Once again, American university campuses are at the forefront of hostile anti-Israel and antisemitic activity bordering on the absurd. On September 22-24, in the midst of the Jewish High Holidays, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is hosting the Palestine Writes Literature Festival with known anti-Israel, pro-terror, and antisemitic speakers such as Roger Waters, Marc Lamont Hill, Noura Erekat and representatives from U.S.-designated Palestinian terror groups such as the PFLP, as well as representatives from their affiliates.
Among the featured speakers are PFLP militant Wisam Rafeedie, Salman Abusitta from the UK Hamas-affiliated organization Palestine Return Center (PRC), Marc Lamont Hill, American journalist who was fired from CNN for his antisemitic comments and has praised the likes of Louis Farrakhan and convicted PFLP terrorists, Roger Waters, known for his anti-Israel and antisemitic stunts, and Noura Erekat.
This same festival in 2020 awarded notorious pro-terror Palestinian activist Mohammed el Kurd with its Emerging Writer Award. El Kurd has spread antisemitic blood libels on social media accusing Israel of “trafficking Palestinian organs.”
The primary festival organizer, Susan Abulhawa, also has a colorful track record of support for PFLP terrorists such as Ghassan Kanafani and Dalal Mughrabi, as well as comparing Israel to Nazis. Abulhawa’s events in Australia have previously been canceled due to her pro-terror stances and extremist associations.
Also concerning are the sponsors of the event, such as Islamic Relief USA which has been accused of funneling money to U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas. Additional sponsors include governmental bodies in Pennsylvania, a state that has passed anti-BDS legislation, and in Australia, which previously canceled an event due to the speakers' ties to extremists.
The festival occurring on a U.S. campus is even more concerning given the fact that UPenn, which is a private institution, has received public funds to the tune of $582.3 million in research funding from the U.S. Department of Health's National Institutes of Health.
Under U.S. law, UPenn is obligated to protect Jewish students on campus, including antisemitic activity carried out in the name of anti-Zionism – as per the executive order that is still in effect from former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Brooke Goldstein, founder of the End Jew Hatred movement and author of End Jew Hatred: A Manual for Mobilization, told Ynet, “Everyone should be alarmed at the Nazi-like hate fest that will be happening at UPenn. To think this is only a problem for the Jews is a big mistake. American students are being indoctrinated by radical parties with anti-American, anti-Jewish ideology. This will have a devastating effect on the development of our country at large.”
Goldstein, who is also the founder of the Lawfare Project, also added that Upenn itself has highly suspicious funding sources from governments such as Qatar, and also reportedly received over one billion dollars in funding since 2018. “I call for an investigation to be opened into whether the school is working with this terror-sponsoring foreign government to promote extremism,” she said.
In response to pushback, the administration at UPenn issued a statement clarifying the event is “not organized by the university” and claimed, “We unequivocally — and emphatically — condemn antisemitism as antithetical to our institutional values… As a university, we also fiercely support the free exchange of ideas as central to our educational mission. This includes the expression of views that are controversial and even those that are incompatible with our institutional values.”
However, given the fact the event is being hosted on UPenn’s campus with their knowledge and permission, as well as the absence of counter-opinions, it is unclear how they can condemn antisemitism while also undoubtedly giving some of its biggest proponents a platform.
“The university statement is hot air. They can easily deny this event and stop it from taking place. The excuse of ‘it’s not our event – we have nothing to do with it, we’re just allowing it to happen on our campus’ is pathetic,” said Goldstein, who added, “UPenn has a duty, at the very least, to host an event promoting alternative viewpoints…I challenge UPenn to put on an event celebrating Jewish indigeneity in Judea in Samaria. They have a duty to provide a learning environment that promotes well-rounded, unbiased, and healthy education. They are failing in this duty and they will be held accountable.”