Republican North Carolina Rep. George Holding called on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Monday to launch a federal investigation into a conference hosted by Duke and UNC after video footage surfaced of reported anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias.
The conference "Conflict over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities" took place between March 22 and March 24 and was co-sponsored by the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies. This consortium received a $235,000 grant through the Department of Education in 2018, 65 percent of which has been spent, sources told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
"According to first hand accounts," Holding wrote in a letter to DeVos, "the conference had a radically anti-Israel bias. Reportedly, speakers and panelists distorted facts and misrepresented the complex situation in Gaza. A video recently surfaced depicting the main musical performer, rapper Tamer Nafar, singing a brazenly anti-semitic song."
Political filmmaker Ami Horowitz attended the conference and filmed the performance, posting the video on YouTube Wednesday. YouTube temporarily disabled some features of the video within 20 minutes of Horowitz's post, telling Horowitz that hate speech was one of their reasons.
"With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it's brought to our attention, we act quickly to correct it. We also offer uploaders the ability to appeal actions taken on their videos and we will re-review the content," YouTube said in a statement to TheDCNF at the time. YouTube also blocked Horowitz's video on Friday after Nafar claimed copyright infringement.
"It is vital that not only should the public hold our Universities to account for the enabling of antisemitism, but their funders need to as well," Horowitz told TheDCNF. "Whether they come from private sources or public ones. It is a travesty that US federal funds and state funds were used for an antisemitic, anti Israel hatefest. I applaud the congressman's actions."
Nafar has used his music to push Palestinian citizens to vote, appearing on CNN with Becky Anderson to discuss Arab voting earlier in April. Nafar can be heard saying in the video filmed by Horowitz, "Let's try it together," as he invites the audience to join him in song, "I need your help. I cannot be anti-Semitic alone."
"Don't think of Rihanna when you sing this, don't think of Beyonce — think of Mel Gibson," Nafar says in the video, "I'm in love with a Jew/Oh/I fell in love with a Jew/Oh/Her skin is white and my skin is brown, she was going up up and I was going down."
"You look beautifully anti-Semitic," Nafar told the crowd.
Fliers were found in the UNC library a few days after the event that referred to "an evil Jewish plot" and reportedly said "do everything you can to fight the silent covert Jewish attempt to enslave and kill good Americans," according to the Times of Israel.
UNC's Unsung Founders Memorial and a piece of art outside the Hanes Art Center were also vandalized two weeks before with "racist and other deplorable language," the Times of Israel reports.
Even before the event took place, alums, organizations, and other persons had expressed worries about the upcoming conference.
"Based upon the current composition of invited speakers, the conference program fails to meet Duke and UNC's high academic standards because it lacks both presenters to articulate a mainstream Israeli perspective and anyone who can suggest actions that might improve relations between the two from an Israeli perspective," President and Rabbi of Beth El Synagogue Daniel Greyber said in a letter to Duke and UNC leadership on March 20.
"The program imbalance, recent antisemitic events in the Triangle, including on Duke's campus, and the scheduling of the conference on the Jewish Sabbath (which precludes participation by observant Jews) are fueling concern in the Jewish community that the conference will contribute to an atmosphere in which an exchange of perspectives is unwelcome and where Israel will be demonized."
The UNC Alums for Campus Fairness also expressed concerns over the event, citing particular concerns about speakers who support the BDS movement.
The group said in a March press release:"We understand the importance of providing a platform for diverse academics with diverse perspectives to share their expertise with university communities, as to enhance academic freedom and opportunity for all students. In undertaking this conference, we are concerned that the content of this conference will fall short in providing balanced and accurate education regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it relates to Gaza."
UNC Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a Friday tweet that, "A performance during a recent conference held on our campus contained some disturbing and hurtful language. I stand steadfast against anti-Semitism and hate in all its forms."
"UNC Global will work directly with the U.S. Department of Education, if contacted, to address any questions about this matter," the Director of Global Relations at UNC Global, Katie Young, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. "The Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill promotes understanding of the Middle East through teaching, research, and community outreach. The center is part of the UNC-Duke Consortium for Middle East and Islamic Studies."
Duke University did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.