Rep. George Holding (R-Ga.) asked the Department of Education (ED), in an April 15 letter, to investigate if a $235,000 federal grant went toward an anti-Israel conference that was held at the University of North Carolina in partnership with Duke University.
On April 12, UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz issued an apology after a video came to light of rapper Tamer Nafer singing at the conference “I’m in love with a Jew” at the Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities conference from March 22-24 at UNC. The conference was co-sponsored by the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, which had received a $235,000 grant in 2018.
Holding argued in his letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that “the conference had a radical anti-Israeli bias.”
“Examination of the official program reveals that several of the conference’s speakers are actively involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement,” Holding wrote. “Prior to the event, local religious and community organizations, academics and citizens wrote the universities expressing concerns that the conference lacked balance and appeared designed to promote a radical agenda. Apparently these concerns were ignored, with no mainstream speakers or panelists included in the three-day conference.”
Holding added, “If these reports are accurate, I have difficulty understanding why tax dollars should be spent on such an activity.”
Holding then listed a series of questions, including whether or not the ED has policies that prevents grants from going toward “organizations promoting a biased anti-Israeli agenda,” if any of the presentations promoted the BDS movement and/or glorified “acts of violence” and if any of the grant money went toward the conference.
“If the reports of extensive anti-Israeli bias are true, is that grounds to revoke the remainder the federal grant awarded to the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies?” Holding asked.
Katie Younger, director of Global Relations at UNC Global, told the Journal in an email that $5,000 from the grant was used toward the conference.
ED Press Secretary Liz Hill told the Journal in a statement via email, “We have received the Congressman’s letter and are reviewing it.”
More in-depth coverage of the conference can be found here.