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November 22, 2021 12:59 pm
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Antisemitism Is Rampant and Rising at Duke University

avatar by Peter Reitzes

Opinion

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

In November, the Duke University Student Government voted to recognize the campus group Duke Students Supporting Israel (SSI). Several days later, student president Christina Wang vetoed recognition of SSI, followed by the Duke Senate voting to uphold Wang’s veto.

Wang claims that SSI “singled out an individual student on their organization’s social media account in a way that was unacceptable for any student group.”

Here is what actually happened.

Following Duke’s recognition of the SSI chapter, a Duke student wrote on social media, “My school promotes settler colonialism.” SSI responded by engaging in constructive dialogue, explaining, “These types of false narratives are what we strive to combat and condemn, which is why Duke’s chapter of Student Supporting Israel has been officially established.” SSI concluded the post by inviting the campus community to an “SSI 101” event.

SSI was true to its mission of being “a clear and confident pro-Israel voice on college campuses” — and the Duke Student Government banned them for it.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) explained, “Duke’s student government is consciously punishing SSI for engaging in debate and responding to its critics — engagement that should be encouraged, not punished, at an institution dedicated to free expression.” FIRE accused Duke of violating “the expressive and associational rights” of its own students.

Ezra Loeb, a Duke senior, told me, “I wonder if [the] Duke Student Government is holding Israel to a different standard. Are they going through the social media accounts of every organization — or only SSI?”

In 2020, I reported on Hadeel Abdelhy, who was at the time, a Duke student and member of the Duke chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

In late 2019, Abdelhy repeatedly posted an altered picture on social media of 10 students from the Duke Israel Public Affairs Committee (DIPAC). Superimposed over each DIPAC student’s face was a clown face, which made Jewish students feel targeted  and harassed on campus.

Rather than publicly condemn this action, Duke SJP members “liked” the image on social media, thus throwing their support behind the specific targeting of Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus.

After Jewish students raised concerns, Abdelhy publicly tweeted, “So I’m going to repeat myself again, f**k DIPAC and every Zionist on campus.”

Two weeks later, Abdelhy tweeted, “Dear DIPAC … I will continue to viciously attack y’all.”

In the tweet, Abdelhy singled out a Jewish Duke student at the time, Max Cherman, by name.

In a 2020 tweet, Abdelhy brazenly bragged about bullying pro-Israel students on campus. And the Duke Student Government did nothing. They took no action against Abdelhy or SJP.

In May of 2021, Ben Stone — a pro-Israel Duke student at the time — posted on Instagram, “Free Palestine from Hamas.” A past Duke SJP officer, Ahmad Amireh, responded by calling Stone “scum.”

The Duke Student Government did nothing.

In 2019, former Israeli minister Tzipi Livni spoke at Duke. I attended, and took a video of Duke students disrupting Livni by screaming for three minutes. Sources tell me that at least eight SJP members were among those disrupting the event.

The Duke Student Government took no action against SJP.

At the time, two pro-Israel students wrote a positive column about Livni in the Duke newspaper. Duke SJP member Abdelhy publicly targeted the two students on Twitter in the crudest way, commenting, “Tzipi Livni is a pus*** a** bit** and you two are pus*** a** bit**es for defending her. And f*** DIPAC.”

Also at the time, the Duke SJP treasurer, Lama Hantash, launched a petition that publicly criticized DIPAC by name. A number of Duke SJP members signed it.

And the Duke Student Government did nothing.

In essence, the Duke Student Government approves of pro-Palestinian students targeting pro-Israel students and Israeli speakers, but disproves of pro-Israel students engaging in constructive dialogue with the campus community.

The Duke Student Government’s treatment of Jewish and pro-Israel students is an antisemitic disgrace.

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

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