Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

ZOA calls for investigation of UNC-Duke conference

Zionist Organization of America has called on the U.S. Department of Education to investigate whether federal funds were misused to organize a one-sided “academic” conference, hosted by the University of North Carolina and co-sponsored by Duke University, which was hostile to Israel and blatantly anti-Semitic.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., director of ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, sent a letter to Mr. Kenneth L. Marcus, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, highlighting the reported use of $5,000 for the conference from a four-year grant by the U.S. Department of Education to UNC and Duke’s Consortium for Middle East Studies.

Despite concerns of anti-Israel bias being raised before the event took place, on March 22-24, 2019, UNC hosted the conference called “Conflict over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities.” In a blog post, North Carolina Hillel wrote that the “conference featured speakers who demonized Israel” and failed to provide balanced perspectives. “Organizers missed the opportunity to convene a rich, educational forum that the UNC and Duke communities deserve.”

In addition to its anti-Israel bias, the UNC-Duke conference included an offensive and horrifying anti-Semitic performance by a rapper named Tamer Nafar, which came to light when a filmmaker named Ami Horowitz posted a video of the performance. This video also exposed other anti-Semitic interactions Horowitz experienced at the conference.

The universities’ initial response to Horowitz’s video was shamefully inadequate, failing to acknowledge and condemn the anti-Semitism and bias at the conference. Neither UNC nor Duke condemned the anti-Semitic performer by name and they did not condemn the conference organizers for inviting and allowing this shameful conduct.

It cannot be a coincidence that just days after the conference, swastikas were found drawn on UNC campus, in addition to anti-Semitic posters that were found in UNC’s Davis Library.

UNC and Duke should face consequences for legitimizing and normalizing a hateful, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic conference, and using taxpayer funds to do it. The Department of Education should investigate this incident and deny both universities future federal funding until they demonstrate that their Middle East programs and events are truly educational and not just a mask for hateful, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda.


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