Duke Student President Blocks Pro-Israel Group Over Social Media Post

We have been discussing controversies over social media postings by students and faculty. The latest controversy at Duke University shows again the dangers to free speech in barring groups over such postings. A chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) was approved for Duke but that approval was then rescinded by Duke Student President Chistina Wang over an Instagram response by SSI to a critic. The SSI posting was a measured and civil response to the highly critical tweet from the student. The concern is that the incident was used as a pretext for claiming a viewpoint neutral basis for barring a pro-Israel group.

On Nov. 10, the Duke Student Government Senate approved the SSI.  Yet, when the legislation was submitted to Wang, she vetoed it. Ordinarily, we do not address student disagreements on campuses. However, Duke allows the students to control what groups are recognized. That is a major responsibility and plays a critical role in the viewpoint diversity on campus.

The approval of SSI was opposed by activists like a student named Yana, who declared on Twitter that the chapter meant that “My school promotes settler colonialism.”

The Duke Chronicle reported that Wang justified her actions on the basis of a single social media posting responding to “Yana and others” calling the SSI a group “promoting settler colonialism.”

Wang declared that the SSI “singled out an individual student on their organization’s social media account in a way that was unacceptable for any student group and appeared antithetical to the group’s stated mission to be welcoming and inclusive to all Duke students, and educational in mission and purpose.”

However, the posting was neither uncivil nor inappropriate in tenor or content. The group simply said “To Yana and others like her, please allow us to educate you on what ‘settler colonialism’ actually is and why Israel does not fall under this category whatsoever. These types of false narratives are what we strive to combat and condemn.”

Notably, the SSI initially apologized but later retracted that apology.

Later, following the veto, the group issued another Instagram post stating “To remove our group from campus conversation in order to protect a public anti-Semitic statement by a student is to side with that of the oppressor, limit free speech, and excuse antisemitism to persist at Duke University.”

Frankly, I prefer the first statement to the second statement (that unnecessarily calls the student an anti-Semite).

The whole point of allowing such groups is to foster passionate debate. Israeli and Palestinian issues raise important religious and human rights questions that students should discuss through such groups. While I would prefer that the groups refrain from name calling, these are viewpoints that reflect our mission in higher education as a forum for free thought and expression.

I fail to see the basis for barring the group due its Instagram invitation to Yani and others to discuss the issue. Yani and others wanted to engage the group in a public debate. The group responded publicly to the criticism. It is inevitable that these debates quickly adopt insulting characterizations of others as “colonialists” or “antisemites.” I prefer debates that do not seek to label opponents in this way but it is an unfortunate part of passionate advocacy. People often resort to insults or labeling to attack individuals rather than their viewpoints. Nevertheless, colleges have always been forums for intense and heartfelt debates. Few issues rouse as much passion as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Wang was wrong on her veto and universities need to have rules to protect against viewpoint discrimination in the use of such powers.

204 thoughts on “Duke Student President Blocks Pro-Israel Group Over Social Media Post”

  1. Duke University can make a statement by expelling Wang for violating duke standards

  2. Archie Bunker did all of that.
    It was the episode with Sammy Davis Junior.
    The treaty was signed on the deck of the Love Boat.
    You must have missed that episode.

    1. Sammy said that Archie was the whitest guy he knew. Growing up watching Archie made me realize that I did not want to turn out like him. Thankfully, I didn’t.

  3. Anonymous complains about Karen:

    “I think it’s very counterproductive for you to respond as if I’d made a broader claim than I actually made.”

    My persistent complaint as well.

    You accuse Karen:

    “Please reread what I did claim, and understand how what I actually said is different from what you’re now trying to substitute. Please focus on what I actually said and don’t introduce all of the straw man issues.“

    I have to contend with her disingenuousness as well.

    You point out:

    “What I said was that she’d introduced the Rothschilds into it, and they’re wealthy Jews. Mentioning them without any valid reason is often a dog-whistle for anti-Semitism.”

    Correct. I take it that you don’t listen to Rightwing talk radio hosts Michael Weiner and Mark Levin. Even as Jews, they pander to latent anti-semiiism among their predominantly Christian audience by often calling female Jewish Leftists “yentas.” Weiner often repeats the words of Jewish Leftists with a Yiddish inflection all in an effort to stigmatize the speaker. See:



    It seems that Weiner and Levin (to a lesser extent) will appeal to anti-Semitic stereotypes in order to discredit the Left.

    Trump has appeared on Weiner’s radio show, and he credits Weiner as a thought leader. Trump is being interviewed by Levin this Sunday on Fox. You have noted that Trump has associated himself with those espousing anti-Semitic tropes and refusing to criticize their bigoted statements. I attribute his conduct on the fact that he could not care less what someone thinks or says as long as they will support him. Trump is purely transactional. If it profited him, is there any doubt he would do a real estate deal with killers such as Putin or MBS?

    To his credit, Turley has never appeared with Weiner or Levin. These two shock jocks yield to no one in their rage against Liberals, and yet to my knowledge, Turley has never denounced them. Weiner is often presented on Newsmax and Levin is presented weekly on Hannity’s Fox show.

    What does it say about Turley’s bona fides when- by virtue of appearing with him- he legitimizes Hannity who himself legitimizes Levin, an individual so filled with the sort of RAGE which Turley rightly and repeatedly denounces in the media?

    It’s hypocrisy. Hypocrisy- nothing more but nothing less. And for money.

  4. Yesterday there was a discussion about antisemitism and Israeli territorial boundaries. I want to clarify the law and the legality of Israel’s territorial borders.

    Much of the dispute involves a severe prejudice against the Jewish state for various reasons that I will explore based on history and the law.

    1. *The history before the British Mandate and the law:

      Jordan illegally occupied Judea/Samaria for 19 years while they did not have the backing of international law, but the world accepted the occupation.

      Israel cannot possibly be an occupier, for what would they be occupying? They would be occupying land that is legally theirs.

      How can that be? The international community created laws to protect the borders of all nations after the first world war.

      Those laws gave Israel sovereignty over the entire area of Israel, Judea and Samaria that I will detail later.

      But, there is history even before that. The Jewish people lived in that land for over 3,000 years, including the Jewish Kingdom that ruled over Judea and Samaria. That history and continuity make Israel’s claim far more significant than any other, primarily since no Arab, Palestinian state, or kingdom existed in that territory mandated to Israel.

    2. *How are borders decided?

      That takes us to 1917 and the subsequent creation of treaties to establish the legal basis for a sovereign nation’s border. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire and other countries created this need. How does one divide up the lands that the Ottoman Empire and other nations had conquered?

      Following WW1, the victors created The League of Nations in 1920. The world needed to oversee a system where nation-building took place in those lands that were former colonies of the defeated nations. The idea was that the victorious powers would not grab political power but create new nation-states overseeing those areas while they were being built.

    3. *The solution to the modern state:

      The solution was the mandate system. Palestine was one of those areas that had to be overseen while a modern nation-state was being created. This nation-state was made in the same fashion as others in the middle east and was considered the least problematic. There was very little value and no oil in the lands Mandated to Israel.

      Like everywhere else, the world under The League of Nations made a decision. In the case of the British Mandate, Palestine should be a home for the Jewish people.

      Why? As mentioned before, there were 3,000 years of continuous presence and connection to the land that no other group had. Therefore, the Jews had a legitimate right to ‘reconstitute’ a national home.

      If one argues against this decision, then one has to do the same against all the decisions that created the Middle East countries (along with countries all over the world.)

      Article 25 permitted, for convenience sake, a Mandate to be split into parts which the British immediately exercised. The British created Jordan, which lay west of the Jordan River. Has anyone questioned Jordan’s right to exist? The other part was left for the Jewish people. That part contained Judea/Samaria, later known as the West Bank, and all of Jerusalem.

      The British Mandate expired in 1948, and Israel declared its independence.

    4. *The aftermath:

      Upon Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, the Arab states attacked the new nation. Judea/Samaria and all of Jerusalem were part of the sovereign territory of Israel. Fighting ceased. Based on an armistice agreement, this half of the Mandate was again divided with a green marker pen. The troops of both sides agreed to withdraw to their sides of the green line.

      Jordan was now occupying additional land that was sovereign Israeli territory obtained through an act of war. That act of war never changed the legal boundaries constituting the border of Israel. Jordan was an illegal occupying force but was accepted the same way Russia illegally occupies Crimea today, against international law.

    5. *Enter the League of Nations and International agreements

      Israel’s territorial rights were guaranteed by treaties and agreements between the nations of the world and the League of Nations, as enumerated and partially explained in an earlier prior response.

      One has to ask themselves why those so prejudiced against Israel do not challenge the existence of Jordan? Wasn’t Jordan created under the same set of rules?

      Jordan was guilty of occupying the West Bank also based on those rules. Why weren’t they called illegal occupiers? Prejudice and antisemitism are two explanations. Of course, there are others, such as oil and personal power. Come WW2, and we see the entrance of the Nazis and Arabs like the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, all that wanted to exterminate the Jews.

    6. *Enter the UN

      There is so much history and duplicity that I haven’t written about and won’t at this time, but one has to cover just a bit about the claims based on actions occurring in the UN.

      The UN’s only binding powers involve the adoption of its budgets. They do not have international law-making abilities. One could say their abilities are similar to the American House passing a law but then following rules to make what they say legal (Senate and Presidential acceptance). To make things simple, that means the UN resolutions have no practical legality. They require the consent of the parties involved.

      However, some assume otherwise even though they will not apply the same rules to other nations. Why? Could prejudice and antisemitism be a reason?

      Rules are supposed to be applied the same to all nations. I wish some of those who hate Israel with such intensity understood what the Rule of Law means. Without that, despotism prevails.

    7. *One last point:

      Previously, I mentioned “uti posseditis juris.” What does that Latin phrase mean in the context of this discussion?

      According to international law, when a new country is created, its borders are the borders of the last geopolitical administrative unit in that area. That includes countries that are emerging from colonialism. The borders are those of the former colony. Though this might be arbitrary, it nonetheless reflects international law. The alternative would be that everything would be up for the taking, creating a volatile world environment. That is why this rule is applied in every other Mandate.

    8. *Just one more point. What are settlements?

      What are called settlements are Jewish civilian presence in an area previously illegally occupied by Jordan.

      Some people interpret Article 49 of the Geneva convention wrongfully and use that against Israeli families relocating to parts of Israel inside of Israel’s territorial boundaries. Since such relocation is within Israeli territory, there should be no complaint. Article 49 was written to prevent hostile nations (Germany in the 1930s) from sending large numbers of people into territory outside their territorial boundaries while moving those indigenous to the area elsewhere.

      Israeli citizens are moving individually from one legal place in Israel to another. This act is nothing more than Israeli citizens (Arab, Jew and Christian) moving from one city to another.

  5. My eyesight isn’t so good, so wherever it says Turley, it looks like Turkey to me, so I’m left confused.

  6. The press shouldn’t cry about intimidation when they themselves are sometimes the intimidators.

  7. I’m not an expert on the Middle-East, but I do know that Judaism and Christianity were around for hundreds of years before Islam
    was even a thing (600s AD). That should mean something.

  8. OT:

    Joe Biden is having a colonoscopy today. He is age 79. His public appearances reflect a man not in good health. Dementia is a comorbidity

    The US Prevention Services Task Force on Colorectal Cancer Screening states age 75 is the cutoff. Something is off here. Ron Klain’s White House is withholding information from Americans once again


    The USPSTF recommends screening for colorectal cancer in all adults aged 50 to 75 years.

    The USPSTF recommends that clinicians selectively offer screening for colorectal cancer in adults aged 76 to 85 years. Evidence indicates that the net benefit of screening all persons in this age group is small. In determining whether this service is appropriate in individual cases, patients and clinicians should consider the patient’s overall health, prior screening history, and preferences.


  9. It wouldn’t be wrong to rein-in a media that uses totalitarian tactics to promote injustice, and subvert constitutional rights.
    Freedom of the press shouldn’t be a good excuse.
    It could be argued that the Allies violated Joseph Goebbels’s freedom of the press when they invaded Germany.
    But so what if they did?

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