My community is under threat and we will not remain silent.
Last month, the Duke student government took a strong stance against anti-Semitism by unanimously passing a resolution defining and condemning anti-Semitism. In the resolution, the DSG expressed support for the use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism and supporting examples, which are widely used. as an educational tool to identify and combat anti-Semitism in the world. Given that antisemitic incidents are in no way a new occurrence to duke, the adoption of this resolution was long overdue. This resolution, along with the mandatory anti-Semitism training that DSG senators recently participated in, gave me hope that the DSG was taking steps in the right direction.
But last week, that feeling changed. I woke up to read that DSG had just approved an allocation of over $16,000 to fund the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) event Narrating Resistance and Agency: Shifting the Discourse on Palestine. SJP plans to host a few guest speakers in its series of events, including Mohammed El-Kurd.
As a Jewish student, I felt threatened and attacked when I learned of this. El-Kurd is an outspoken anti-Semite and a dangerous voice for my community. He made numerous derogatory and threatening tweets disparaging Israelis and Jews. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization created to combat hatred and anti-Semitism, has cited numerous writings, comments and tweets to justify calling El-Kurd an anti-Semite.
For example, in one of his most famous collections of poetry, “Rifqa”, writes El Kurd, “they [Israelis] harvest the organs of the martyrs [Palestinians], feed their warriors with ours. Likewise, on June 15, 2021he linked Zionism to “bloodthirsty [sic] and violent” in a tweet. In another tweet on May 12, 2021, he said that the Zionists have “an insatiable thirst for Palestinian blood”. Jews like me see these words and know El-Kurd’s rhetoric all too well because it is blood libel. blood libel is a historical form of anti-Semitism that began during the Roman Empire as a way to demonize Jewish individuals as being inhumanely violent and even cannibalistic.
In addition to his modern blood libel and his common statements equating Israel with a “genocidal death cult” Tweeter in which he used the term “Kristalnachting” to describe the treatment of Palestinians by Jews. This is a clear reference to Kristallnacht, or “the night of broken glass”, which took place on November 9, 1938, when a series of riots and violent anti-Jewish demonstrations broke out in the streets of all of Europe. To compare the Jews of today to the Nazis of the Holocaust – a genocidal tragedy in which six million Jews were brutally murdered and our people were forever traumatized – is insulting, dehumanizing and harmful to our people.
El-Kurd’s violent speech is anti-Semitic through and through, but DSG just provided funding to give him a platform at Duke. This is painfully inconsistent with DSG’s own values, given that they have just passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. IHRA specifically mentions “blood libel” and “drawing comparisons…to Nazis” as examples of anti-Semitism. Therefore, by endorsing this speaker, DSG has shown the Jewish community that it will oppose anti-Semitism on paper, while taking actions that undermine the Jewish community. community.
Moreover, the violent speech of El-Kurd contrasts sharply with Duke Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct. By demonizing Israel and the Zionists for being ‘bloodthirsty’, ‘fascists’, ‘terrorists’ and ‘colonizers’, El-Kurd directly targets me and other students who have ethnic ties to the land of Israel, which is therefore discrimination on the basis of national origin. By his accusations of Jews as neo-Nazi figures against Palestinians, El-Kurd not only targets Israel and totally delegitimizes it as a nation-state, but he discriminates against Jews and holds us accountable for everything Israel does. . Thus, by providing funds to bring El-Kurd to campus, DSG not only enables discrimination based on religion, but is complicit in it.
Many people will argue that El-Kurd has the right to come to campus because of freedom of speech. However, this right does not require our student government to pay $5,000 as an honorarium to a speaker who incites violence against a religious minority on campus. This right does not imply that my the money, paid through student activity fees, should fund this anti-Semite. According to FBI, The Jewish community represents less than two percent of the population of the United States, and yet we are victims of nearly sixty percent of religiously motivated hate crimes. Freedom of expression is important; the exchange of ideas is important. So is my security.
Duke has an amazing Jewish community, and so many Jewish students feel at home every time they go to a Friday night Shabbat dinner or eat kosher food from the Freeman Center. But now I and other Jewish students feel betrayed and in danger. Our right as individuals who are part of Duke’s vibrant Jewish community is threatened by DSG’s dangerous decision to allow harmful and anti-Semitic speakers such as Mohammed El-Kurd to come to our campus, and further to provide thousands of dollars in funding to do so. The decision to fund El-Kurd indicates that DSG will oppose anti-Semitism on paper, but not in action.
I call on the administration of Duke University and the Duke Student Government to re-evaluate this decision and take immediate action regarding this event. Discussion and civil discourse is a wonderful thing, but hateful rhetoric filled with false narratives and blatant anti-Semitism is certainly not.
Alexandra Ahdoot is a Trinity freshman and the president of Students Supporting Israel.
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