Duke Acts Insensitively By Scheduling Event on Shabbat and Passover

Following the UNC-Duke highly condemned conference on Gaza, Duke has a new event on Middle East refugee issues taking place during the Jewish Shabbat and festival of Passover

Last month UNC and Duke jointly hosted a conference “Conflict over Gaza” which, in reality, proved to be a one-sides series of anti-Israel talks. The bulk of the meeting was held on Shabbat. The conference made national news when a video revealed that a featured performer was shown not only singing an anti-Semitic song, but asking the audience to join him in the singing. Students reported to Voice4Israel that one professor offered academic credit to students who attend the conference. Anti-Semitic posters have since appeared multiple times on UNC’s campus.

UNC Dismisses Then Condemns Anti-Semitism

At first, UNC Global dismissed concerns saying that the video was edited and did not represent the true spirit of the conference. Then, following intense community outrage and national attention, UNC Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz released a statement standing “steadfast against anti-Semitism.”

Hillel North Carolina condemned the anti-Semitic language at the UNC/Duke conference and have called for an academic review.

Some sponsors want money returned after anti-Semitic remarks made at UNC-Duke conference

Tuesday night, ABC 11 news published a report stating “sponsors are asking for their money back and a congressman is seeking a government investigation after an anti-Semitic song was performed by a Palestinian rapper at a ‘Conflict over Gaza’ conference at UNC-Chapel Hill last month.”

From the ABC report:

In a scathing letter to leaders of the UNC Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies, which officially sponsored the event, UNC School of Law Dean Martin Brinkley said: "Due to your inclusion of conference content over which I had no knowledge or control, I have been forced to spend most of the last two days responding to outraged members of my own community who are ashamed and embarrassed to see the law school shown as a sponsor of what they consider hate speech." "As the organizers, who I assume were present during the performance, I would have expected you to intervene and stop a performance that so obviously and painfully contravened campus norms and values, and that so undercut the cultural understanding that you claimed to promote," he wrote.

By Gloria Rodriguez and Jonah Kaplan, ABC 11

Department Acts Insensitively

Early next week, On April 20, the Kenan Institute for Ethics is hosting an event on Shabbat and Passover titled, I am here, waiting. Narratives of Iraqi, Palestinian and Syrian Refugees.” Will this event be yet another anti-Israel platform held at a time when most Jewish students and the Jewish community cannot attend?

The Voice4Israel respects the narratives and experiences of all people. We question why the Kenan Institute of Ethics scheduled an event of definite interest to the Jewish community on Passover and on Shabbat. This feels discriminatory in its disregard of Jewish students and Jewish community members who may want to attend the event. Unfortunately, recent campus events have shown us that all too often discussing important Palestinian narratives devolves into Israel bashing and even anti-Semitism. 

More than 800,000 Jews exiled from Arab lands and Iran in the 20th century have been forbidden a “right of return.” Will this Duke event include their narratives? Holocaust survivors live right here in the Triangle. Were any of their stories as refugees included or even considered?

Scheduling an event of interest to the Jewish community on Passover and Shabbat is at best insensitive. Duke University needs to learn to respect Jewish holidays and holy days (and that of other religions also) and to replace academic activism with balanced programming that does not selectively demonize one people. 

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