SJP mobilized support for its boycott campaign primarily via social media, Jitan said. The group is circulating a petition that has gained more than 150 individual cosigners and 22 organizational cosigners to date from various colleges and states.
“If we changed one person’s mind on this, then that’s all that we could ever hope for,” Jacquelyn Hedrick, a member of SJP’s executive board, said.
According to a two-page statement the group posted on Facebook, SJP opposes the trip, "on the basis of false advertising, morally-deficient funding sources, normalization of the occupation of Palestine and its ultimate goal of silencing calls for Palestinian freedom."
“I think it really exploits people’s unfamiliarity with the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis and kind of takes advantage of the financial burden that international travel can place on college students,” Hedrick said.
This is the second year that UNC Hillel’s Perspectives Trip has been offered over spring break. Students interested in the trip had to apply and meet with North Carolina Hillel staff to discuss what they hope to gain from the trip, and 25 students were selected to go on the trip.
After participating in the trip last year, seniors Marium Konsouh and Emily Adcock said they were displeased by how imbalanced the perspectives were. Both estimated that 75 percent of the trip was spent on the Israeli narrative and only 25 percent on the Palestinian narrative.
“I think the trip is very belittling of the Palestinian narrative, and I think it hurts the Palestinian justice that needs to be addressed,” Konsouh said.
Adcock, a Jewish student leader on the trip who signed SJP’s petition, said some of the events on the itinerary meant to show the Palestinian narrative were removed without participants’ knowledge while they were on the ground. Adcock said she thought this was not the fault of the Hillel staff, but rather due to structural issues in transparency and accountability of the Maccabee Task Force, which funded the trip.
“It was something important for us to have on the Palestinian narrative that got removed from the trip without our knowledge, without any communication and then retroactively without an apology,” Adcock said.
Horowitz, North Carolina Hillel’s campus director at UNC, said in an email that scheduling conflicts and a miscommunication with the tour provider caused the itinerary to change. But she said Hillel worked with the tour operator to return the events to the schedule.
Ariel Freedman, a Jewish student leader on the trip, also said the trip did not offer balanced perspectives. She said that was not the goal of the trip, but that rather it was to introduce students to perspectives on each side.
While there was more Israeli programming than Palestinian, Freedman said the Palestinian programming offered on the trip was more than most other Jewish organizations would provide.
“I think I gained more of a Palestinian perspective than on any other trip I’ve ever been on that was provided by a Jewish organization,” Freedman, who has traveled to Israel and Palestine five times, said.
Another trip attendee, Lenore Hango, said she became much more aware of the situation in Israel and Palestine as a result of the people and places she encountered on the trip.
“I think it was both the opportunities to engage with different people and also the people I went with that allowed me to learn more than I ever could have imagined, and that keep me still engaged in learning about Israeli and Palestinian politics and issues today, and I think that was the intended takeaway from the trip,” Hango said.
Horowitz said in an email that UNC Hillel stands by its trip and the itinerary and hopes to continue offering this opportunity to students for years to come. She said North Carolina Hillel has been transparent with applicants about the goals and funding of the trip.
SJP's statement, she said, does not reflect the nature of the trip and limits dialogue and engagement about the conflict.
“We are proud of the work we are doing to bring the complexity of the conflict to UNC and to help students understand different ways of viewing the region,” Horowitz said in the email.