On Nov. 28, I attended the event “No Peace Without Justice: A Round-Table Talk about Social Justice in Palestine,” hosted by numerous departments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).
One of the speakers, Dr. Rania Masri, said: “Oct. 7 for many of us from the region was a beautiful day. It was the day in which we saw that, we saw our brothers, we saw our fathers, we saw men break out of a concentration camp.”
Then speaking with pride and admiration for Hamas and their paragliders, she continued: “So for many of us, the question is, how did they learn that? How did they develop those paratroopers? Where did they get those skills? How, how, after a hundred years of having a military boot on your neck, could you still develop the technique and the resilience to literally fly? That is what Oct. 7 means to many of us. And I just want to be very frank about it and not be in the least bit apologetic of the violence of the oppressed or the occupied.”
Panelist and UNC doctoral student Kylie Broderick was the only speaker who participated via Zoom. She was projected on a huge screen above the in-person panelists. While Masri spoke her hateful words, Broderick nodded along in approval. The Reverend Mark Davidson spoke about five minutes after Masri, pronouncing, “I agree with everything my colleagues have said.”
Masri went on to call Zionism a “cancer,” and President Biden a “racist Zionist.” Masri said: “Let us demand the eradication of Zionism. Let us have that be our goal.”
There were seven panelists, two moderators, and UNC professors present. No one appeared concerned by what Masri said, or challenged her. Further, the absence of a question and answer period meant that nothing could be challenged by audience members.
After introductions, the audience was shown a short film titled “Gaza Concentration Camp,” chosen by panelist Dr. Frances Hasso from Duke’s Department of Sociology. The film narrator stated that on Oct. 7, “Palestinians didn’t break through a border to enter Israel.” She added, “They destroyed a fence separating them from the homes they were forced out of.” The film portrayed Hamas’ massacre of Israelis as people simply going home. The film did not mention Hamas’ killing of 1,200 Israelis, taking more than 240 hostages, and raping and torturing many others.
UNC professor of Geography Sara Smith began the program by announcing “This should be Danielle Purifoy. I’m so sorry she couldn’t make it, but please know that she is the one who organized all of this and gets all the credit for this event.” In 2021, Smith and Purifoy both signed a public letter which stated, “As academics based in the United States, we acknowledge our complicity in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.” Also in 2021, Smith signed a letter affirming her commitment to promote the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel “in the classroom and on campus.”
A moderator explained that all the prepared questions for the panel were “written by Dr. Danielle Purifoy.” Questions included “How do we explain the US government response to Palestinian genocide?” and “How do we connect Palestine to other forms of colonial and imperial violence?” The starting point of these conversations was clearly the demonization of Israel.
The event was sponsored by the UNC Department of Geography and Environment, the UNC Center for Middle East & Islamic Studies, and UNC’s Student Life & Leadership.
Kylie Broderick taught UNC’s 2021 course on Israel and the Palestinians, even though she publicly promoted the view that Israel should not exist. On Oct. 15, 2023, Broderick tweeted “F—k Israel.” Her anti-Israel track record is beyond vile, and has been reported on extensively.
Not all in the audience were activists. I saw a number of students taking notes. It made me wonder: Are some students actually receiving credit for attending this antisemitic event?
The event reminded me of UNC’s 2019 Conflict Over Gaza conference — co-sponsored by the university’s Center for Middle East & Islamic Studies — which made international news for featuring an antisemitic rap performance. In response to an antisemitism complaint filed with the US Department of Education stemming from this conference, UNC entered into a Resolution Agreement with the department’s Office of Civil Rights, requiring UNC “to ensure that students enrolled in the university are not subjected to a hostile environment.”
As this column and my recent reporting suggests, UNC may be breaching its obligation to protect its Jewish students.
The painful question I can’t shake and that I keep asking myself is: why would any parent, especially those who are Jewish, ever wish to send their children to UNC?
Peter Reitzes writes about issues related to antisemitism and Israel.
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Texas University Plans to Close Qatar Campus Amid Scrutiny of Hamas Ties
On Thursday, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents voted 7-1 to end its contract with the Qatar Foundation, which will result in the college’s Qatar campus shutting down over the next four years.
Texas A&M said it decided to reassess its relationship with Qatar after Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, in which the terrorist group murdered 1,200 Israelis and took more than 240 more hostage. It cites regional instability as one of the reasons for its decision. The Qatari government also has extensive ties with Hamas’ political and military leadership.
The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is funded by the Qatari government and is the institution that funds Texas A&M’s Qatar campus.
The Chair of the university’s Board of Regents said it “has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the United States.” He continued, explaining that “By the middle of the 21st century, the university will not necessarily need a campus infrastructure 8,000 miles away to support education and research collaborations.”
The decision also comes amid heightened scrutiny of Qatar’s role in American higher education — as it spent almost $5 billion on American universities between 2001 and 2021 — as well as its role in funding terrorist groups such as Hamas.
In an article for The Free Press in October, Eli Lake outlined what he saw as the significant influence Qatar is having on American higher education. He lists the universities that have gotten significant donations from Qatar, such as Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, and Northwestern. He also notes that Qatar’s influence goes beyond money, affecting policies and programs within specific academic departments as well. For example, the Qatar campus of Northwestern, which is home to the U.S.’s best journalism program, had an agreement with the terrorist-sympathetic Al-Jazeera that it would help train its students.
The significant attention paid to these relationships is likely driven by the steep increase in anti-Israel and pro-terrorist sentiment in the U.S., particularly on college campuses.
A 2023 report from the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy also concluded that concealed donations from foreign governments to U.S. educational institutions are associated with an increase in antisemitic incidents on campus and the erosion of liberal norms.
However, the Qatar Foundation believes the decision was made for political reasons. In a statement, it wrote: “It is deeply disappointing that a globally respected academic institution like Texas A&M University has fallen victim to such a campaign and allowed politics to infiltrate its decision-making processes. At no point did the Board attempt to seek out the truth from Qatar Foundation before making this misguided decision.”
There have been no indications thus far that other universities that receive a significant amount of Qatari funding, or operate campuses in Qatar, are reconsidering their relationship.
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Antisemitic Vandals Strike Hillel Building at University of Leeds in UK
The Hillel House of University of Leeds was vandalized on Thursday night, raising further concerns about a hateful campus climate and rising antisemitism across the United Kingdom, particularly since Hamas’ October 7 attacks.
The vandals, according to pictures shared online, graffitied “FREE PALESTINE” on the building and additional scribble on two window panes.
“We are heartbroken and angry that after an uplifting and inspiring Challah Bake, our JSoc Hillel House was defaced with antisemitic graffiti,” Leeds JSoc, which uses the building for club meetings, said in a statement also signed by the Union of Jewish Students, an advocacy group. “It is shocking and outrageous that those who hate us would stoop to this level.”
The groups noted that a University of Leeds professor may be responsible for leading anti-Zionist to the building, alleging that he shared its address “for the sole purpose of intimidating Jewish students on campus.”
“We are working with CST and the police to ensure that those who committed this crime get the consequences they deserve,” the group added.
Anti-Zionists extremists struck elsewhere on Thursday, storming University of Birmingham with socialists and other far-left groups while holding signs that said, “Zionists off our campus” and “75 years of illegal occupation!” Many concealed their faces, covering them with keffiyeh.
“Jewish students are feeling less and less safe at university because of these vile antisemitic acts,” National Jewish Assembly (NJA), a Jewish civil rights nonprofit, said in a statement about the incidents. “It’s time we say enough. Jewish students deserve and must feel safe on campus.”
Thursday’s incidents followed a set-back for the academic Jewish community. Earlier this week, it was announced that a UK government agency which arbitrates disputes over employment law ruled that University of Bristol lacked standing to fire sociologist David Miller, an extreme anti-Zionist who was accused of harassing Jewish students and promoting antisemitic tropes, and said his “anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a philosophical belief and as a protected characteristic.”
Pervasive antisemitism and anti-Zionism at UK universities is forcing members of the Jewish academic community to conceal their identities on campus, according to a June 2023 report issued by the Parliamentary Task Force on Antisemitism in Higher Education, a committee of lawmakers and established by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2022 in response to complaints of anti-Jewish racism and discrimination.
“We were told it was commonplace for Jewish students to choose not to wear certain clothing or jewelry around campus because it would make them visibly identifiable as Jewish,” the Task Force wrote in the report, titled Understanding Jewish Experience in Higher Education, noting that academic staff “also raised important comparable concerns about negativity surrounding their Jewish identity.”
The Task Force recommended that all universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which, it said, has not, contrary to the claims of its many opponents, diminished free speech and academic freedom.
Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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US House Committee Threatens Harvard University With Subpoena for Antisemitism Documents
Harvard University on Wednesday was given a “final warning” to fully cooperate with the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s investigation of antisemitism on its campus.
In January, Chairwoman Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) gave the school, which spent the fall semester under fire for allegedly ignoring rampant antisemitic harassment and intimidation, two weeks to deliver documents relevant to the committee’s investigation. Harvard never did, and now Rep. Foxx is threatening to subpoena the material she requested.
“The committee has sought to obtain information regarding Harvard’s response to the numerous incidents of antisemitism on its campus and steps taken to protect Jewish students, faculty and staff,” Foxx wrote in a letter to Harvard University interim president Alan Garber and Harvard Corporation senior fellow Penny Pritzker.
“Harvard’s responses have been grossly insufficient,” she continued. “If Harvard continues to fail to comply with the committee’s requests in a timely manner, the committee will proceed with compulsory process.”
Foxx has requested a trove of documents, including “all reports of antisemitic acts or incidents” and “related communications” going back to 2021 that were sent to Harvard’s offices of the president, general counsel, dean of students, police department, human resources, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, among others. She also requested documentation on Harvard Kennedy School professor Marshall Ganz, who, the school determined during an investigation, “denigrated” several students for being “Israeli Jews.” Originally, Foxx gave Harvard a deadline of Jan. 23 by which to comply.
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce is also investigating other top universities, including the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to determine whether administrators at those schools ignored antisemitic discrimination. The probes were announced after the committee grilled the presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT about their plans to respond to rising anti-Jewish hate in their communities. During the hearing, Gay of Harvard and Elizabeth Magill of Penn — both of whom have since resigned from their positions — as well as Sally Kornbluth of MIT largely evaded lawmakers’ questions, infamously equivocating on whether calling for the genocide of Jews contravenes school rules.
For Harvard, America’s oldest institution of higher education and arguably its most prestigious, the presence of radical anti-Zionists on campus has been a persistent issue. At the start of this academic year, a student and anti-Israel activist interrupted a convocation ceremony held by the school, shouting at Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana, “Here’s the real truth — Harvard supports, upholds, and invests in Israeli apartheid, and the oppression of Palestinians!”
However, the broader public largely did not take notice until Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre in Israel. As scenes of Hamas terrorists abducting children and desecrating dead bodies circulated worldwide, 31 student groups at Harvard issued a statement blaming Israel for the attack and accusing the Jewish state of operating an “open air prison” in Gaza, despite that the Israeli military withdrew from the territory in 2005.
For her part, Gay waited several days to condemn the Hamas atrocities, and when she did, her statement said nothing about antisemitism. When she resigned at the beginning of the new year, she accused her critics of racism.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
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