A Palestinian literature festival hosted by the University of Pennsylvania that features Roger Waters has been described as "an antisemitic dog whistle" that has been "hijacked by racists".
The event, which ends on the eve of Yom Kippur, is billed as a celebration of Palestinian culture but includes a speaking slot for former Pink Floyd frontman, who is widely accused of antisemitism.
Also tabled to address Palestine Writes, due to take place September 22-24, is Marc Lamont Hill, who was fired from CNN for his call to "free Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea".
Noa Tishby, who was until recently Israel's Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism, wrote about the event: "The festival has been hijacked by a bunch of racists, and a significant portion of the speakers [have]... a clear obsession against the Jewish state.
"This festival has Roger Waters as a speaker for crying out loud. What does Roger Waters have to do with Palestinian literature? This entire event is an antisemitic dog whistle."
She added: "I'm not for cancel culture - I don't want the festival to be cancelled. However, this conference is sponsored by university academic departments. It's happening on campus and some students are forced to attend it."
Pennsylvania's provost has denied that the university itself is funding the event, but said: "As is routine in universities, individual faculty, departments and centres and student organisations are engaged as sponsors, speakers and volunteers at this conference intended to highlight the importance and cultural impact of Palestinian writers and artists."
Three academics at the university said they had raised concerns about some of the 100 speakers at the event "who have a documented and troubling history of engaging in antisemitism by speaking and acting in ways that denigrate Jewish people."
"We unequivocally—and emphatically—condemn antisemitism as antithetical to our institutional values," the three said. "As a university, we also fiercely support the free exchange of ideas as central to our educational mission. This includes the expression of views that are controversial and even those that are incompatible with our institutional values."
More than 16 per cent of the undergraduate student body at the university is Jewish, according to the Hillel International website, which lists the school's Jewish student body as the 12th largest among private universities.
On September 8, Gabe Greenberg, a rabbi and executive director of the Penn Hillel, sent out an email to the Hillel's mailing list about the upcoming event. "We appreciate and respect the idea of a festival celebrating Palestinian culture," he wrote. "However, we have specific concerns regarding some speakers that are being featured at this event given their previous statements regarding Jews, Israel and Zionism."
Greenberg stated that Hillel "immediately went to work" with the "most central responsibility" of ensuring the safety and security of Jewish students on campus. He said that Hillel has worked "closely" with Penn administrators and that the latter has been "highly receptive and responsive to the concerns we have raised."
Roger Waters has denied being antisemitic and previously told the JC: "I have spent my entire life speaking out against authoritarianism and oppression wherever I see it."
Hill later apologised for his "river to sea" remark and said he wanted to see a binational state and "radical change" within Israel. Hill also noted that he has called for a rejection of antisemitism in any form, including preventing physical violence against Jews as well as antisemitic images.
Palestine Writes said: "We have a glorious and rich heritage that is either being erased or appropriated by a 20th century colonial enterprise that has worked overtime to denigrate us where they cannot fully erase us... We remain unbroken, defiant, and steadfast in our resolve to liberate ourselves."
Claiming that some commentators had "weaponised" antisemitism against Palestinians, the group alleged they were being accused of "victimising our colonisers".
They said they made "no apologies" for telling their "story of resistance", and said: "No one at our festival is an antisemite."
"We know the difference between Judaism and Zionism; Jews and Zionists. These are not synonymous terms," they argued.
Pennsylvania University said: "We unequivocally - and emphatically - condemn antisemitism as antithetical to our institutional values. As a university, we also fiercely support the free exchange of ideas as central to our educational mission. This includes the expression of views that are controversial and even those that are incompatible with our institutional values."