UNC and Duke: This is Not Free Speech, It is Propaganda

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill have planned an anti-Zionist and anti-Israel conference camouflaged as a conference on Gaza, March 22-24. Several scheduled speakers have compared Israel to Nazis and many others promote boycotting Israel. One of the opening speakers refers to Israel as a “terrorist state.”

The letter below was written by Judith and Lewis Siegel. 

Other letters are archived at Israeli Under Attack at UNC and Duke.

Dear President Price,

We always thought that Duke was a great university. But a great university should not be trafficking in lies and then cry “free speech.” Nor should a great university pile up on a threatened nation and people so as to permit its enemies to falsely propagandize the public. That is what will be happening this week-end. That alone would be bad enough. But to not even provide a balance – that is beyond the pale!

We can’t provide a complete historical background, but just to show a few common lies: The claim is made that Israel occupies Gaza. ISRAEL UNILATERALLY WITHDREW FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. It left behind all its agricultural infrastructure worth tens of millions of dollars, hoping it would enable Gaza to flourish. Gazans destroyed it all. Hate is apparently more important. Gaza is potentially a rich seaport and could have a flourishing tourist industry. But Hamas’s message of hate, its use of Gaza resources to fund its tunnels and rockets, its endless attacks on Israelis and its murder of any Gazans who dare to oppose it has kept it poor and desperate.

We are disappointed in Duke beyond words. We have a deep connection. Our son (A.B. Duke scholar, summa com laude) graduated from Duke. Lewis was a Duke faculty member for 42 years. He was Chairman of the Academic Council, and Vice-Provost and Dean of the Graduate School for 15 years. Judith trained Duke Law interns at the North Central Legal Assistance Program.

Please don’t bother to send a form reply about freedom of speech. Judith, an attorney, is well-versed in the First Amendment and our son is one of the leading First Amendment attorneys in the country. THIS IS NOT FREE SPEECH. IT IS PROPAGANDA.

The only way we see that Duke can redeem itself is to have a seminar that will expose what is really happening in Gaza, why Israel must defend itself against an organization like Hamas that endangers Israel’s very existence, so as to present the balance that the current seminar lacks.

Judith and Lewis Siegel

Be like Judith and Lewis Siegel and Make Your Voice Heard!

Contact the following UNC and Duke leaders to voice your concerns about this unbalanced and biased conference against Israel.

Duke President Vincent Price (919) 684-2424 vincent.price@duke.edu

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz 919-962-1365 chancellor@unc.edu

Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr. boardchair@duke.edu

UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr. public@bog.northcarolina.edu

Disgusted by UNC and Duke Anti-Israel Conference

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill have planned an anti-Zionist and anti-Israel conference camouflaged as a conference on Gaza, March 22-24. Several scheduled speakers have compared Israel to Nazis and many others promote boycotting Israel. One of the opening speakers refers to Israel as a “terrorist state.”

The letter below was written by Gabriel Szulik and Orit Ramler Szulik.

Other letters are archived at Israeli Under Attack at UNC and Duke.

To all Duke University and UNC leaders,

My wife Orit and I are writing to BEG you to reconsider sponsoring this event titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities” which is scheduled for March 22-24. The conference is sponsored by UNC’s Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies and the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies. Co-sponsors include many departments and organizations, including the Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Our family has lived in the Durham-Chapel Hill area for 21 years now, I attended Duke’s Fuqua Business School in 1998-2000, and my wife currently works as a Coach at the Delta Leadership program at Duke. She also sits on the Board of Advisors of the Nursing School at Duke.

We are simply disgusted and very disappointed by the agenda and attendees of this conference, all showing an anti-Israel and pro-BDS bias, which is unacceptable and speaks of the poor judgement by Duke and UNC in hosting this event. The conference doesn’t have a single speaker/presenter who will present the other side of the Gaza story, which includes the terrorizing of thousands of Israelis who constantly live under rocket attacks and terrorist threats; the fact that Gaza is governed by a designated terrorist organization, and the fact that Israel withdrew from Gaza almost 15 years ago and yet it continues to be blamed for the economic and social debacle in Gaza caused by Hamas.

Please reconsider this decision and cancel your sponsorship of this event, so you can preserve a moral standing and show that this kind of biased, anti-Israel propaganda is not tolerated at your prestigious academic institutions.

Regards,

Gabriel Szulik
Orit Ramler Szulik

Be like Orit and Gabe and Make Your Voice Heard!

Contact the following UNC and Duke leaders to voice your concerns about this unbalanced and biased conference against Israel.

Duke President Vincent Price (919) 684-2424 vincent.price@duke.edu

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz 919-962-1365 chancellor@unc.edu

Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr. boardchair@duke.edu

UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr. public@bog.northcarolina.edu

Beth El Synagogue: UNC and Duke Plan Unbalanced Conference on Gaza

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill have planned an anti-Zionist and anti-Israel conference camouflaged as a conference on Gaza, March 22-24. Several scheduled speakers have compared Israel to Nazis and many others promote boycotting Israel. One of the opening speakers refers to Israel as a “terrorist state.”

The letter below was sent by Rabbi Daniel Greyber and President Debbi Goldstein of Beth El Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Durham-Chapel Hill. 

Other letters are archived at Israeli Under Attack at UNC and Duke.

March 20, 2019

Dear Leadership of Duke and UNC,

Beth El Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in Durham-Chapel Hill with over 400 member families including many students, faculty and staff at both Duke and UNC. We are writing to express concern about the upcoming Gaza Symposium March 22nd through March 24th. Beth El members have been troubled by the recent uptick in antisemitic acts which have occurred at Duke, UNC, and around the Durham-Chapel Hill area. In addition to this, while criticism of Israel is, of course, legitimate and important in a democratic society, portraying Israel only as an oppressor and Palestinians only as victims functions to demonize Israel, and neither leads to constructive dialogue nor advances rigorous academic thought.

Based upon the current composition of invited speakers, the conference program fails to meet Duke and UNC’s high academic standards because it lacks both presenters to articulate a mainstream Israeli perspective and anyone who can suggest actions that might improve relations between the two from an Israeli perspective. The program imbalance, recent antisemitic events in the Triangle, including on Duke’s campus, and the scheduling of the conference on the Jewish Sabbath (which precludes participation by observant Jews) are fueling concern in the Jewish community that the conference will contribute to an atmosphere in which an exchange of perspectives is unwelcome and where Israel will be demonized.

We are concerned about the deleterious effect the conference will have on our local communities on and off campus. We urge Duke and UNC to create forums and opportunities that meet your own highest educational ideals, to take stronger steps to encourage dialogue and relationship building, to reject antisemitism and Islamophobia, and to avoid contributing to further division in our community.

Sincerely,

Daniel Greyber, Rabbi, Beth El Synagogue

Debbie Goldstein, President, Beth El Synagogue

Be like Beth El Synagogue and Make Your Voice Heard!

Contact the following UNC and Duke leaders to voice your concerns about this unbalanced and biased conference against Israel.

Duke President Vincent Price (919) 684-2424 vincent.price@duke.edu

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz 919-962-1365 chancellor@unc.edu

Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr. boardchair@duke.edu

UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr. public@bog.northcarolina.edu

Duke Supporter: University Should Not Co-Sponsor Anti-Israel Conference

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill have planned an anti-Zionist and anti-Israel conference camouflaged as a conference on Gaza, March 22-24. Several scheduled speakers have compared Israel to Nazis and many others promote boycotting Israel. One of the opening speakers refers to Israel as a “terrorist state.”

Stefanie Kahn, a parent of three Duke students and well known Duke supporter, wrote this heartfelt letter to the university. 

Other letters are archived at Israeli Under Attack at UNC and Duke.

Dear Vince, Jack and Sally,

I am writing as a parent of 3 Duke students (2 alumni, one of whom is back at Fuqua, and a current junior) as well as a a Nasher [Museum of Art at Duke] Board member and employee, a Braxton Craven Fellow, an Iron Dukes member and a very dedicated Duke supporter. I am also a Jewish resident of Raleigh.

I am very concerned about the fact that Duke University is Co-Sponsoring the Conflict Over Gaza Conference. I fully believe in the right to free speech and support any Duke faculty member who wants to organize and support this conference, but I am dismayed that the University is a co-sponsor. Why?

The University has had an impressive track record of speaking out against anti-semitism, racism, bigotry and other discriminatory social and religious issues. I have applauded your stand in acknowledging the African American architect of the University, removing the racist statue at the Chapel, re-naming certain buildings, standing with the LBGTQ community, etc. so it upsets me that you aren’t taking a grander stand on this issue.

I urge you to please re-consider your actions and pull your support for this conference. It is organized by known anti-semites and is very one-sided. At the very minimum, please insist that other voices have an opportunity to speak and debate the current line up of speakers and panelists.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Stefanie Kahn

Be like Stephanie Kahn and Make Your Voice Heard!

Contact the following UNC and Duke leaders to voice your concerns about this unbalanced and biased conference against Israel.

Duke President Vincent Price (919) 684-2424 vincent.price@duke.edu

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz 919-962-1365 chancellor@unc.edu

Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr. boardchair@duke.edu

UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr. public@bog.northcarolina.edu

UNC and Duke to Host Biased Conference Against the Only Jewish State

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill have planned an anti-Zionist and anti-Israel conference camouflaged as a conference on Gaza, March 22-24. Several scheduled speakers have compared Israel to Nazis and many others promote boycotting Israel. One of the opening speakers refers to Israel as a “terrorist state.”

UNC alumna  Elizabeth J. Kardon wrote UNC and Duke officials. 

To all parties concerned,

I write to you as a UNC-CH alumna, the daughter and sister of Duke alumni, and most importantly, a Jewish woman and mother, native to and living in the Triangle.

I’m extremely disappointed in your decision to host the upcoming Conference on Gaza. This event, thinly and inadequately veiled as a scholarly dialogue, is in fact a one-sided campaign to continue to malign the only Jewish state in the world, and the only Democracy in the Middle East.

Several of your speakers have actively and publicly promoted terrorism against my people. You’ve included no speakers to educate on the reality of Gaza, no one to speak of the terror experienced by those Israelis living on the border. I agree wholeheartedly that Gaza must be freed. It’s people must be freed from Hamas, the terrorist ruling body in Gaza, which forces citizens at gun point to join violent protests at the border, which educates preschool children to kill Jews, which assassinates any Muslim suspected of selling property to a Jew, which throws homosexuals off of rooftops to their death.

You’ve effectively contributed to a hostile environment for Jewish students, and you will be held accountable. As you may be aware, there are several lawsuits filed against the City of Durham and it’s Mayor and Council members along similar lines. What you’re doing falls squarely under religious and ethnic discrimination, and you will be made to answer for it.

I’m beyond disappointed, frankly disgusted, by your decision. I would hope you re-evaluate your stance.

Regards,

Elizabeth J. Kardon
UNC-CH Class of 1991

Be like Liz Kardon and Make Your Voice Heard!

Contact the following UNC and Duke leaders to voice your concerns about this unbalanced and biased conference against Israel.

Duke President Vincent Price (919) 684-2424 vincent.price@duke.edu

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz 919-962-1365 chancellor@unc.edu

Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr. boardchair@duke.edu

UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr. public@bog.northcarolina.edu

Unbalanced Conference Co-Sponsored by Duke and UNC

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill have planned an anti-Zionist and anti-Israel conference camouflaged as a conference on Gaza, March 22-24. Several scheduled speakers have compared Israel to Nazis and many others promote boycotting Israel. One of the opening speakers refers to Israel as a “terrorist state.”

Bob Gutman, Co-Chair of Voice4Israel, wrote this concise, strong letter to UNC and Duke officials. 

Duke President Vincent Price, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz, Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr., UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr.

I am a retired nephrologist at Duke. The hosting of the Conference titled: “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities” sounds good when I read the title.

But the obvious deliberate choosing of speakers noted for their opposition to Israel about which you have already learned about needs adult attention. For academic institutions to allow such severe abridgment of expected scholarly standards is highly improper.

Please insist on a follow-up symposium that explains to the same public why Israel is caught in a bind promulgated by their neighbors and now, by so many institutions such as yours.

Sincerely

Robert Gutman

Be like Bob Gutman and Make Your Voice Heard!

Contact the following UNC and Duke leaders to voice your concerns about this unbalanced and biased conference against Israel.

Duke President Vincent Price (919) 684-2424 vincent.price@duke.edu

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz 919-962-1365 chancellor@unc.edu

Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr. boardchair@duke.edu

UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr. public@bog.northcarolina.edu

Clearly Not a Peace Conference and Not Worthy of Duke University

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill have planned an anti-Zionist and anti-Israel conference camouflaged as a conference on Gaza, March 22-24. Several scheduled speakers have compared Israel to Nazis and many others promote boycotting Israel. One of the opening speakers refers to Israel as a “terrorist state.”

Duke University alum Eric Chabinsky wrote President Price to express strong concerns about the conference. 

Dear President Price,

I am discouraged and disgusted to see that my alma mater and UNC are planning to co-host the subject conference in March.

Similar to the ISM [International Solidarity Movement] conference hosted by Duke many years ago, our University is giving hate, anti-semitism and anti-Zionism a forum and legitimacy it does not deserve-

This is clearly not a peace conference, an academic debate or anything worthy of Duke University. Coming on the heels of the East Campus Swastika incident, the Chronicle Editorial Board handling of the Ilhan Omar comments, and Duke Academic Press’s publication of the unscholarly Israel smear “Right to Maim” I see a disturbing trend of Duke becoming unwelcome to Jewish students as it allows itself to be used by BDS supporters and Israel haters that have no plan or objectives other than destroying the only Jewish nation in the world.

If Gazans had supported and elected leadership intent on peace and not Hamas which continuously fires rockets into Israel, spends millions on attack tunnels, infiltrates the border with fire balloons, and teaches their young children to hate all Jews, I’m confident there would be peace today.

As president, you’re responsible for the safety and proper learning environment for all your students including those that are Pro-Israel and Jewish even though they may be a minority- You’re also responsible for Duke’s reputation.

With all due respect to academic freedom, I’m asking you to cancel this non-academic event if it can not be reformulated to be objective, worthy, representative of multiple viewpoints, and not just an anti-Israel propaganda fest.

Sincerely,

Eric Chabinsky
Duke Engineering ‘85

Be like Eric Chabinsky and Make Your Voice Heard!

Contact the following UNC and Duke leaders to voice your concerns about this unbalanced and biased conference against Israel.

Duke President Vincent Price (919) 684-2424 vincent.price@duke.edu

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz 919-962-1365 chancellor@unc.edu

Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr. boardchair@duke.edu

UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr. public@bog.northcarolina.edu

Please Reconsider Gaza Symposium

Durham City Council, Israel

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill have planned an anti-Zionist and anti-Israel conference camouflaged as a conference on Gaza, March 22-24. Several scheduled speakers have compared Israel to Nazis and many others promote boycotting Israel. One of the opening speakers refers to Israel as a “terrorist state.”

Mike Ross, Co-Chair of Voice4Israel, wrote this thoughtful, strong letter to UNC and Duke officials. 

Dear UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr.

I am a recently retired neuroradiologist having practiced at Wake Medical Center, (instructing UNC trainees) for many years and more recently at UNC Rex Hospital.

I am greatly saddened by the recent uptick in antisemitism, which has occurred at university campuses in our great state; some of it apparently from white supremacist sources. I am equally concerned with the rhetoric emanating from the radical anti-Israel side. There it often crosses the line from legitimate criticism of Israeli policy, into demonization and delegitimization of Israel, with attacks on Israel’s very right to exist, as a Jewish homeland. Since the vast majority of Jews feel a strong connection to Israel and to the need for its survival, they also feel targeted by these malign, disingenuous and deceitful accusations. They are ostracized by some groups if they do not toe the proper line. They hide their feelings so as to avoid acrimonious situations. It is for them a very non inclusive climate.

This is all background to the alarm our community feels regarding UNC’s joint sponsorship with Duke of the upcoming Gaza conference on March 22nd through March 24th. As you undoubtedly now know, the speakers at the symposium contain many despisers of Israel who are outspoken in their desire to eliminate the Jewish State. The symposium is devoid of any pro-Israel perspective as far as we know. This is not an academic event, where true engagement with factual information, inclusion of differing opinion and dialog is championed. In contradistinction, this event promises to be entirely polemical, filled with hate and intended for indoctrination. Rather than providing honor to our distinguished institution, it compromises its integrity and tarnishes UNC’s great name.

As Elie Wiesel once told President Reagan, when he planned to visit a cemetery, where SS soldiers were buried: “That place, Mr. President, is not your place.

Please do not maintain your sponsorship of the Gaza symposium, for that place is not your place.

Sincerely,

Michael Ross MD
Raleigh, NC

Be like Mike Ross and Make Your Voice Heard!

Contact the following UNC and Duke leaders to voice your concerns about this unbalanced and biased conference against Israel.

Duke President Vincent Price (919) 684-2424 vincent.price@duke.edu

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz 919-962-1365 chancellor@unc.edu

Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr. boardchair@duke.edu

UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr. public@bog.northcarolina.edu

Duke and UNC Should Not Host Hateful, Anti-Zionist Conference

Rabbi Lev Cotlar is Director of Education at Congregation Sha’arei Israel in Raleigh, NC. 

Rabbi Cotlar wrote UNC and Duke University officials to express his concerns about their planned anti-Israel conference camouflaged as a conference on Gaza. 

“I wrote this letter to some of the contacts in the link below, I think it’s important that we voice our opposition to something as biased and anti-Israel as this on campus, being disguised as academic discourse.” -Rabbi Lev Cotlar

Open Letter to Duke University President Vincent Price and UNC Officials 

Dear President Price,

I hope you are doing well. Many people in the Jewish community here in Raleigh have approached me expressing concern about the upcoming conference on Gaza scheduled from March 22-24 being co-hosted by Duke and UNC. After looking into the course schedule and its presenters, it sadly appears to be no more than another anti-Israel affair camouflaged as a discussion about Gaza. I was horrified to discover that several presenters have compared Israelis to Nazis and many promote boycotting Israel. Opening the conference is speaker Laila El-Haddad who has tweeted “Israel is a terrorist state” and has charged Israel with “equating [Palestinian] children with human cannon fodder.” Additionally, El-Haddad has compared Gaza to the Holocaust. Other speakers and moderators, including Sara Roy, Rebecca Stein, and Sara Shields, are known to be highly critical of Israel and promoters of boycotting Israeli academic institutions and supporters of the BDS movement (Roy even had the audacity to draw “parallels between the behavior of Israeli soldiers and Nazis during the Third Reich.”) Likewise, the conference will include a number of videos featuring artists discussing the hardships of living in Gaza and blaming Israel for the hardships. Not one Israeli artist or civilian is represented to share their experiences of living under the fear of Gazan rockets, mortars, tunnels, and incendiary devices intended to kill, terrorize, burn, and kidnap Israelis

As President of a highly prestigious institution such as Duke University, I respectfully request that you reconsider co-hosting this hateful, anti-Zionist and anti-academic conference. It is clear that this is not about having a balanced and unbiased discourse, but rather another opportunity to demonize and delegitimize Israel, without even giving her a voice to defend itself by featuring any pro-Israel presenters or artists. It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify as a proud Jew and/or Israel supporter (most anti-Israel students and organizations don’t make the distinction) on campuses across the country due to the toxic anti-Israel atmosphere, and I fear that this conference will only contribute to that environment of hate. Once again, I implore you to take action to ensure that Duke remains a safe and comfortable environment for all students by cancelling this upcoming unbalanced and biased conference.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Lev Cotlar
Director of Education
Congregation Sha’arei Israel

Be like Rabbi Cotlar and Make Your Voice Heard

Contact the following UNC and Duke leaders to voice your concerns about this unbalanced and biased conference against Israel.

Duke President Vincent Price (919) 684-2424 vincent.price@duke.edu

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz 919-962-1365 chancellor@unc.edu

Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr. boardchair@duke.edu

UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr. public@bog.northcarolina.edu