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Saturday January 23rd

Panel holds discussion on American Studies Association boycott of Israeli institutions

<p>Yousuf Al-Bulushi, left, Nathan Swanson, middle, and Neel Ahuja participate in a forum.</p>
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Yousuf Al-Bulushi, left, Nathan Swanson, middle, and Neel Ahuja participate in a forum.

A panel of four UNC faculty members gave a general explanation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before the question and answer portion where audience members voiced their objections to both the panel members and each other.

History professor Sarah Shields began the forum by providing background information for what she described as the occupied Palestinian land.

“And it’s very important here that we call these territories occupied,” Shields said. “The Israelis would prefer that we called them disputed or that they be called part of the land of Israel, but I will make a claim tonight in my 10 minutes that they are occupied.”

One member of the audience said during the quesiton and answer portion that she was “stunned” by the lack of diversity on the panel, which she felt appeared to be pro-Palestinian.

Ari Gauss, executive director of N.C. Hillel, said during the question and answer period that none of the panel members mentioned suffering experienced on the Israeli side of the conflict.

Nathan Swanson, a teaching assistant in the department of geography and a member of the panel, talked about how Palestinian academic institutions are adversely affected by the occupation because of obstacles to movement such as the separation barriers, checkpoints, roadblocks and curfews in place in Palestine.

“In addition, a number of students, especially younger students, are threatened daily by settler violence,” he said.

The ASA’s boycott call was not greatly referenced in the forum until speaker Neel Ahuja , an English professor, referenced the resolution. He also brought up Chancellor Carol Folt’s and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Jim Dean’s December statement argued against the boycott.

“We steadfastly and fundamentally believe in the rights of academicians here and abroad to engage and express their viewpoints, and resolve differences in a scholarly debate,” the statement read.

“Ultimately, we feel strongly that the ASA resolution would not only reduce access to intellectual collaborations, but is — at it’s core — diametrically opposite of the values expressed in our motto: Lux libertas. Light and Liberty.”

Some attendees said audience members took the discussion off topic.

“There were a lot of things thrown into the mix that didn’t fit the panel,” said senior Linden Wait.

Graduate student Rachel Gelfand disagreed, and found merit in the vast historical context presented in the discussion.

“Saying that there has to be balanced opinions sometimes shuts down the conversation.”

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