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December 29, 2021 12:12 pm

No Surprise: More Antisemitism at Duke

avatar by Amy Rosenthal


Duke University. Photo: Ilyse Whitney / CC BY 2.0.

No wonder so many Duke University students are ill-informed when it comes to Israel. Duke, and more specifically Duke University Press (DUP), have a history of peddling lies about Israel and Jews.

Student ignorance was on full display after a new Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter was denied approval. But the anti-Israel atmosphere at Duke is not new, and the story of DUP suggests it’s about to get worse.

In 2017, DUP published Jasbir Puar’s “Right to Maim,” which claims that Israel purposely disables Palestinians to control them. This blatant blood libel was met with shock and dismay by many of us affiliated with the university. A subsequent investigation showed considerable anti-Israel bias among DUP staff, which includes Jewish Voice for Peace activists.

In January 2018, a group of 16 Duke faculty members sent a letter to Duke President Vincent Price, noting that Puar’s charges against Israel are “false and inflammatory.” My group asked for a meeting with Price, but instead he wrote: “The volume in question and its quality should be judged as appropriate in the court of public opinion,” and that “Duke University Press must be free of conflicts of interest  … the role of the Press and its social media sites is to contribute to the scholarly literature, not to provide a political platform.”

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He asked the provost to “evaluate the issues.” One year later, in January 2019, when I asked him for a follow-up, President Price replied, “we are currently conducting a search for the next director for the Duke University Press” with experts to ensure that “staff and affiliates of the Press understand and abide by Duke’s policies on conflict of interest and use of university social media accounts.”

Despite the ingratiating promises, nothing has changed. Duke University Press still has JVP staff. JVP activist (featured in Canary Mission) and DUP Assistant Editor Sandra Korn, published “The Moral Triangle” in May 2020, which claims that Germany treats Israelis better than Muslim Arabs due to guilt over the Holocaust.

Here is where it gets worse. DUP is planning a publication that erases Jewish lives and indigenous presence in Israel. Extremist editors are now calling for contributions to DUP’s “Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Palestine.”  They will deny and lie about the historic Jewish connection to Israel. The editors are looking for “anti-colonial forms of rethinking and redistributing space in Palestine” including “redrawn maps.”

This effort to erase Jews and Israel is intentional, and was explicitly explained to students at Duke’s Israeli Apartheid week in 2019. Students for Justice in Palestine speakers said they would only use the word “Palestine” while pointing to a map of Israel. One spoke with reverence about his stay with a terrorist leader.

Of course, this environment produces uninformed students who spout anti-Israel/antisemitic propaganda. These students are in control of the Duke Student Government, so it’s no surprise they eagerly de-platform strong pro-Israel groups like SSI.

Instead of protecting Jewish students from antisemitism and Jew hatred, Duke University is complicit in promoting it. President Price continues to spout empty words. To redeem itself, Duke must reinstate SSI, and dedicate itself to honest scholarly literature as promised.

Amy Rosenthal, MD, FACP, is a former Assistant Professor of Medicine at Duke University, and co-founder of the North Carolina Coalition for Israel.

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