An Israeli consul general baselessly accused a graduate student of antisemitism and said she shouldn’t teach a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, N.C., on April 21, 2013. Photo: Lance King/Getty Images
This August, Israeli consular officials in the southeast U.S. arranged meetings with a dean at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to discuss a graduate student teaching a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to two UNC professors with knowledge of the meetings, who asked for anonymity for fear of retribution, the Israeli official accused the Ph.D. student of antisemitism and said she was unfit to teach the course.
The intervention by an Israeli government official, Consul General to the Southeastern United States Anat Sultan-Dadon, followed a pressure campaign by right-wing pro-Israel websites and an advocacy group to remove the graduate student, Kylie Broderick, from teaching the history department course called “The Conflict over Israel/Palestine.” The websites and pro-Israel advocacy group pointed to postings Broderick had made on Twitter that criticized Israel and Zionism and, without evidence, cited the postings as evidence of antisemitism.
UNC Ph.D. student Kylie Broderick.
Photo: Courtesy of Kylie Broderick
In addition to the intervention by the Israeli government, the school faced pressure from a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, the two UNC professors told The Intercept. The professors said Rep. Kathy Manning, D-N.C., also met with the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to exert pressure over Broderick’s course.
“It is not a new phenomenon where outside parties have tried to stifle academic freedom on this subject,” Broderick said. “But these people have never seen me teach, never seen my past evaluations which have said that I treat students fairly, and thus have no right to dictate what I say inside the classroom.”
Israel-Palestine has become one of the most politicized areas of academia, with periodic firings of professors, prosecutions of students, and even the maintenance of public blacklists helping impose an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship over the topic. Even by that standard, the intervention of Israeli government officials directly with an American university over the teaching of a course represents a troubling new threat to academic freedom.