‘Zionist Playbook’: UNC Student Newspaper Glosses Over Teacher’s Antisemitic Dog Whistles
On September 24, the University of North Carolina (UNC) issued a statement that reaffirmed its commitment to tackling antisemitism, labeling it “one of the oldest and most persistent of hatreds, manifesting itself around the world, our country, and even on our campus.”
The notice, signed by the college’s chancellor, Kevin M. Guskiewicz, also implicitly admitted that “anti-Zionist” expressions on campus had sometimes crossed the boundary into Judeophobia:
As an academic community, we have an obligation to support rigorous, informed debate, and this extends to the difficult and sensitive set of topics relating to the history and future of Israel and Palestine. I believe we must recognize the line between some expressions of anti-Zionism and actual antisemitism. I have heard from students and alumni who’ve felt unwelcome and marginalized by discourse crossing that line, and their experience is troubling to me.
Just one week after this statement was released, HonestReporting and others detailed how UNC Ph.D. student and undergraduate class instructor Kylie Broderick was embroiled in a controversy after she used her now-defunct public Twitter account to label defenders of Israel “Zionist dirtbags,” and said that Israel should not exist as a Jewish state.
Broderick, who teaches a class called “The Conflict Over Israel/Palestine,” also described the Jewish movement for self-determination as an “oppressive ideology” that is supported by its “patron, the US imperialist death cult,” and retweeted a comment that described all of Israel as “occupied Palestinian territory.”
Faculty heads, however, did not feel that such incendiary remarks should preclude Broderick from teaching a course on a subject that she clearly holds extreme views on. To this day, Broderick remains employed within the university’s history department.
Possibly emboldened by such inaction, Broderick was recently seen in a video uploaded onto YouTube earlier this month, making a number of even more inflammatory statements about Israel, including a bizarre claim that UNC is “playing into a Zionist playbook,” and that she is being expected to work under “Israel’s rules.”
Broderick also suggested that an all-powerful network of individuals acting under the guidance of the Jewish state is behind a campaign to vilify her — a classic antisemitic trope about excessive Jewish power that evokes conspiracy theories promoted in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”:
All in all, the University [UNC] received thousands of emails about me demanding I be fired and they came from all echelons of society. But honestly, what was more troubling than the mobilization of the Hasbara network, was how the university wanted me to respond to their baseless accusations.
Broderick’s recent and previous comments have not gone unnoticed.
UNC’s own student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, also wrote about the original incident — in a story titled, “UNC course on Israel-Palestine conflict sparks controversy over academic freedom.”
Published on October 18, the piece reported on Broderick’s Twitter comments and the reactions they generated:
Over the summer, various pro-Israel news organizations published articles expressing concern over Broderick’s ability to teach the material from an unbiased perspective.
The concern stemmed from her tweets about the conflict, which criticized Israel and Zionism and have been labeled by some as anti-Semitic.
Bizarrely, the article’s author fails to report what Broderick actually said, thereby denying readers the opportunity to make up their own minds about whether her comments were antisemitic.
Instead, the piece only quotes Broderick’s defense of her social media use, while framing the entire incident as merely a free speech issue.
Turning to Broderick’s latest — and arguably even more offensive comments — The Daily Tar Heel has completely ignored them. Evidently, the student publication did not think it newsworthy that a tutor teaching about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has engaged in blatantly antisemitic dog whistles.
Yet skirting around the issue of anti-Jewish bigotry appears to be part of an editorial pattern.
In 2019, the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies and UNC Global sponsored a conference, “Conflict Over Gaza,” in which Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar was invited to perform.
While onstage, Nafar was filmed telling the audience that he wanted them to sing along because “I can’t be antisemitic alone,” before adding they should “think of Mel Gibson” — a reference to the Hollywood actor who is infamous for his antisemitic outbursts.
Two days after the video of Nafar was posted online, The Daily Tar Heel reported on what transpired at the conference:
A recent viral video released on Wednesday by conservative filmmaker Ami Horowitz depicted the Conflict over Gaza conference hosted by UNC and Duke University as anti-Semitic.
Following the video’s release, UNC Global said in a statement to The Daily Tar Heel that the content of the video was heavily edited and did not represent ‘the spirit of scholarship at the event.’ The video includes footage of a performance at the conference by Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar of DAM, who at some point did make some anti-Semitic comments.
Again, the reader is not informed as to what Nafar actually said, while the admission that antisemitic statements were made is couched in a denial by the organizers, who claimed the footage had been “heavily edited.”
The article goes on to quote student attendees at length — all of whom defended the rapper by characterizing the performance as satirical, not antisemitic.
In May of this year, The Daily Tar Heel covered a demonstration in Raleigh that was held to “protest the Israeli military’s airstrikes and artillery fire in Gaza.”
Quoted throughout the body of the piece is student Nadia Yaqub, who is given free rein to spout a litany of lies and distortions:
The discord between Israel and Palestinian territories is not new, Yaqub said. ‘The problem with the Middle East is a product of antisemitism in Europe,’ she said. ‘Jews in Europe felt they could no longer live among other Europeans and felt they needed to create their own state.’ … Yaqub said present-day Palestinians are not regarded as citizens and are governed by different rules than Israeli citizens.
Aside from the gross oversimplification of complex issues, the article’s author has clearly not even bothered to fact-check Yaqub’s outrageous statements or attempted to give readers a shred of crucial context.
For example, there is no mention of the fact that “present-day Palestinians” who are citizens of Israel have full rights under the law, while those who are not are governed either by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or Hamas in Gaza.
The article also completely ignores Hamas’ role in instigating the May conflict by firing a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem and at civilians throughout Israel, with the Islamist terrorist organization not mentioned once in the entire piece. Instead, the conflagration is simply alluded to as “airstrikes and artillery fire in Gaza” by the Israeli military.
Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth, and this guiding principle applies whether the media outlet is an international publication or a student-run newspaper. Looking at its checkered history of reportage on issues pertaining to Israel, The Daily Tar Heel should seriously consider this obligation to its readers going forward.
The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.