Muslim student group backs out of interfaith seder over Israel support

American University students withdrew participation after learning that Hillel, a pro-Zionist group, was a cosponsor.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Although the Passover seder celebrates the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt to return to Israel, a Muslim student group backed out of an interfaith seder at the American University (AU) in Washington, DC due to a cosponsor being a pro-Zionist group on campus, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported Thursday.

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) withdrew from the event, which would have elements of the traditional Jewish seder meal and Iftar, the meal that breaks the daily fast of Muslim during Ramadan event, because the Hillel chapter in the Washington, D.C. school was a major scheduled participant.

In a Saturday Instagram post, the MSA said that its reason for withdrawing was the hundreds of arrested Muslims and dozens injured in clashes with Israeli police on the Temple Mount over the past week and a half.

Labeling Israel as “a settler-colonial and apartheid state,” the group wrote, “Hillel’s continued support for the State of Israel after this attack contradicts our values of human rights and justice and we are unable to participate in a co-sponsored campus event at this time.”

The Hillel at AU does not hide its promotion of Birthright trips to Israel and its on-campus educational activities that revolve around the Jewish state.

In its post, MSA excused its initial agreement to attend the event by saying that it hadn’t known at the time that the Jewish group would be a cosponsor.

AU Hillel Executive Director Jason Benkendorf disagreed with the Muslim student group’s decision on several levels.

“We are disappointed that the MSA chose not to participate and are hurt by their decision to express their disagreement with Israel’s actions by boycotting our campus Jewish community,” he told JTA. “We don’t believe this is in keeping with the values of our campus.

“Regardless, AU Hillel will continue to foster meaningful opportunities for interfaith and cross-cultural engagement.”

Washington, D.C.’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL) chapter condemned the MSA post as “nothing less than a tired antisemitic trope of holding Jews accountable for the actions of another government,” according to JTA.

The seder went on as scheduled with other student groups in attendance, said Benkendorf.