Hillel International and Simon Wiesenthal Center’s incredibly creepy new campus surveillance tool

New app has a creepy logo!The Simon Weisenthal Center and Hillel International just proudly announced a new phone app “to fight anti-Semitism” which will be deployed on 550 US campuses with Hillel centers.

In reality, however, the partnership is less Southern Poverty Law Project, and more J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn-decide-to-make-an-enemies list.

In a truly alarming marriage of Paranoid Surveillance Culture and the no-desperate-move-surprises-us-anymore Israel lobby…the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), the group known for actually building a “Museum of Tolerance” on top of a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem, has developed the app to encourage students to literally report their teachers and fellow students. Reminiscent of surveillance posters found in places like Singapore, and I’d imagine, North Korea, this app’s catch phrase is “See it. Report It”

Explained Hillel International spokesperson David Eden:

“Working against anti-Semitism with the Wiesenthal Center is a natural for Hillel International. We’re proud to stand shoulder to shoulder by promoting this important tool to those who most often take the brunt of anti-Semitic attacks – students,” said David Eden, Chief Administrative Officer and chief spokesperson for Hillel International. “This innovative and simple to use app is another resource that we can use to help keep North American college campuses safe for Jewish students.”

Keeping Jewish students safe from anti-Jewish hatred is of course laudable, but this app comes with its own Twitter feed, and almost none of the 54 tweets are about anti-Semitism. (Quelle surprise!)

With the exception of a small handful of stories about swastika graffiti, the list reads like it was curated by Alan Dershowitz’s far right-wing cousin. It’s almost entirely obsessed with criticism of Israel and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions–the movement to hold Israel accountable for violating human rights violations. (In fact, BDS is a tactic embraced by literally thousands of Jews around the world, and BDS movement leaders have repeatedly condemned all forms of bigotry.)

On the Twitter feed, there are numerous links to articles condemning student and faculty groups for involvement in divestment campaigns, and even some suggesting that such campaigns violate the law. There is a full transcript, with key phrases bolded for emphasis, of Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor’s speech opposing Palestinian Statehood. Natch, another tweet links to an article about the dangerous Open Hillel movement itself–a movement, again, led by Hillel students.

And then, for camp effect, there is the incredibly strange police badge logo above, giving app users the illusion that they are acting as a deputized citizens’ police force rather than, um HUAC-style spies.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a lost cause. Run by Marvin Hier, which the Jewish Forward called “by far the most overpaid CEO” of a Jewish organization in America, it has a long and terrible history of promoting hate against Palestinians and others under the guise of being a human rights group.

But Hillel International is supposed to be “the center for Jewish life on campuses.” They have special access and claim to represent all Jewish students on 550 campuses across the US.

But more important to them than welcoming Jewish students, is waging an all out PR war against the inspiring Open Hillel students who want to make Hillel open to all ideas, not just those vetted by the Israel-is-always-right thought police.

Instead, Hillel International is finding itself on the wrong side of history–plus they’ve just turned every Hillel student into a potential spy, asking them to literally turn in other students and teachers for public shaming and in some cases, worse.

One supposes that much like other failed efforts by Campus Watch, and the David Project, the ultimate homerun for Hillel and SWC will be gotcha videos of Middle East Studies professors in their classes where free inquiry is supposed to be encouraged.

Beyond appalling.

Cecilie Surasky
Jewish Voice for Peace

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