The interim chancellor of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill has rebuked a recent campus performance by a Palestinian rapper who sang a self-described "antisemitic song" and asked audience members to invoke Mel Gibson when participating.
Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar of the hip hop group DAM performed at UNC on the evening of March 22, as part of a 3-day academic conference on the Gaza Strip. The conference was sponsored by the UNC Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies and Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, and co-sponsored by multiple departments.
"This is my antisemitic song," Nafar was recorded saying in a clip shared by filmmaker Ami Horowitz.
"Let's try it together," the rapper said while encouraging audience members to join him. "I need your help, I cannot be antisemitic alone."
As he began performing, the audience responded to his cues by singing, "I'm in love with a Jew."
"I fell in love with a Jew," Nafar rapped. "Her skin is white and my skin is brown, she was going up up and I was going down."
"Don't think of Rihanna when you sing this, don't think of Beyonce," the rapper was recorded telling audience members. "Think of Mel Gibson. Go that antisemitic."
Gibson, an actor and filmmaker, claimed in a notoriously antisemitic rant in 2006 that "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."
Other audio clips Horowitz said he recorded during the conference include a comment from an unidentified attendee claiming that "Jewish lobbyists are very rich."
Several individuals were also recorded agreeing with the claim that "the Jewish lobby is influencing our government."
"This is historically known," said one man. "They're influencing our politics," said another.
Several antisemitic flyers referring to "an evil Jewish plot" were found days after the conference at the Davis Library at UNC-Chapel Hill. Police have given no indication that they were related to recent events.
In an initial response sent to ABC11 about the conference, UNC claimed Horowitz's "content was heavily edited, and the product as presented does not provide context as to the questions and the full, complete answers given. Moreover, we do not believe this video represents the spirit of scholarship at the event."
A subsequent statement sent from Duke condemned antisemitism, but did not specifically address Nafar's performance or the conference.
Yet in a Friday statement, UNC Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz acknowledged that the performance "contained disturbing and hateful language."
"Like many members of our community, I am heartbroken and deeply offended that this performance happened," he said. "I stand steadfast against Anti-Semitism and hate in all its forms. The Carolina spirit is not about hateful language that divides us, but about civil discourse that advances ideas and knowledge. We must continue to aspire together to that ideal."
The conference drew backlash from several Jewish groups both on and off campus, among them NC Hillel, which said the event "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."
"[C]onference 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," Hillel continued. "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."