campus. What, however, drove Concordia Hillel’s administration to not only enact his cancellation, but to misrepresent his character on their public, Facebook wall? THAT is the bigger question.

“On the eve of our event hosting Ryan Bellerose, I have no choice but to cancel the event. Although much of what Ryan espouses with respect to indigenous people and Israel resonates with our community, some of his messages are clearly not inline (sic) with Hillel or Concordia. Both institutions value different Races and Cultures, and both recognize the equality of genders.” As if Ryan Bellerose does not “value different Races and Cultures” or the “equality of genders”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing.

In fact here is how Ryan expressed his stance on indigenous peoples of the world and what is just, “The right of the Jewish people is to have self-determination on their ancestral lands. If we let them delegitimize that, if we let them do that, they delegitimize all indigenous rights, and by doing that, they delegitimize all human rights. This is a man who is devoted to the support of those, worldwide, with no voice. This is a man who is devoted to true history and peace. This is a man who did not deserve to be treated like a fraud, and have his good name dragged through the mud on social media- no less by an organization whose mission is to support enduring commitment to Jewish life, and Israel! Something went very wrong here.
Not only was this damaging to Ryan, this was damaging to our cause as pro Israel advocates, and it was damaging to the good work being done by Ryan and other activsts for the North American indigenous population.  Well done.
According to a board member at Hilllel International, who initially, disbelievingly asked if Concordia Hillel actually cancelled a pro-Israel speaker, it was a matter only of “civil discourse.” When a Concordia Hillel administrator was emailed in an attempt to better understand the situation, his reply seemed somewhat evasive, and turned the subject to a Shabbat dinner they had organized. According to Ryan, when he was asked to delete comments on Facebook in an attempt to appease the students, he willingly and quickly did so, in an attempt at good faith resolution – to no avail.
Who ever said, “the older you get the faster time flies”, was correct. That, and the notion that today’s college students are falling prey to the de rigueur, kind of humanitarian cloaked racism, which wrongfully trumpets Israel as a colonial and oppressive power, is enough to make clear that there is precious little time left when it comes to pro-Israel advocacy. Precious little time left to enlighten everyone as to the indigenous rights of Jews, as to Israel as a true democracy and seeker of peace, and the true plight of the Palestinians at the hands of their own Arab brethren and corrupt leaders. 

“What are we waiting for?”, is a question for those pro Israel on campus organizations, which seem to be quiet and passive. “Why on earth, would you not only cater to students who would apparently facilitate the delegitimization of Israel, but fold to the pressure to block such a valuable supporter as Ryan Bellerose?” 

Now that is one question we should all ask.


  1. "According to a board member at Hilllel International, who initially, disbelievingly asked if Concordia Hillel actually cancelled a pro-Israel speaker, it was a matter only of “civil discourse.""

    It would be very nice if 'civil discourse' were an attribute valued and required by both sides.

    But then again, I suppose there is no possibility of ever ultimately 'civilly' calling for war and genocide and everything else that would necessarily accompany the destruction of Israel, despite the flowery guise of 'progressive' feel-good language the anti-Israel fanatics sometimes use.

    I would suggest that the failure on the part of certain of our organizations to realize this simple fact might be a major part of the problem, perhaps.

    How do you hold 'civil discourse' with people who want you and your family dead?

  2. This is an absolutely terrific piece and many thanks to Jay for posting it.

    The Jewish people are the most indigenous people to the region.

    That is, the regions of Judea and Samaria are the home of the Jewish people and it is helpful that a big, strapping, intelligent Canadian football player says so.

    Heck, would you tell that guy to go f*** off?

    I wouldn't.

    I like Bellerose very much and he once actually dropped in here to berate Trudy.


    I do not know that she deserved it, but she definitely pissed him off.

    I wish that Jewish pro-Israel advocates had half his gonads... or, for that matter, half Trudy's.

  3. Slightly off on a tangent. About the importance of language.

    Re ' the purposes of lies...'

    From Theodore Dalrymple:

    In my studies of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity.
    To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed.

    1. That is quite an insight, Kate.

      I agree.

    2. Indeed.
      You'll have to thank Mr Dalrymple.
      Also known as Anthony Daniels.
      He's an interesting commentator.

    3. It's chilling and all to real.

  4. No organization operates from the outside in. They operate from the top down. The Jewish organizations, the national ones, and international ones, in the US operate in a way that EVERYONE who participates in, understands. And it's a problem that we all recognize whether we want to or not. The problem is one of status and money. Hillel, Jewish Federation, AJC, and most of the rest of the large mainstream groups are run by wealthy cliques that you meet at each other's boards and meetings. It's a fairly small community of wealthy individuals who - - - and this may shock some of you - - - PAY for their board seats. They PAY for their name on the letterhead. These are people who call themselves "Professional Volunteers". Philanthropic organizations are run by, well, philanthropists. And those are the people calling the shots.

    Go to any large synagogue and you'll find that control and power rests with a tiny handful of rich families who've been in charge for a generation or more. The families who get their names on the buildings, the families who seemingly have cousins and nieces and marriages that extend wide and deep. So wide and deep in fact, I know of one Conservative shul where the president of the board of trustees converted to Judaism AFTER he took over the board. So this shul was run for a time by a non Jew by virtue of the fact that his wife's family and family money pushed him into the role. Because they could.

    The national Hillel organization is of a type. The people who run it run it like their personal fiefdoms, little different from any other inbred corrupt organization that operates according to its own rules on its own agenda. Sometimes they almost accidentally do the right thing but often they don't. So the fact that Concordia's Hillel is a corrupt shambles, to me, is no different than the national Hillel stumbling over themselves with local chapters who openly despise Israel, support BDS and then hide behind this silly 'Open Hillel' moniker. A national organization with a spine would kick them out and sue them to stop illegally using the brand name. If you're a Boyscout chapter and you decide that you want to worship Satan and practice group sex then fine - you can do that, but you can't call yourselves "Open Boyscouts" because that's an illegal appropriation of someone's brand.

    Same thing with the Hillel organization. Because they don't stand for you, they stand for them. They're the elites. The Jewish elites are practically bowing down to Nazis and terrorists. Because they don't want to imperil their elite status. They paid to be at the top and at the top is where they're going to stay. Maybe even a few of them actually believe their own nonsense. I don't know. I do know their kids do. I know their kids are the ones leading the BDS movements, the screaming matches on campus about 'death to Israel'. I know their kids are the ones 'welcoming in other points of view' like ISM/PSM and marching around with their 'palestinian' flags.

    The fish rots from the head.

    1. 10 grand to join the board of AIPAC a few years ago.

      Influence does not come from good ideas.

      It comes from hard cash.

  5. "Both institutions value different Races and Cultures, and both recognize the equality of genders.”

    Race does not exist as a biological category.

    How can you value something that does not exist?

    The very concept of "race" is an outmoded late nineteenth and early twentieth century notion that is no longer considered as representing human types.

    This should have been put to bed decades ago, yet the concept persists.

    No wonder these Hillel students cancelled Bellerose.

    They're morons.

    1. Have to disagree.
      The point is not whether race is a biological reality or a social construct.
      At the moment, Science is finding out about the human genome. The science will tell us more as more research is able to be done with the latest computer technology.
      There is, of course, great disagreement even within scientific circles. However, the latest research suggests that human beings can be recognized by computers ( which have no bias or ' loading ') and divided up into 4 groups. This is affected by tiny little things called ' alleles.' They are not genes, they are tiny little things which can influence genes. The terror over the whole concept of " race" is a social construct. There is perfectly normal evidence, as in all other species, of the minute differences that occurred in the human race during the process of evolution. Evolution is normal. Not something to be frightened of. We developed differently according to place, geography, climate etc. It's science. Not something to be scared of. The little external physical differences are evidence of evolutionary adaptation. There are, apparently, tiny little variations which are showing up which are not to do with external appearance. They do not indicate that people will have slight dispositions towards certain types of behaviour or personality, but that it is a possibility. Just a possibility, other things - environmental conditions - play a big part. The problem arises when we have all spent so much time being told that any concept of racial difference must imply superiority, and therefore, also must imply inferiority. Differences, however tiny, do not imply hierarchy. Only in the minds of people who have been conditioned to think so. The social sciences are full of those people. So is wider society. It is not helpful to pretend that science cannot separate where people's ancestry lies. It is interesting. It tells the story of the human race. It should not be frightening. The social sciences are going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Exactly as the traditional worldview was threatened by Galileo. It's science. It's fine. It will take us wherever it goes. Not where we want it to go. Human beings are equal. That doesn't mean they are exactly the same.
      Not exactly the same.
      That's fine.
      At least, it should be.

    2. Kate,

      "The terror over the whole concept of " race" is a social construct."

      There is terror and disgust at racism because of the uses that it has been put to in the past.

      Although your reference to genomes is well-taken, the important question, from what I can tell, is that of essentialism.

      The concept of "race," as it developed in the 19th century, implied essential characteristics.

      Jews are like this or that. Black people are like this or that. Latinos are like this or that.

      You say that, "The point is not whether race is a biological reality or a social construct."

      I disagree and we are allowed to disagree in good faith.

      The point, quite spefically, is that "race" is not a biological category.

      The study into the earliest of human origins and the study of genomes, does not contradict this.

      Does it?

      What am I missing?

    3. Hi Mike,
      The terror over whether race is in any way biologically identified is, as you say, because of how ideas around race have been used in earlier generations to discriminate against people. And to create extremely abhorrent belief systems that have enormously affected societies in egregious ways. None of us has to look far to understand that.
      The reality of the story of how mankind moved out of the continent of Africa and separated into various groups living in very different climates, with different adaptations, is fascinating. The widest, by far, difference in genes is within Africa itself. From this we understand that only a very small percentage of the population left Africa all those thousands of years ago. Through a sort of bottleneck. The people who left and went on to populate the rest of the globe, are much, much closer genetically to each other. All of these ' differences ' are minor and are the result of evolutionary adaptation. Just like skin colour and little differences in features. We trace the story of how we all emerged from Africa, by understanding this.
      Race has become an idea that we, understandably, associate with discrimination or worse. That is why it is so frightening for us if science shows up any discernible, however tiny, differences in our fellow human beings.
      The idea of 'essentialism' is not what concerns science. Essentialism is about human beings imposing - usually, deeply unpleasant - ideas on society about people according to their ethnicity. It was, like many things, said by ' scientists ' in the days.when scientists could not possibly have the means or knowledge to prove what they were saying. The misuse of ' science ' will always be a part of history.
      That should not preclude our being open to what contemporary scientists can discover. Social scientists have a very strong political agenda. Actual scientists, don't. Real, hard scientists have to look at evidence. Nothing else. No one is saying that you can divide people up into different groups and then make assumptions. It is infinitely subtle. It is simply about being able to look at the pattern of how the human race moved around the world.
      The tiny differences in alleles affect only a tiny amount of the squillions of genes we have.
      All species adapted because of evolution. Humans are not an exception. No one is better or worse than anyone else.
      Anymore than having different skin colours makes us better or worse. All those ideas are social and political constructs. And have been, and continue to have been, unbelievably harmful.
      Science is not inherently harmful.
      It can't be.
      Only people can be harmful.

    4. Have been, and continue to be, ...


  6. By the way, I want you guys to know that I have deleted the comments of a new commenter who goes by the moniker Ki Wi.

    Ki Wi's comments started off like this:

    "The other Caucasian races, are also stuck in a state of helplessness. The old powers(Royalty, Clergy[Rome], monied class), played Jew's like a fiddle after WW2, to help roll back basic human rights like freedom of speech, self defense/right to bare arms, and self determination in Europe.

    If you think European Jew's are in a bad situation, look at the situation of the other Caucasian races in Europe."

    Caucasian races?

    I feel bad about deleting anyone's comments and I almost never do so.

    People will stand or fall according to their own words, but in this case I felt like we were starting down a road that I very much do not want to go down.

    There are people out there who consider IT to be a racist hate-site.

    Because we criticize political Islam there are people who think that we are Islamophobic.

    Such an attitude, particularly coming from a Jewish person, is so wrong-headed I hardly know where to start.

    Islam is not a race and when it is political, like any other political movement, it is open to criticism.

    But, really, "Caucasian races"?

    I hope that Ki Wi returns if only to give him or herself a fresh opportunity.

  7. The Canary Mission

    The Canary Mission database was created to expose individuals and groups that are anti-Freedom, anti-American and anti-Semitic in order to protect the public and our democratic values.

    Every individual and organization has been carefully researched and sourced. If you appreciate the work of the Canary Mission, please help us continue by submitting a profile and donating.