Jewish Federation asks those considering protesting to refrain
September 23, 2004
Dr. Brodhead was very forthcoming, open and honest in his conversation with us. The highlights of the conversation:
-- Duke is hosting the conference, not because they "favor the Palestinian Solidarity Movement" but because
1) It is sponsored and organized by a legitimate student organization. All rules and regulations Duke requires for such events have been met.
2) Duke University believes in "academic freedom" ? the ability of a university to be a haven of free speech, the free exchange of ideas, discussion and discourse. From that perspective, and with all rules and regulations having been met, President Brodhead agreed to allow the conference to take place. He told us that "I have to protect speech that I don't always agree with."
-- The staff of Duke University fully researched the past conferences (at UC-Berkeley, Michigan and Ohio State), pulling fact from fiction, and felt comfortable that this could be a civil and respectful discussion.
-- Neither Duke nor President Brodhead endorses the content of the conference any more than any other conference or speaker who comes to Duke. President Brodhead has made clear in public statements that Duke's decision to be a site for the conference does not imply endorsement of it or the views expressed by conferees. He felt he could not make a public statement of his personal position on the content. "You understand that I can't make certain public statements." He felt that to do so could have a chilling effect on the willingness of others at Duke to take positions. He used the example of the upcoming US Presidential election; he cannot publicly state his preference. He did however condemn terrorism and terrorist acts saying "my views on terrorism are clear. I have stated them at the 9-11 Memorial and at the Freeman Center."
-- Duke will monitor the conference to ensure safety of the participants, but will not stop it based on speech or discussion. If the speech incites, is hateful or anti-Semitic, President Brodhead feels that it will be rebuked at the conference without Duke making any official statement. However he went on to say that "if there is need for clarification post-conference, I'll do my part."
-- Duke will have its security at the conference, including metal detectors all participants must pass through upon entering.
-- Duke has been assured by the organizers that the conference is open to all who wish to attend (pre-registration is required). I understand members of the Jewish Community will be in attendance.
-- Duke will not divest from Israel as the conference organizers have asked.
After discussion with the other Federations, as well as with the leadership at Duke, we are asking that those who are considering protest and demonstrations as a response to the conference please refrain from doing so during the conference or outside the buildings where the conference will be held. Protests and demonstrations during the conference or outside the buildings will:
-- make this a bigger event than it should be.
-- give the PSM's message legitimacy.
-- bring the press, and the message becomes national and likely international.
-- likely place participants in shouting matches which will ultimately make us all look bad as the press (or worse) home video records every detail.
Instead, channel your emotions to support the response generated by the Freeman Center for Jewish Life at Duke. Their response, which will take place during the conference weekend, as well as throughout the year, is to provide Israel-based programming, including an anti-terrorism concert (that is being co-sponsored by many of the university's student groups), Shabbat discussions about Israel, nationally and internationally renowned speakers, an Israel tech-in, Israeli musical concerts and letters to the editor of the Chronicle.
The Durham/Chapel Hill Jewish Federation supports the Freeman Center's program of response, and we encourage you to do the same with your participation and contributions. The Federation will continue to provide information as it becomes available, including letters from Dr. Brodhead in both the eMenorah (prior to the conference), and in the Menorah (after the conference).
Dr. Brodhead was invited to visit Israel, and walk the streets of Jerusalem with us. The invitation remains open and hopefully he will join with one or more of our Federations on a mission. He did tell us that he has a number of friends and colleagues working at universities in Israel, and would love to spend some extended time visiting with them.
If you would like additional information, we encourage you to visit the Duke University Web site, as well as contacting either of us directly.