Duke University president rejects Israeli meeting request

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Students at Dauphin have said they had intended to have a dialogue with the Israeli embassy but members of the Duke University chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace were…

Duke University president rejects Israeli meeting request

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Students at Dauphin have said they had intended to have a dialogue with the Israeli embassy but members of the Duke University chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace were not invited

The president of the student government at Duke University has rejected an invitation from an Israeli embassy representative to engage in “meaningful dialogue” because of a Facebook post by a student group that opposes Israel.

In a statement to members of the Duke University Associated Students of Duke (DUASH), President Hunter R. Bell said he had received two emails from the Israeli embassy expressing their “desire for engagement”.

However, one of the messages – coming from Jewcy.com, a pro-Israel website – contained a photo of protesters who participated in the 2003 anti-war demonstration in Washington.

The photo showed protesters holding up a sign that read: “Trump to Israel: Go Home.”

In the email, a student member of the embassy said the “intentions of Jewcy are completely unacceptable,” adding that he had been invited to do dialogue with the student government group “like all other student groups on campus”.

The embassy’s communication also included a message indicating that a meeting with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) was also planned.

JVP is a Jewish American group whose views are labelled by critics as “extreme” by some quarters.

But the group’s action alerts frequently draw criticism of its rhetoric and the ones marked “EXPOSED” often carry a message of total opposition to Israel – its continuous occupation of Palestinian land, its repressive policies against Palestinian political groups and its refusal to embrace two states for two peoples.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Students also posted images of an anti-Jewish cartoon on a pro-Palestinian poster

Ms Bell rejected the request to meet as long as JVP was represented, but the student government representative said he had sent a “limited” request to JVP to participate in what they called a “dialogue” with campus advocacy groups that opposed the Israel embassy and instead opted to send them a message that “their actions were unacceptable”.

The first note, which arrived on 9 February, was from a fellow student, identifying himself only as Alii, who said that Jewish Voice for Peace had requested a meeting with the university’s student government. He invited JVP co-chair Tanya Lappartig of New York City to the first meeting, rather than an Israeli representative.

Ms Lappartig had told the Journal News that Jewish Voice for Peace has always received a “huge amount of support” from campus groups, but rejected the accusation that JVP sought to boycott Israel.

The statement from the university president’s office said “the emails [from Jewish Voice for Peace] clearly state that the meeting has been “offered”, and point out that the email requests a “dialogue”, to which there is no indication that any other student group is seeking.

In a statement to students, Ms Lappartig criticised the decision as “wading into politics, rather than dialogue”.

“We do not believe we can engage in debate while our office and its representatives remain silent on issues that directly affect the lives of Palestinian students,” she said.

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