Amidst growing controversy, the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies has decided that it will honor requests for refunds from co-sponsors of its recent conference, Conflict over Gaza.
In an email to The Daily Tar Heel, Katie Young, director of Global Relations at UNC Global, said any refunds from the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies would be paid without reliance on the Center’s federal or state funding.
The Conflict over Gaza conference, held at the University from March 22 to 24, aimed to “shed much needed light on the current realities in the Gaza Strip,” according to its webpage. The conference drew criticism after conservative filmmaker Ami Horowitz published a video of hidden-microphone interviews with attendees and a performance by Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar. Nafar is seen in the video telling the audience that “this is my anti-Semitic song.”
UNC Global told The Daily Tar Heel that the video had been heavily edited, and was not representative of the overall spirit of the conference.
Following the release of the video, many conference co-sponsors, including the School of Law and the School of Government, requested that the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies refund them and remove them from the list of conference co-sponsors.
“I trusted your Center to ensure that the content of this conference would be appropriate and would reflect well on the University and the units whose resources you sought,” Dean of the School of Law Martin Brinkley said in a letter to the Center. “I am deeply disappointed in your breach of trust with innocent campus units who sought only to be good citizens and partners to the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies.”
Mike Smith, dean of the School of Government, also wrote his own letter to the organizers of the conference, which was obtained by ABC11.
“I do not want the School associated with the anti-Semitic performance that now has come to define your conference,” Smith wrote. “I trusted that your conference would conform to the values of the University, and instead you violated that trust by extending a platform to an anti-Semitic musician who hurt members of our community.”
Smith and Brinkley both said they would be unlikely to authorize funding for future programs.