Duke University: Next Target of Anti-Israel Activists
New York, NY, October 6, 2004 … An upcoming gathering of anti-Israel student activists at Duke University has the potential for engendering the same "extreme anti-Israel invective" that has tainted past pro-Palestinian events on campuses and contributed to feelings of fear and intimidation among Jewish students and faculty members, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
In the run-up to the fourth National Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM), scheduled for October 15-17 on Duke's North Carolina campus, organizers have declined overtures by Jewish student groups to denounce Palestinian terrorism while moving ahead with plans to invite an array of strongly anti-Israel speakers – including one well-known anti-Semite – to address students with a strongly anti-Israel message.
"While it is laudable for universities to seek to foster an environment for the free expression of ideas, it pains us when anti-Israel student activism moves beyond legitimate criticism of Israel into hateful attacks against Jews and the Jewish state," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Given the troubled recent history of pro-Palestinian activism on campus, we are greatly concerned that any legitimate discussion or criticism that might take place as a result of this conference will be overshadowed by bigoted rhetoric or even acts of intimidation or harassment against Jewish or pro-Israel students or faculty.
"University students and administrators need to be vigilant not only in protecting free speech, but also in helping to ensure that discussions take place in an atmosphere of open debate, rather than one of hostility and intimidation," said Mr. Foxman.
ADL's online materials include a history of the PSM, an umbrella organization that brings together various, primarily university-affiliated anti-Israel groups and an article detailing Jewish groups' concerns about the upcoming Duke conference. The concerns include:
- The scheduled speakers promote varying degrees of hostility toward Israel. They include Charles E. Carlson, co-founder of We Hold These Truths, a notorious Arizona-based extremist group that focuses on propagating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
(As of October 11, Carlson's name and workshop have been removed from the Web site and it is unclear if he will still appear at the conference.)
- The anti-Israel student activists have refused to sign a statement condemning Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians. Meanwhile, one student in support of the conference made offensive references to "Jewish influence" and Jewish "power" in an article in The Chronicle student newspaper. Like past events, the conference may include calls for universities to divest from companies doing business with Israel. Divestment campaigns have frequently been used by anti-Israel student groups to attempt to isolate the Jewish state.
- Several student organizers, speakers and panelists of the Duke conference have affiliations with prominent anti-Israel groups, suggesting that a one-sided view of Israel is likely to dominate the sessions.
- Past PSM conferences at Ohio State University, Rutgers, the University of Michigan and the University of California have included extreme anti-Israel invective, adopting resolutions affirming trademark anti-Israel accusations such as "Zionism is Racism." Several speakers have openly called for the destruction of the state of Israel.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.