I remember a time when I was proud to be on the faculty at Duke University. It was an honor to work with colleagues of the highest caliber. We understood that academic integrity involved broad knowledge of a topic, as opposed to picking and choosing whatever coincided with our beliefs.
So, when Duke University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) hosted a joint conference on Gaza, I expected that it would be an honest academic exercise. I could not have been more wrong.
This spare-no-expense conference took place at the "Global Education Center" at UNC. It began on Friday night with a Palestinian rapper. Saturday, there was breakfast and a "Gazan" lunch. One hall featured "Gazan art — We all live in Gaza." Pro-Palestinian books were for sale. Sunday, all day, featured "Gaza on Screen" — where a total of eight pro-Palestinian films were shown.
The discussion panels on Saturday only included a one-sided perspective on Gaza. There was no mention of Gazan terrorism and the "pay to slay" policy of paying salaries to terrorists (and the families of terrorists) who kill innocent Jews, Americans, and others. There was no mention of the riots to break through Israel's border, or the terror tunnels built by Hamas. And there was certainly no mention of the thousands of rockets launched from Gaza targeting Israeli civilians.
The first speaker on Saturday was Laila El-Haddad, born in Kuwait, who spent time in Gaza. She described poor conditions in Gaza, which she blamed on the blockade. She didn't bother to explain why there is a blockade — in order to stop Hamas from smuggling in weapons and other equipment to murder innocent civilians. She described hours of waiting and being strip-searched by Egyptian authorities. She is adamantly pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) against Israel, but did not seem to favor a boycott of Egypt.
Next up was Sara Roy of Harvard University. Roy said that she has been researching Gaza for 34 years. "I have never seen the kind of economic ruination that I see today. The main reason, of course, is the 52 year occupation of Gaza and the intensified closure or siege or blockade that Israel imposed in 2006 and strengthened in 2007. ... Gazans are desperate to work, but because of the blockade ... they are forced into dependency." Roy omitted the Gazan election of the terrorist group Hamas, whose goal is to destroy Israel.
At least Roy mentioned the "draconian taxation" by Hamas, but she also said that funds are being cut from payments to "what Israel calls terrorists and the Palestinian Authority calls martyrs."
But what happened next may have been the most appalling part of the program. Roy said that "in a move that I don't understand at all, the [Palestinian Authority] said if Israel is going to deduct those funds — that percentage that they pay to families of prisoners and people who were killed — then the PA will not accept any of the money that Israel transfers to it. This is mind-boggling in my view."
What is mind-boggling is that after 34 years of research, Roy still doesn't get it. If she did, she would not have such trouble understanding the PA's decision. The Palestinian leadership and their allies do not care about their people. They only want to destroy Israel.
The program deteriorated from there, with Hani Almadhoun stating "sewage got into Israeli beaches and all of a sudden they were concerned about the well-being of Palestinians." He neglected to mention that sewage was pumped into the sea because Hamas refused to allocate electricity for their waste treatment plant. If there were any pretense of academic honesty, this would have been made clear.
I don't want to see people suffer in Gaza, and I don't know anyone who does. However, to solve problems, the discussion must be informed by a comprehensive approach.
UNC and Duke University have sunk to a new low with this propaganda-fest. The concept of academic integrity seems to have been lost. Have they no shame?
Amy Rosenthal, MD, FACP is a former faculty member of Duke University. She is the co-founder of the North Carolina Coalition for Israel.