When asked what would happen to Israelis if Palestinians took all the land “from the river to the sea” during Duke’s anti-Israel week, keynote speaker Mohammed El-Kurd replied “I don’t care. I truly, sincerely, don’t give a f…” The audience roared its approval. Clearly Duke University’s antisemitism problem is going from bad to worse.
Who is Mohammed El-Kurd? Despite his name he claims to be Palestinian. He has an extensive Canary Mission rap sheet detailing his hatred of Israel, Jews, America, the police, his adoration for terrorism, spreading misinformation, denial of Jewish history, and more. He is notorious for quotes such as “Zionists have an unquenchable thirst for Palestinian blood”. In his book Rifqa he claims that Israelis “harvest organs of the martyred, feed their warriors our own.”
Who decided to pay El-Kurd and put him on the university’s stage, to speak before Duke students and faculty? Duke has a history of hosting “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW) in which lies about Israel and Jews are promulgated in order to destroy the world’s only Jewish state. In February, despite student concerns about inviting such an antisemitic speaker, the Duke Student Government voted—without a quorum— to spend $16,000 on IAW, which included $5,000 designated for El-Kurd. Ironically the vote also came soon after the DSG voted for the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Association) definition of antisemitism. Apparently the DSG doesn’t understand IHRA since they violated it so readily.
When the North Carolina Coalition (NCCI) learned about the plans for El-Kurd, we immediately became concerned for Jewish and Zionist students on campus. We warned Duke University that hosting Mohammed El-Kurd would create a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students on campus. NCCI and others sent letters and made phone calls to Duke president Vincent Price, Provost Sally Kornbluth, and the Office of Institutional Equity expressing our concern. CAMERA on Campus wrote a petition which garnered more than 2000 signatures on short notice, asking Duke to halt his funding. The response from the administration was a determined, deliberate silence that speaks volumes.
Just before the El Kurd talk, about 10 brave Duke students stood outside the auditorium, handing out fliers. These included quotes from El Kurd’s blood libel against Jews and explained that his hateful rhetoric incites violence and threatens Jewish students.
Once the program started, and El-Kurd went up to talk, he was met with thundering applause from most of the audience. He started by mocking the fliers due to content but also “terrible graphic design.” He crumbled up the paper in front of the audience which howled approval. He mentioned the student who had written in the Duke Chronicle expressing her concern for student safety in light of his antisemitic speech. He pretended to get out a miniature violin to ridicule her feelings. The audience roared with laughter. He was asked what does “Palestinian liberation” look like? “We want our land back from the river to the sea” (wild applause), he wants refugees in camps to return (wild applause), he wants (terrorist) prisoners to be released—again enthusiastic applause.
El-Kurd has done well for himself as a professional victim. He whined about his circumstances which included speaking before Congress at the age of 11, attending university in the US, and of course his current book tour where he can earn $5000 a pop to speak while wearing a suit.
Of course, El-Kurd has copious free speech opportunities in America, but Duke doesn’t have to pay for his hate-mongering, nor is it obligated to put him on stage. Clearly, Duke is fostering a hostile atmosphere for Jewish and Zionist students. It’s time for the administration to stand up against antisemitism, and to find the backbone to protect students’ Title VI Civil rights.