President of Aztecs for Israel Guy Harel spoke at the Associated Students Council meeting on Feb. 15 to protest Cultural Arts and Special Events' decision to fund two lecturers set to speak during Palestine Awareness Week.
Nada Elia, a professor of Global and Gender Studies at Antioch University Seattle, is a supporter of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Saree Makdisi, a professor of English and Comparative Literature at University of California Los Angeles, holds what Harel believes to be antagonistic, destructive views, calling for the elimination of the Israeli state.
"I believe that when the school sponsors speakers to come to campus, they should be constructive, not destructive," Harel said.
The student organization behind Palestine Awareness Week, Students for Justice in Palestine, responded to the accusations its speakers are facing.
"I wouldn't say they are necessarily pro-Palestine or anti-Israel, I think framing things in that way dichotomizes the issue," SJP general body member Lorain Rihan said. "Elia, for example, will be speaking about gender issues and on what queer allies can do in the context of greater struggle for Palestinian self-determination and liberation."
"They're both academics: professors from reputable universities and experts in their field," SJP officer Rawan Elhalaby said.
The unanimous decision to fund the speakers was not overturned.
"Typically, CASE does not research the speakers that are coming to campus via CASE program funds as part of the mission of CASE is to support student organizations and their activities to ensure successful programming," CASE member Rob O'Keefe said. "The CASE staff works … to provide advice and guidance in the planning stages of an event but do not generally second-guess the speakers or activities of the event, as long as the program meets CASE programming guidelines."
Harel acknowledges he was not aware of SJP violating any code or bylaw pertaining to seeking funding for speakers.
"I have no problem with them bringing speakers to campus," Harel said. "It's just when you delegitamize Israel's right to exist, I think that's crossing the line. I just wanted to make my voice heard."