The “Palestine Writes” literature festival, is set to take place next week, Sept. 22-24, at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, with the lineup of speakers including several figures known for antisemitic rhetoric, including ex-Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters and CUNY Professor Marc Lamont Hill.
The event is described on its website as the “only North American literature festival dedicated to celebrating and promoting cultural productions of Palestinian writers and artists.”
“Born from the pervasive exclusion or tokenization of Palestinian voices in mainstream literary institutions, Palestine Writes brings Palestinian cultural workers from all parts of Historic Palestine and our exiled Diaspora together with peers from other marginalized groups in the United States,” the website says.
In addition to Waters and Hill, other speakers with problematic track records on antisemitism include Islamic University of Gaza Professor Refaat Alareer, who, according to The Algemeiner, said in 2018, “Are most Jews evil? Of course they are,” and researcher Salman Abu Sitta, who has claimed, “Jews were hated in Europe because they played a role in the destruction of the economy in some of the countries.”
The upcoming event, occurring during the Jewish High Holiday season and concluding on Yom Kippur eve, has been widely denounced by Jewish communal organizations and leaders, and on Tuesday the University of Pennsylvania responded with a statement — signed by President M. Elizabeth Magill, Provost John L. Jackson, Jr., and Dean of School of Arts & Sciences Steven J. Fluharty — saying:
The Palestine Writes Literature Festival, a multi-day event featuring Palestinian writers, filmmakers, and artists, will take place on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus later this month. This public event is not organized by the University. As is routine in universities, individual faculty, departments and centers, and student organizations are engaged as sponsors, speakers and volunteers at this conference intended to highlight the importance and cultural impact of Palestinian writers and artists.
While the Festival will feature more than 100 speakers, many have raised deep concerns about several speakers who have a documented and troubling history of engaging in antisemitism by speaking and acting in ways that denigrate Jewish people. 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.
Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) CEO Sacha Roytman Dratwa commented, “At a time of rising antisemitism both in the United States and across the globe, it’s unfortunate that the University of Pennsylvania is providing a venue for purveyors of the world’s oldest hatred to peddle their vile wares. Antisemitism is not just another ‘controversial’ view to be tolerated in academic or social discourse, it endangers Jewish students and faculty and and must never be permitted, in any context.”
— Combat Antisemitism Movement (@CombatASemitism) September 14, 2023