An Open Letter to Duke Administrators and Trustees · 15 September 2004

Filed under: Actions, Duke University

September 15, 2004

DUKE UNIVERSITY is set to host the Fourth Annual Palestine Solidarity Conference from Oct. 15-17th. This is a conference organized by activists who support Middle Eastern terror and whose attitudes are ferociously anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. In previous conferences at UC Berkeley and the University of Michigan, chants of "Kill the Jews" were uttered frequently by Solidarity Conference participants. At Michigan, the guest of honor was Sami al-Arian, the indicted head of Palestine Islamic Jihad in North America. Al-Arian's organization has murdered over 100 people in the Middle East including some American citizens. He is currently in jail for his terrorist acitivities.

SAMI AL-ARIAN was an invited keynote speaker at Duke itself in 2002, when he addressed a conference sponsored by Duke faculty on "National Security and Civil Liberties." Al-Arian was presented as an expert on civil liberties. Last year, Laura Whitehorn, a convicted American terrorist who had bombed the Pentagon was sponsored as a speaker by the Duke African and African American Studies Department which presented her as a "revolutionary anti-imperialist who spent over fourteen years in federal prison as a political prisoner." Now Duke will host a conference dedicated to helping terrorists in the Middle East to thwart the efforts of Israeli security officials defending Israel's citizens from terrorist attacks.

THE PALESTINE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE bills itself as an educational event. However, it is anything but that. It is a strategy session for various cells of the International Solidarity Movement to plot strategy for law-breaking activities in Israel which are designed to obstruct Israeli security forces protecting civilians against terrorist attacks. At its past conferences Palestine Solidarity has held workshops on how to promote divestment from Israel, how to put a good face on terrorism, how to take over college newspapers and how to portray Israel as an apartheid state. The Solidarity conferences are also an occasion to assemble various Communist and anarchist groups in the U.S. who have allied with the "revolutionary cause" of the PLO. The Conference also formulates programs designed to convince American Jews to support the dismantling of the Jewish state in order to promote "peace and social justice."

THE ORGANIZERS OF THE SOLIDARITY CONFERENCE plan to close its workshop sessions to the media in order to protect their unsavory agendas. What educational purpose is served when Duke hosts a conference dedicated to such destructive agendas, which refuses to open its proceedings to the light of day? In defending the conference organizers, the Duke Administration at first denied that chants of "Kill the Jews" took place at earlier conferences. When confronted with documentation to the contrary, Duke's administration chose to argue that others only "claimed" such statements were made. Surely Duke has a responsibility to find out for itself who is telling the truth and who it is allowing to use its facilities.

THE DUKE ADMINISTRATION takes the position that the International Solidarity Movement is not the same as the Palestine Solidarity Movement and that the latter therefore is not involved in terrorist support activities. In fact, Adam Shapiro, one of the leaders the International Solidarity Movement told an auditorium full of people at the previous conference at Ohio State that Palestine Solidarity, Al-Awda, Sustain, and the other groups sponsoring this conference are all part of the International Solidarity Movement, the overall name the group uses to recruit students to aid the terrorists in the Middle East. If there was a distinction between the groups and their agendas it was certainly not apparent to anyone attending the previous three conferences. It should be noted that ISM activists have been arrested for sheltering terrorists who have murdered people on more than one occasion.

DUKE MAINTAINS the event is open to people of all points of view and that it will present educational discussions in a free atmosphere. Why then the closed workshops? At the Palestine Solidarity Conference held last year at Ohio State, airport-style metal detectors were set up by the organizers and the press was not allowed inside to the "workshops" but only permitted to attend a pre-Conference press event where journalists were told something considerably different from what went on inside. Recorders and cameras were confiscated at the door. While the press conference highlighted the peaceful intentions of the group, inside the event meetings were held on how to violently disrupt the business of the Caterpillar Corporation and how to put a good face on suicide bombings. Polite attempts to challenge these views during discussion periods were shouted down and those making the attempts were intimidated.

If the Duke Administration is determined to host this conference, we request that Duke take steps to ensure the conference proceeds in a manner that is appropriate to an academic setting by 1) ensuring that its proceedings are open to all; 2) seeing to it that the sessions are accessible to the press; 3) instructing organizers that they may not confiscate cameras and recorders; and 4) insisting that civil discourse will be the rule.


Sara Dogan, National Director, Students for Academic Freedom
David Horowitz, Chair, Students for Academic Freedom