The Department of Education plans to investigate a Middle East studies event hosted by Duke University and the University of North Carolina in which a Palestinian guest performer appeared to lead the attendants in anti-semitic rhetoric.
The Duke-UNC consortium on Middle East studies used $5,000 of federal grant money from DOE for the event, the News and Observer in Raleigh reported at the time.
In response to a letter from Rep. George Holding in April asking for the department to investigate the matter, Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote that she has directed her deputies to “examine” whether the schools violated the conditions of their federal grant funding by hosting an event that featured overtly anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Recipients of DOE grants must use those funds to support activities that “reflect diverse perspectives and a wide range of views and generate debate on world regions and international affairs,” according to the Higher Education Act of 1965 that governs program allocations.
In his April letter to DeVos, Holding criticized the “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities” conference in March in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, over “reports of severe anti-Israeli bias and anti-Semitic rhetoric at a taxpayer-funded conference.”
The North Carolina Republican asked DOE to determine whether the rest of the four-year, $235,000-per-year grant should be “revoked” over the use of some funds for an “overtly biased” event against Israel.
“Honest academic debate featuring diverse perspectives and a wide-range of views is critical in a democratic society and a central tenet of American’s educational system,” Holding wrote to DeVos.
“However, it is irresponsible, immoral and unproductive for taxpayer dollars to fund overtly biased advocacy under the guise of academic discourse,” he wrote.
Filmmaker Ami Horowitz shared clips with local TV station ABC11 from a trip to the UNC campus in Chapel Hill on the weekend of the Middle East conference. Horowitz captured video of the Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar of the hip-hop group DAM leading the crowd in a song that he himself, on-stage, characterized as “anti-Semitic.”
The song’s title is “Mama, I fell in love with a Jew.”
The News & Observer reported that the Horowitz video of Nafar’s performance was edited before it was posted.
Horowitz approached students attending the event under false pretenses, and conducted hidden-microphone interviews, the newspaper reported.
After DeVos’ letter this week, Holding thanked her for “treating this matter with the seriousness and attention it deserves,” he said in a statement.
“I hope we can all agree that it is irresponsible and immoral for taxpayer dollars to fund overtly biased advocacy under the guise of constructive academic discourse,” he said.
Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.