The Alliance for Jewish Progressives (AJP) has just released a statement regarding the CJL’s postponement of Tzipi Hotovely’s talk, which continued after Princeton Chabad decided to sponsor the event. You can read our live coverage of yesterday’s protest and speech. The press release reads as follows:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 11/7/2017
Alliance of Jewish Progressives’ Statement Regarding the Equal Protection of Free Speech
The Alliance of Jewish Progressives
PRINCETON, NJ., November 7, 2017. The Alliance for Jewish Progressives at Princeton University (AJP) has always been and will continue to be in fervent support of free speech. We recognize that silencing of oppositional voices from both the left and the right is a real and frustrating issue on college campuses. However, we want to make clear that that is not—and has never been—our purpose.
On Sunday evening, we, the Alliance of Jewish Progressives at Princeton University, published an open letter to the Center for Jewish Life Princeton Hillel (CJL), criticizing its unbalanced censorship policy with respect to Israel-related speakers. The CJL’s Israel policy states that “the CJL will not, however, sponsor groups or speakers that, as a matter of policy or practice, foster an atmosphere of incivility, intend to harm Israel, or promote racism or hatred of any kind.”
For the past three years, the CJL has repeatedly used its Israel policy to subject AJP’s progressive events to intense and often covert scrutiny. As a result, the CJL refused to sponsor proposed events with left-wing speakers, including feminist activist Penny Rosenwasser, Israeli filmmaker Shimon Dotan, and the Israeli non-profit Breaking the Silence. The CJL initially chose not to apply the same standard of scrutiny to MK Tzipi Hotovely’s visit, and this was the focus of AJP’s protest.
We disagree with this policy and its potential for unqualified censorship and want to point out the CJL’s hypocrisy in applying its policy only to left-wing speakers. By drawing attention to this policy over the past few days, we have tried to highlight its failures, not to increase censorship on campus. We are now calling for a revision of the CJL’s Israel policy that will allow for open discourse within the campus Jewish community.
Over the past two days, members of the American and Israeli media have mischaracterized our protest as an obstruction to free speech. On the contrary, our intention was neither to censor MK Tzipi Hotovely nor to cancel the event, but to highlight the CJL’s systematic silencing of leftist voices on campus through uneven application of its ostensibly neutral Israel policy.
According to The Times of Israel, MK Hotovely said that the cancellation of her talk at Princeton reveals “a deep and severe crisis of values” and that “a liberal dictatorship is ruling here.” MK Hotovely clearly misunderstands the intricacies of the Princeton Jewish community and the aims of our protest. Our Hillel’s response to the concerns of progressive Jewish students does not constitute a “liberal dictatorship.” Rather, the events of the past two days show the CJL’s commitment to more equitable standards of inclusivity and diversity.
We, members of AJP, are progressive Jewish students who are deeply committed to our Jewish communities. We are the proud recipients of Jewish education through American institutions such as Jewish summer camps, Jewish day schools, Hebrew schools, and local synagogues. We are dedicated to working with our Hillel to promote nuance and critical thinking in these American Jewish institutions. Every official AJP meeting begins with a Jewish text study, and we draw our progressive values directly from Jewish tradition. In Yevamot 87b, we learn that “Silence is equivalent to consent,” “יבמות פז ע״ב) “ושתיקה כהודאה דמיא). Our Jewish values and our commitment to open discourse on campus are the source of this week’s protest.
Ultimately, Chabad at Princeton picked up the sponsorship for the event, and MK Hotovely spoke to a full lecture hall of students — including many members of AJP— as planned, but without CJL sponsorship. We listened politely as MK Hotovely denied the existence of Palestinian history and reiterated her recent statements that Reform and Conservative Jews have “emptied Judaism of substance.”
We appreciated the opportunity to engage in respectful disagreement and lively discussion with MK Hotovely and look forward to continuing the conversation in the future. However, such a conversation will be possible only if the CJL protects the free speech of both right- and left-wing members of the Jewish community. We are proud that our community is committed to free and balanced discourse on campus. We hope to see this commitment endure.
We invite respectful questions and comments on our Facebook page, The Alliance of Jewish Progressives.