Congressman demands inquiry into anti-Semitic North Carolina university event

Republican Congressman George Holding is calling for a probe into an anti-Israel event at the University of North Carolina that promoted outright anti-Semitism, according to first-hand accounts and video footage.

By World Israel News Staff

In a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, North Carolina Congressman George Holding demanded an investigation into reports of outright anti-Semitism at an anti-Israel event last month at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

A video of the event, titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities” – co-sponsored by several of the school’s departments and entities, including the Chancellor’s Global Education Fund – shows Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar performing an anti-Semitic song. The video was taken by filmmaker and activist Ami Horowitz.

Nafar began his performance by telling the audience that he “cannot be anti-Semitic alone.”

“I heard there was a conference going on about the conflict in Gaza, and my initial assumption was that it was going to be a hate fest against Israel,” Horowitz told ABC11. “When I went there, that is what I found, but what I did not expect was for it to evolve into open anti-Semitism.”

‘Severe anti-Semitic rhetoric’

“A number of my constituents have reached out to me expressing concern over what they tell me are reports of severe anti-Israeli bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric at a taxpayer-funded conference, “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities”, held between March 22nd-24th at the University of North Carolina (UNC), in conjunction with Duke University (Duke),” Holding wrote, noting that the body which co-sponsored the event is funded by the federal Department of Education, Arutz-7 reported.

“The Consortium for Middle East Studies, which co-sponsored the conference, applied for and received a federal grant through the Department of Education (DOE) worth $235,000,” Holding stated.

“Examination of the official program reveals that several of the conference’s speakers are actively involved in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement,” the Republican congressman said.

Furthermore, “prior to the event, local religious and community organizations, academics and citizens wrote the universities expressing concern that the conference lacked balance and appeared designed to promote a radical agenda. Apparently, these concerns were ignored, with no mainstream speakers or panelists included in the three-day conference. If these reports are accurate, I have difficulty understanding why tax dollars should be spent on such an activity.”

UNC defends ‘spirit of scholarship’

The university told ABC11 that Horowitz’s footage “was heavily edited, and the product as presented does not provide context as to the questions and the full, complete answers given. Moreover, we do not believe this video represents the spirit of scholarship at the event.”

The school continued:

”The conference brought together internationally recognized scholars and professionals from NGOs, think tanks and academia to address a range of topics about Gaza from different viewpoints. The sponsors supported the event as an educational opportunity, and this video misconstrued the breadth of discourse that took place during the panels.

“Our University is united by students, faculty, and staff from more than one hundred countries and represented by a diverse range of perspectives, traditions, and faiths. Diversity is an intrinsically vital part of shaping dialogue that can address complex issues, and we uphold a commitment to fostering a welcoming environment to people from all backgrounds.

“Conferences such as this are organized by scholars who have academic freedom to develop the programming and invite their selected speakers and performers. UNC Global supports faculty in hosting these conferences without endorsing the beliefs of speakers or performers.”

In response to ABC11 sending UNC the raw and edited footage, Duke University president Vincent Price and provost Sally Kornbluth said:

“We want to be very clear: anti-Semitism is one of the great scourges of modern life. Its resurgence, as demonstrated by the worldwide increase in hate crimes and incidents, is deeply troubling and should be of great concern to any civil society. Whether it occurs on our campus, in our community, through graffiti, rallies or concerts, in conference rooms or courtrooms, we must all speak out forcefully against actions and statements that target and threaten members of our Jewish community.

“On our campus and beyond, the lines of politics, trust, activism and civility cannot become so blurred that we lose our commitment to mutual respect. We must guard against the danger that our passions obscure our common humanity, and we must remind ourselves that what injures any one of us injures us all.”

In a statement, North Carolina Hillel slammed the event, which it said it “featured speakers who demonized Israel for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and included too few perspectives from scholars who could have provided balanced context and multiple viewpoints on this challenging subject. Organizers missed the opportunity to convene a rich, educational forum that the UNC and Duke communities deserve.”

JNS contributed to this report.