Eric Fingerhut, president of Hillel International, said today that he is withdrawing from the annual conference of the J Street “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization because he objects to some of the other speakers.
“After reviewing the full list of speakers, I now realize that any benefit that may come [from his participation in the March 21-23 gathering in Washington] would be overshadowed by concerns regarding my participation amongst other speakers who have made highly inflammatory statements against the Jewish state,” Fingerhut announced in a statement.
“My desire to attend the conference was based on my wish to speak at a student-only session directly with the students who will be in attendance.”
J Street, which offers a progressive alternative to the established AIPAC pro-Israel lobbying organization, expects some 3,000 people at its conference. Other announced speakers include several Israeli politicians; James Baker, former Secretary of State; and Palestinian spokesman Bassam Aramin.
The J Street U Student Board said, in a statement posted this week on the JStreet website, that is “deeply frustrated” by Fingerhut’s decision. ”Mr. Fingerhut was not being asked to share a podium with anyone he might find objectionable. At J Street, we try to create opportunities to listen, engage and tackle difficult issues across differences. We do not insist that everyone we speak with agree with us. We do not endorse the views of all those who speak at our conference.”