The U.S. Department of Education announced on Monday that it will investigate an anti-Semitic and anti-Israel conferencein March hosted jointly by Duke University and the University of North Carolina.
This was in response to U.S. Rep. George Holding sending U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a letter in April, calling for an investigationof an event titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities,” which reportedly used $5,000 of taxpayer funds from the Education Department.
“Institutions of higher education that receive Federal funds under Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA), are required to use those funds in accordance with the terms and conditions of the grant and the HEA, and Department regulations,” said DeVos in her letter. “This includes a requirement under section 602 (e)(1) of the HEA that grantees must use funds to support activities that “reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of vires and generate debate on world regions and international affairs.”
“I am troubled by the concerns outlined in your letter. In order for the Department to learn more about this matter, I have directed the Office of Postsecondary Education to examine the use of funds under this program to determine if the Consortium violated the terms and conditions of its grant, Department regulates, or the HEA,” she continued. “It is critical that recipients of grants use funds in accordance with statutory and regulatory requirements, as well as for purposes of the program for which they are funded.”
“It is encouraging to the see the Department of Education hold Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill accountable for federal monies we have long seen abuse of funds particular in Middle East Studies Departments and programs which have been co-opted by Arab funds giving students and audiences and one-sided monolithic view of the region, especially the Israeli Palestinian conflict,” Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told JNS.
In his letter, Holding stated that according to firsthand accounts, “the conference had a radical anti-Israeli bias,” citing accounts raised by alarmed constituents.
“Reportedly, speakers and panelists distorted facts and misrepresented the complex situation in Gaza,” he wrote. “A video recently surfaced depicting the main musical performer, rapper Tamer Nafar, singing a brazenly anti-Semitic song.”
A video shows the Palestinian rapper beginning his performance by telling the audience, “I cannot be anti-Semitic alone,” and proceeded to sing “Don’t think of Rihanna when you sing this, don’t think of Beyoncé—think of Mel Gibson. I’m in love with a Jew/Oh/I fell in love with a Jew/Oh/Her skin is white and my skin is brown, she was going up up and I was going down.”
The video was taken by filmmaker and activist Ami Horowitz, who also shared audio of anti-Semitic exchanges while visiting the campus. His video has since been deleted by YouTube, citing it violated the company’s terms of service.
UNC told ABC11 that Horowitz’s footage “was heavily edited, and the product as presented does not provide context as to the questions and the full, complete answers given. Moreover, we do not believe this video represents the spirit of scholarship at the event.”