Israeli diplomat pushed UNC to remove critical teacher from Israel
This August, Israeli consular officials in the southeastern United States held meetings with a dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to discuss a graduate student giving a lecture on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to two UNC professors familiar with the meetings, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, the Israeli official accused the Ph.D. student of anti-Semitism and said she was not fit to teach. Classes.
The intervention of an Israeli government official, the Consul General in the Southeastern United States, Anat Sultan-Dadon, follows a campaign of pressure by right-wing pro-Israel websites and a group of advocacy to remove graduate student Kylie Broderick from teaching in the history department. course entitled “The conflict over Israel / Palestine”. The websites and the pro-Israel advocacy group pointed to the posts Broderick had made on Twitter that criticized Israel and Zionism and, without evidence, cited the posts as evidence of anti-Semitism.
Photo: Courtesy of Kylie Broderick
In addition to the Israeli government intervention, the school came under pressure from a member of the US House of Representatives, the two UNC professors told The Intercept. The professors said Rep. Kathy Manning, DN.C., also met with the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to lobby Broderick’s course.
“This is not a new phenomenon where outside parties have tried to stifle academic freedom on this subject,” Broderick said. “But these people never saw me teach, never saw my past evaluations that said I treated students fairly and therefore had no right to dictate what I say in class.”
Israel-Palestine has become one of the most politicized areas of academia, with periodic dismissals of professors, prosecution of students, and even the maintenance of public blacklists helping to impose an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship on the world. topic. Even by this standard, the intervention of Israeli government officials directly to an American university over the teaching of a course poses a disturbing new threat to academic freedom.
“I think a representative of a foreign government trying to control a college class is, in the first place, ridiculous and an obvious overreaction to what is essentially a problem that started on Twitter,” Broderick said. “I also think it is strange that the Consulate General of Israel obtained an audience. If this was a course on Hungary or Australia, would the university have allowed the attempted interference of a foreign government? The fact that this meeting took place is clearly a threat to academic freedom. “
“The fact that this meeting took place is clearly a threat to academic freedom. “
The controversy began because of several tweets sent by Broderick that were highly critical of Israel and US foreign policy, including support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Broderick rejected accusations by Israeli consular officials that his criticism of Israel on social media constituted anti-Semitism. “A criticism of Israel and the political ideology of Zionism does not constitute fanaticism any more than a criticism of Iran, which calls itself the Islamic Republic, constitutes an Islamophobic attack,” Broderick said. “States are not religions and States are not a people. “
Broderick expected examine some of his teaching, as Israel is still a hot topic in the United States. What she did not do was how much the smear campaign against her would explode, up to and including interventions by officials from two governments.
In a statement to The Intercept, Sultan-Dadon confirmed meeting with the Dean of the UNC College of Arts and Sciences about Broderick. Although Sultan-Dadon declined to comment on the details of the discussion, she doubled down on her opinion that Broderick was anti-Semitic and unfit to lecture on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Regarding the course“ The Conflict over Israel / Palestine ”at UNC Chapel Hill taught by doctoral student Ms. Broderick, I have significant concerns about the public statements that have been made by Ms. Broderick on this subject, some some that are not only heavily biased, but clearly fall within what is defined as anti-Semitic by the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism, ”Sultan-Dadon said, referring to the strongly contested definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
The Consul General continued, “I think it should worry anyone who opposes anti-Semitism and academic freedom, an individual who has not only made public anti-Semitic statements in reference to Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. , but also publicly stated that she does not believe that there are two sides to this conflict and that she does not want to teach her students on both sides, is the teacher selected for a course on “The conflict on Israel / Palestine ”.
Manning’s congressional office did not respond to a request for comment on meetings with UNC officials. Manning’s website is short on foreign policy positions, but says support for Israel is a key issue for the US House member.
The dean’s office and UNC declined to comment on the meeting with officials. However, UNC officials appear to be holding on despite heavy external pressure on Broderick’s teaching of the course. An email from the chancellor’s office in August, circulated online by pro-Israel groups, indicated that the course would proceed as planned, and Broderick has since started teaching without controversy or complaints from students.
The controversy over Teaching of the course by Broderick began this summer, after pro-Israel website Algemeiner made a story centered on a series of tweets Broderick made that were either highly critical of Israel or judged by the author, Peter Reitzes. , as “rude”.
The problem snowballed from there as other activist news websites picked up on the problem and started spreading it through their networks, even reaching mainstream news. In August, a local ABC affiliate aired an investigative report by journalist Jonah Kaplan. Kaplan quoted students as saying that Broderick’s tweets criticizing Israel echoed the rhetoric that fomented the Holocaust, describing them as a “further mutation of what anti-Semitism is today.” Another student told Kaplan, of Broderick’s tweets, “Just replace Zionist with Jewish and it’s pretty obvious it’s anti-Semitic.
Similar campaigns, accusing critics of Israel of anti-Semitism despite a lack of direct evidence, have long become commonplace in American academia.
“In a strange way, what’s interesting about Broderick’s case is that in all likelihood she’ll be fine, and that’s a huge change from what would have happened just a short time ago. decade.”
“University courses all over the United States have long been taught with a massive pro-Israel bias, and if people in a classroom or college are pro-Israel, they should be allowed to make that argument. But what all this external pressure on academics is trying to do is prevent the same from happening from the Palestinian point of view, ”said Jonathan Brown, professor of Islamic civilization at Georgetown University. “There are fundamental questions at play here about academic freedom and whether academics are supposed to teach according to the preferences of donors or even foreign governments.”
In many ways, however, the narrative on the conflict is changing, with polls showing growing sympathy for the Palestinian cause and an openness to criticism of Israeli government policies among Americans, including among liberal organizations. , progressives and Jews who also prioritize the fight against anti-Semitism. The intense pullback, even against graduate students critical of Israel who teach courses on the subject with the Israeli government itself directly involved, is seen by some as a way of trying to maintain a biased status quo that is now in place. disgrace.
“When I was in college 20 years ago, if someone said something critical about Israel in class, you could hear a fly fly. It was scary. Things are very different now, ”said Brown. “In a strange way, what’s interesting about Broderick’s case is that in all likelihood she’ll be fine, and that’s a huge change from what would have happened just a short time ago. decade.”
Correction: September 28, 2021, 2:08 p.m. ET
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misrepresented the political party of North Carolina Representative Kathy Manning. She’s a Democrat.