Duke University’s Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter has officially been reinstated on February 23.
The SSI chapter’s recognition as a campus club was vetoed by the student government in November after the chapter issued a social media post calling out a student by name. The student had posted on Twitter that the university’s recognition of the SSI chapter meant that the school promotes “settler colonialism.”
“Almost four months after the veto of our club, tonight the Duke Student Government did the right thing and unanimously approved SSI to be officially registered on campus again, like it should have been from the very beginning,” SSI announced in an email to supporters. “We would like to congratulate the SSI Duke chapter leaders Alex Ahdoot and Alanna Peykar! We are so proud of you: in the past months all SSI activists and the national team were cheering on you while you reminded us of what it means to not give up and stand by your beliefs, truly representing the spirit of our movement!”
Zionist Organizations of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein congratulated Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) in a statement over his efforts to overturn the veto against SSI. Paul, himself a Duke alum, had sent a letter to the university on January 10 calling the veto “arbitrary and biased.” “Denying a student group recognition based on personal or political differences weakens the legitimacy of any academic institution,” he wrote. “More voices, more viewpoints, and more debate will always be beneficial to the student body.”
“The ZOA is pleased and proud to have actively helped obtain this important victory against Israelophobia and to have contacted our friend Sen. Rand Paul asking his critical help to reinstate this strongly pro-Israel group,” Klein said. “Among other things, ZOA sent a detailed letter to Duke University’s president reminding him of the university’s policy and legal obligations to reverse the discriminatory action against SSI, and encouraged and praised a prominent Senator for speaking on this pro-Israel group’s behalf.”
Alyza D. Lewin, President of the Louis Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, also said in a statement: “I commend the university for finally correcting the injustice that was done when SSI was singled out for discriminatory treatment and its recognition was revoked. It’s important to note that SSI was treated differently from the start. They were subjected to intense questioning in the application process unlike any other groups. They were asked to appear, in-person, at their application hearing to answer questions, when other groups are approved without any in-person appearance. And then, and most egregiously, they were singled out and their recognition was revoked, all because they support Israel. These behaviors directly violated the SSI students’ right to free speech, and discriminated against them on the basis of the Zionist component of their Jewish identity.
“We are pleased the university finally did the right thing and righted this egregious wrong without our needing to take legal action,” she added. “But this type of discrimination must not happen at Duke or any other university.”