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November 16, 2021 5:48 pm

National Pro-Israel Student Group ‘Disturbed’ After New Duke University Chapter Blocked Over Social Media Post


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Perkins Library at Duke University in Durham, NC. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Students Supporting Israel (SSI) said on Tuesday that it was “appalled” after a rare veto was issued by the student government to prevent recognition of a Duke University chapter of the pro-Israel group.

SSI, which operates on over 160 college campuses in the US and abroad, said in a statement that a new chapter was chartered at Duke on Nov. 10th, with the goal of making “Israel education programming” available to students on campus.

But on Monday, Duke’s Student Government (DSG) President denied recognition of the new chapter, accusing the student group of “singling out” a Duke sophomore in a social media post.

Earlier, the Duke sophomore had skeptically shared news of the Duke SSI’s chartering, along with the caption, “my school promotes settler colonialism.”

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A SSI Duke Instagram account then reposted an image of the comment along with a reply, writing: “To Yana and others like her, please allow us to educate you on what ‘settler colonialism’ actually is and why Israel does not fall under this category whatsoever. These types of narratives are what we strive to combat and condemn, which is why Duke’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel has been officially established & is here to stay.”

That reply, along with a similar Instagram “story,” led DSG President Christina Wang to veto the new pro-Israel group on Monday.

The posts, she told student senators, were “evidence that the group singled out an individual student on their organization’s social media account in a way that was unacceptable for any student group and appeared antithetical to the group’s stated mission to be welcoming and inclusive to all Duke students, and educational in mission and purpose.”

“Any group exhibiting potentially hostile or harmful behavior is liable to having their official status re-examined or suspended at any time,” the DSG president continued.

The campus Duke Chronicle newspaper, which first reported the DSG decision on Tuesday, noted that it was the first such exercise of the veto since 2016, when $40,000 of funding for the Duke’s student yearbook was blocked over fiscal concerns.

In a statement issued Tuesday, SSI national defended the nascent Duke chapter and slammed the DSG’s rare measure to block the group’s formation.

“SSI national views this situation as complete theater of absurd, and condemns the student government veto, the silencing of pro-Israel students, and the singling out of the new SSI chapter and its activists,” the group said.

“The original claim made by the student is false and SSI chapter had the full right to respond to it,” SSI said. It argued both that the school was not “promoting” anything by approving SSI at Duke, and that the student’s original charge of Israeli “settler colonialism” was itself false and worthy of criticism.

“It is claims like that of the said student that promote hatred and cause divide, and in SSI, it is part our chapters’ purpose to be pointing out false information and speaking up to correct it,” SSI national continued. “It is absurd that responding publicly to a public comment and inviting a discussion will be considered hostile, but promoting incorrect antisemitic information, is allowed.”

Continued the group, “It is our view that shutting down a whole student club for a social media comment is what should be considered ‘undeniably targeted harassment’ of the pro-Israel activists, if anything. It is the student government and the school that is now making the SSI chapter’s students feel ‘unsafe to express their opinion’ by denying them to assemble as a club on campus, and suggesting they issue an apology for simply writing an online post.”

Neither Duke University nor DSG President Christina Wang immediately responded to Algemeiner requests for comment.

Members of the Duke SSI chapter are set to attend another senate session on Wednesday to debate the DSG veto, during which two-thirds of student senators can override the decision and recognize the group.

SSI national said Tuesday that the students were “advised by the school advisor to apologize for their conduct to increase the chance of reinstatement.”

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