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October 14, 2021 12:10 pm

UNC Teachers Defend Instructor Who Doesn’t Believe Israel Should Exist

avatar by Peter Reitzes


Manning Hall at the University of North Carolina. Photo: benuski / flickr.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill chapter of the American Association of University Professors (UNC-AAUP) issued a statement last week in support of instructor Kylie Broderick, who recently tweeted the term “Zionist dirtbags,” and promotes the view that Israel should not exist.

The UNC-AAUP statement says, “We commend Ms. Broderick’s courage.”

Broderick — a PhD student currently teaching a course at UNC on the Israel/Palestinian conflict — also says that “Palestinians are being murdered for just being alive,” and believes students should be taught to reject Zionism.

The UNC-AAUP statement did not mention that all three of its officers are anti-Israel activists. President Michael Palm, Vice President Jay Smith, and Secretary-Treasurer Karen Booth all signed a 2021 statement saying, “We acknowledge our complicity in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians … [and we] reject the prevalent ‘two-sides’ narrative.”

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In May of 2021, Karen Booth signed a statement pledging to promote the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel “in the classroom and on campus.” This statement dismissed concerns about “Hamas rockets” aimed indiscriminately at Israeli civilians as “stale talking points.” To Jews, such statements treat our humanity as expendable.

Also in May, the Department of Women’s & Gender Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill — where Booth is on faculty — endorsed a statement accusing Israel of “the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza” and “raiding of the al-Aqsa mosque.” The statement also called for “the Palestinian right to return,” which the Anti-Defamation League explains is a euphemism for “the dismantlement of Israel as a Jewish state.”

By endorsing this anti-Israel statement, the entire Women’s & Gender Studies department sent a clear message to Jewish students and to students who support Israel: you are not welcome in women’s and gender studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.

A UNC faculty member told me, “Faculty leaders of UNC-AAUP that advocate for the right of UNC faculty to promulgate hate speech against Israel and students that support Israel, should also have the academic integrity to disclose their own bias against Israel.”

The UNC-AAUP statement dismissed widespread concerns about Broderick as “harassment” stemming from “local agitators.” The university’s Hillel and local rabbis — including the Chabad Rabbi at UNC and Duke — along with many others, have expressed strong public concerns about Broderick.

Three highly respected local rabbis wrote to UNC: “We are concerned … that students in Broderick’s class who do not agree with this instructor’s views will be unable to express their legitimate views and perspectives in the classroom without fear of intimidation or unfair evaluation.”

The UNC-AAUP may not agree with these rabbis and Hillel, but they are not “local agitators;” they are our spiritual and community leaders.

Cary Nelson, who was elected as AAUP vice president for six years followed by six years as its president, told me, “It is highly unlikely [that] Zionist students would expect to be treated fairly in her course. It is equally unlikely that Israeli history would be treated objectively. She can be assigned a different course.”

The AAUP’s Statement of Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure says that instructors “should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, [and] should show respect for the opinions of others.”

In a 2021 tweet, Broderick publicly called on graduate students to “speak the f*** up” against what she calls the “ethnic cleansing” of “Palestine,” and declared that a student who fails to do so is a “coward.”

Publicly calling students who disagree with you a “coward” is the opposite of respecting the opinion of others., and the opposite of exercising appropriate restraint.

Also in 2021, Broderick tweeted, “Everyone at UNC has a responsibility to step up for Palestinians & Palestine … Boycott Israeli products.”

A Jewish student at UNC, Abigail Adams, explained to ABC News how she wanted to take the Israel/Palestine course, but did not, because “it’s [not] fair for any student to worry about getting a lower grade because of their opinion.”

There are approximately 1,250 Jewish students at UNC-Chapel Hill. The Pew Research Center found that for most Jews, Israel is an essential or important part of their Judaism. Jewish students should not have to worry about getting a bad grade for expressing support for an essential and important part of their faith. And Jewish students should not feel they need to hide their religious identify to succeed at UNC.

The statement by the UNC Chapel Hill chapter of the American Association of University Professors, in defense of an antisemitic professor teaching a course on Israel, only amplifies the university’s prevalent anti-Israel and anti-Jewish problems.

Peter Reitzes is a board member of Voice4Israel of North Carolina and writes about issues related to antisemitism and Israel.

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