Dear President Brodhead:
I am writing to you as a member of Duke's extended family of scholars.
As you may know, my archives reside at Duke University as part of
a distinguished collection of feminist intellectuals and activists.
Indeed, my archives were Duke's first major acquisition in this
area. You have in your possession a treasure trove of my research,
published and unpublished manuscripts, interviews, course curricula,
and world wide civil rights activism from the early 1960s on. Duke
acquired my papers in 1992 and I have continued to hand over materials
ever since. Other important acquisitions that followed mine include
those of Kate Millett, Alix Kates Shulman, Merle Hoffman, Robin
Morgan, and others.
I am also one of 107 signatories to a letter recently sponsored
by the Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies addressed to Secretary
of State Colin Powell on behalf of the Global Anti-Semitism Awareness
Act, (HR 4230), which would have the United States monitor and combat
anti-Semitism world-wide. Other signatories include current and
former Senators, Congressmen, Ambassadors, theologians, and educators
including the Reverend Dr. Joseph Hough, Jr., President of the Union
Theological Seminary, Dr. Harold W. Attridge, Dean of the Yale University
Divinity School, Dr. Maxine Clarke Beach, Dean of the Drew University
Theological School, Sister Rose Thering, author James Carroll, and
R. James Woolsey, Jack Kemp, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Cynthia Ozick,
Richard Perle, and Gary Wills.
I understand that Duke University will be hosting a Palestinian
Solidarity Movement (PSM) conference. I also understand that you
and certain faculty members believe that doing so constitutes your
commitment to free speech and academic freedom. Ironically, Duke
will be supporting a group (which is also known as the International
Solidarity Movement), which does not believe in free speech or democracy
and which endorses violence, mass murder, Jew-hatred, and homicidal-suicide
But, you might say, America prides itself on extending its civil
rights, including that of free speech to racist groups and to their
hate speech. Let me respectfully suggest that, post 9/11, America
may no longer do so without risking grievous consequences both in
terms of lives lost and truth abandoned.
President Brodhead: Would you proudly host a Nazi Party or Ku Klux
Klan conference in the name of academic freedom? Given your commitment
to the First Amendment, would you still allow the meeting to take
place behind closed doors with no press allowed? I understand that
this is what the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference planners
have demanded. As you know, a free and vigorous press is one of
our protections against tyranny. What issue cannot bear the cleansing
light of scrutiny?
But why is Duke giving any intellectual credibility to what is
bound to be a hate-fest? Under President Rudenstein, Harvard, which
like Duke is also a private institution, resolved that it would
not allow any hate-speech conferences. The Harvard Divinity School
also returned United Arab Emirate monies from the Sheikh Zayed Foundation
no doubt earmarked for such purposes. Perhaps Duke can consider
doing this as well. The PSM/ISM are precisely the kinds of groups
that European governments, beginning with Germany, have begun to
monitor in terms of their terrorism potential. Why is Duke granting
them an aura of intellectual respectability?
In my view, the masked and hooded members of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah,
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Fatah, and the al-Aqsa's Martyrs Brigade--which
the PSM and their allies support--are far more dangerous than the
Nazis or the Klan ever were. Their terrorism against civilians,
especially in Israel, but also world-wide, is both state-sanctioned
and trans-national. Their propaganda against Jews and Israelis is
based on doctored footage, photo-opportunity journalism, and sophisticated
post-Orwellian lies. The Palestine Solidarity Movement and their
allies chant "Death to the Jews," and "Death to America,"
at what they describe as peace rallies; they characterize the mass
murder of civilians as "resistance to oppression;" they
preach the destruction of Israel and the murder of all infidels
in Arabic--but then, in English, French, and German, claim that
they have been misunderstood, that they really meant the opposite
of what they said.
President Brodhead: Until now, I have been proud to be associated
with Duke. However, as a Duke family member, I am distressed by
Duke's decision to host the PSM conferencebut I am even more
distressed by Duke's failure, so far, to fund and host very different
kinds of programs in this area.
Some academics and educators might say that PSM's/ISM's hate speech
and lies are only words and cannot hurt anyone. They might also
say that honoring diverse and controversial words are precisely
what American universities should do. At some other time in history,
and perhaps in terms of other subjects, I might agree with you.
However, the level of hate-propaganda against Israel and Jews is
surreal, global, sophisticated, and deadly. During this latest Palestinian-led
and Arab and Iranian-backed Intifada, (2000-2004), such propaganda
has both led to and yet rendered invisible the highest civilian
body count in Israel's history. In American demographic terms, by
now America would have suffered approximately 45,000 civilian deaths
at the hands of terrorists and approximately 280,000 civilians wounded,
often seriously, and for life. More than half would have been women
and children. Only Israel's unilateral creation of a security barrier
has begun to staunch the flood of Israeli blood.
The Islamists, whom the PSM support, torture and impoverish their
own people, sacrifice their own children, practice slavery, and
commit genocide. They terrorize their own citizens, especially intellectuals,
women, and homosexuals. Nevertheless, many "politically correct"
academics have romanticized these barbarians--even the billionaire
bin Laden and the multi-millionaire Arafat--as humiliated and impoverished
I have written about this betrayal of the truth and of the Jews
in my twelfth and latest book: "The New Anti-Semitism. The
Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It."
Most "politically correct" academics, including feminists,
have joined left-alliances which single out only Israel for imaginary
crimes and misdemeanors. They say that Israel is an Apartheid and
Nazi state; it is not. But, as one of Duke's pioneer feminists,
let me indeed briefly focus on Apartheid as a feminist issue.
Islam today is the largest practitioner of both gender and religious
Apartheid in the world. Women who live under Islam are, variously,
murdered outright in honor killings and oppressed by forced veiling,
segregation, sequestration, stoning to death for alleged adultery,
female genital mutilation, polygamy, forced marriage to men old
enough to be their grandfather, and by domestic and sexual slavery.
Women have few, if any, civil, legal, or human rights under Islam
today. In addition, under Islam, all non-Muslims: Christians, Jews,
Assyrians, Hindus, Zoroastrians, animists--have historically been
viewed and treated as subhuman and accorded "dhimmi" status.
Today, except for the small country of Israel, all 22 nation states
in the Arab Muslim Middle East are Judenrein (free of Jews); Christians
there remain at serious risk.
You will probably not hear anyone at the PSM conference address
Apartheid in this way and to fail to do so is to fail the requirements
of objectivity and scholarship. "Free speech is not always
"true" speech. Universities have an obligation to teach
the truth as much as they may also wish to model tolerance for all
speech, including that which bears no relationship to the truth.
Thus, in the interests of free, true speech, may I suggest that
[*] Allow the media in to cover the PSM conference.
[*] Allow the conference to be taped so that you and others will
see what is being said.
[*] Sponsor a pro-democracy and pro-Israel conference, one which
reflects a wide spectrum of opinion, not only that of the left-wing
Israeli Oslo and Geneva accordianists. This should be an inter-faith
and inter-disciplinary effort. The Jewish community should not be
expected to monitor Jew-hatred and educate against it by themselves.
In addition, such a conference should feature Arab Christians, as
well as Lebanese Maronite Christians who are the descendants of
Phoenicians and pre-date the Arab conquest of Arabia.
[*] Sponsor an international conference on Gender and Religious
[*] Sponsor a conference on the feminist challenge to and transformation
of patriarchal religions. As yet, perhaps due to funding limitations,
none of my extensive work as a feminist activist within Judaism
and within Israel, especially as a co-leader of the Women of the
Wall struggle in Jerusalem, has been made available to scholars
or Duke students nor has any of my work as an anti-racist activist--not
only on behalf of minorities of color but also on behalf of Jews--been
We live in dangerous times. Keeping a low and "neutral"
profile, trying to please and appease all sides--especially the
most violent side-- is unwise. One must take a stand against radical
evil and injustice. I hope and pray that you will do exactly that.
All the best,
Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D.
(The author may be reached at www.phyllis-chesler.com)