Outcry over anti-Jewish editorial in Duke newspaper

new york | The fourth annual Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement may have gone off at Duke University without a hitch last weekend — but controversy has erupted immediately after its conclusion.

An inflammatory editorial in The Chronicle, Duke’s campus newspaper, has prompted an outcry by offended Jewish activists.

“Regardless of your political stance or position on the PSM conference, it is impossible to ignore the unprecedented outpouring of pro-Jewish, pro-Israeli support in defiance of free speech at Duke,” columnist Philip Kurian wrote in an Oct. 18 op-ed titled “The Jews.”

“What Jewish suffering — along with exorbitant Jewish privilege in the United States — amounts to is a stilted, one-dimensional conversation where Jews feel the overwhelming sense of entitlement not to be criticized or offended,” he wrote.

Kurian also accused Jews of exploiting the “Holocaust industry” for political gain.

Already, one student has called for the resignation of The Chronicle’s editor. The Anti-Defamation League wrote a letter to the editor defending the Jews’ right to free expression and to “fulfill themselves in society without having to endure accusations of privilege.”

Meanwhile, the local Hillel met with students Tuesday, Oct. 19, to form a response. Jonathan Gerstl, executive director of Duke’s Hillel affiliate, the Freeman Center for Jewish Life, called the article “very hurtful and ill-timed.”

For its part, The Chronicle defended its choice to run the column.

“The Chronicle has a very broad free speech policy and the opinions represented on the op-ed page by our columnists are exactly that. They are not the opinions of The Chronicle or The Chronicle’s editorial board,” editor Karen Hauptman said. “As such, we decided that it would be inconsistent with our practices and our beliefs to not run the column.”

The paper would bar from print articles that call for violence against a group of people, she said.

“Do I believe the column was hate speech?” Hauptman said. “No, I do not.”

The incident comes after heated debate at Duke over whether the university should host a conference that refuses to condemn the Palestinians’ resort to terrorism to pursue their political goals.

But last weekend’s conference proceeded without much disruption, except for two incidents later found to be bogus acts perpetrated by pro-Israel activists and under investigation by the university — a bomb threat and a mass e-mail spewing anti-Semitic remarks, designed to look as if it came from a conference organizer.