(November 19, 2021 / JNS) Students Supporting Israel (SSI) said in an open letter that it urges the Duke University Student Government (DSG) to vote against its president, who vetoed a decision to formally recognize the organization.
DSG president Christina Wang vetoed recognition of SSI on Monday because the group called out a student on social media in a way that was “unacceptable for any student group,” Wang wrote in a statement obtained by Duke’s student publication, The Chronicle.
“Have we really gotten to the point where one student government leader can de-platform Jewish students and delegitimize a well-known pro-Israel student group for the ‘crime’ of defending themselves on social media?” said Jacob Baime, CEO of Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC).
“Duke administrators must step in and take swift action to restore Students Supporting Israel’s status as a recognized campus organization. In the context of a historic increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes and a broader national conversation about race and equity, the university has an obligation to make it clear that Jewish students are no less worthy of dignity, respect and safety than anyone else,” said the letter.
The incident concerns Duke University sophomore Elyana Riddick, who posted an article on Twitter about DSG recognizing SSI and wrote in the caption: “My school promotes settler colonialism.”
SSI shared a screenshot of Riddick’s tweet on Instagram and responded to her post saying: “Please allow us to educate you on what ‘settler colonialism’ actually is, and why Israel does not fall under this category whatsoever. These types of narratives are what we strive to combat and condemn, which is why Duke’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel has been officially established & is here to stay.”
SSI later posted an apology to Riddick, but it has since been deleted. The group defended its original response in the open letter published on Wednesday.
“Students Supporting Israel at Duke University’s response to this student’s tweet was not to defame, but rather to use our free speech right to educate and discuss in the name of self-defense and inclusivity. It would set a dangerous precedent for DSG to label this as ‘hostility,’ ” the letter read. It concluded by addressing Wang’s veto.
“To remove our group from campus conversation in order to protect a public anti-Semitic statement by a student is to side with that of the oppressor, limit free speech and excuse anti-Semitism to persist at Duke University,” said SSI.
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