"Conflict Over Gaza" conference misses mark with biased presenters
North Carolina Hillel is disappointed that the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies’ “Conflict Over Gaza” conference featured speakers who demonized Israel for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and included too few perspectives from scholars who could have provided balanced context and multiple viewpoints on this challenging subject. Organizers missed the opportunity to convene a rich, educational forum that the UNC and Duke communities deserve.
The complex situation in Gaza and the genuine humanitarian crisis endured by the Gazan people warrant rigorous analysis. However, conference speakers largely failed to address the role that Hamas, Gaza’s own government, plays in perpetuating this crisis by committing acts of terror and diverting needed resources from its people.
In its own words, this conference should have given participants “a deeper understanding of the context of these realities” and offered “concrete options that can better the lives of Gazans.” Too often, though, the conference perpetuated myths about Israel, minimized the daily security risks that Israelis face from a terrorist organization that rules over Gaza, and glossed over the fact that since Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2007, Israel has had no democratic leaders with whom to partner in helping Gaza and promoting peace. Calling Israel “settler-colonialist,” as one speaker did, negates Israel’s legitimacy as a state and ignores the thousands of years Jews have lived in Israel.
A conference planned without a commitment to providing multiple perspectives results in bias, regardless of intent. Conference organizers selected largely like-minded speakers, including many who were on record as favoring boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. It is no surprise that they left participants with an incomplete, inaccurate understanding of the underlying causes of suffering in Gaza. Substituting advocacy for academic discourse only serves to undermine academia’s highest principles.
We hope the administration will review the planning and implementation of this conference to determine if it met rigorous academic standards and recommit itself to objective discourse moving forward.