Something called the "National Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement" has become an annual fixture at one or other American campus the past three years, provoking much debate about free speech and the propriety of universities promoting incitement. The fourth conference is scheduled to take place at Duke University on October 15-17, 2004. Although the speakers are no-name fanatics, the perverse celebrity of their event has once again made it the subject of much dispute. (For example, an online petition protesting the event has garnered 65,000 signatures.)
Which explains how it comes to be that I will be giving a talk at Duke one day earlier, October 14, as a guest of the Duke Conservative Union. As its letter of invitation to me in early September put it, DCU "is gearing up for a comprehensive campaign to counter the misinformation sure to emanate from the conference" and it sees a lecture by me as a useful part of this effort. I immediately agreed to go. Young America's Foundation and Intercollegiate Studies Institute are helping to fund the event.
The Duke Conservative Union is, so far as I know, the only Duke organization to come out specifically against the conference and criticize President Richard H. Brodhead for approving it. (The administration's reasons for funding Hiwar, the student group sponsoring the conference, can be read on the Duke University website at "Q&A on the Palestine Solidarity Conference.") In addition to hosting me, the DCU is taking out full-page ads in the local newspaper to expose the conference's ties to terrorism. (The organizers of the conference deny any link between themselves and the pro-terrorist International Solidarity Movement but the DCU has established that the spokesman for the conference, an Israeli graduate student named Rann Bar-On, is himself an ISM member.)
In contrast to DCU, other campus pro-Israel organizations – including several local Jewish federations, the Duke Friends of Israel, and the Freeman Center for Jewish Life (Duke's Hillel affiliate) – have come out against protesting the conference: "we are asking that those who are considering protest and demonstrations as a response to the conference please refrain from doing so during the conference or outside the buildings where the conference will be held. … Instead, channel your emotions to support … Israel-based programming."
- Sponsor: Duke Conservative Union
- Topic: "The Palestinian-Israeli war – where did it come from, how to end it?"
- Other speaker: Debbie Schlussel (who protested and attended a prior PSM conference, at the University of Michigan) will make opening remarks
- When: Thursday, October 14, 6:30 p.m.
- Where: Love Auditorium, Levine Science Research Center
- Cost: Free
- Map: https://aux03.auxserv.duke.edu/parking/campusmap/2004mapbig.htm and the Levine Science Research Center is listed as "LSRC"
- Driving and parking directions: Go to https://aux03.auxserv.duke.edu/parking/campusmap/2004mapbig.htm, then choose "Levine Science Research Center" from the scroll-down menu.
If you plan on attending, I suggest getting early to the hall. There will likely be fairly heavy security and PSM types may well try to pack the room. (September 29, 2004)
Sept. 29, 2004 update: Some hours after posting and sending out the above invitation, I was delighted to learn that the Freeman Center for Jewish Life has decided to co-sponsor my talk at Duke.
Oct. 15, 2004 update: I am happy to report that I had a quiet and constructive talk at Duke last night. The PSM'ers stayed away and the event went smoothly. I am also pleased to report that the Duke Department of Political Science joined in co-sponsoring my talk. Lee Kaplan reports on the event, including my critique of the university administration, in "Daniel Pipes Speaks at Duke." A blog account can be found at "Daniel Pipes at Duke Recap." The Duke Chronicle continued its inadequate and biased coverage of the PSM affair with Kelly Rohrs' "Pipes calls for end to Palestinian aid."
Feb. 7, 2005 update: Commentary magazine published in its January issue a fine article on the PSM fiasco, "The Intifada Comes to Duke," by Eric Adler and Jack Langer. The Duke University administration has now responded and, among other points, it invokes my talk as evidence that a healthy "dialogue" took place back in October. As it had nothing to do with my invitation to the university (I went at the behest of the Duke Conservative Union), I find this a curious claim.
Dec. 2, 2005 update: Jack Langer provides an update at "The ISM at Duke: The Saga Continues." In brief, after defending last year's PSM conference by
arguing that the PSM and ISM were separate and distinct organizations, the Duke administration has allowed the ISM to return to Duke under its own auspicies - even though the administration itself acknowledges that the ISM has ties to terrorists.