After reading many of your comments as well as having an internal dialogue within UNC SJP, the executive team would like to issue another statement in light of everything that has occurred post-cancellation:
First, we want to thank those who took the time to respectfully post their thoughts and feelings about our difficult decision to cancel Rania’s talk. Whether you supported our decision or not, we appreciate those posts that sought to open discussion — about free speech, censorship, and bullying, among other things. This experience has taught us a great deal. In terms of effective communication, we were extremely disappointed with the level of animus and name-calling that has the effect of undermining one’s credibility; needless to say it does very little (if anything) to engage people in constructive dialogue. We want to emphasize that we were not at all persuaded by those who appear to have a vendetta against Rania, who want to undermine her journalistic work and who have made it their job to harass and malign her–we strongly condemn their tactics and their smears.
What we were faced with, however, was a situation in which many people we respect and trust politically and personally had varying views on the topic of Rania speaking at UNC-CH. For example, several members of SJP chapters throughout the US, some Arab and non-Arab scholars of the Middle East, and many Palestine solidarity activists encouraged us to cancel. As can be seen from the reactions and comments over the past few weeks, there are fierce disagreements about Rania’s political perspectives in relation to the ongoing crisis in Syria among those who consider themselves pro-Palestine activists. As an organization with very limited funds and therefore limited opportunities to foreground issues related directly to the Palestinian struggle, concerned about the feedback we received from our supporters on campus and in the local community who weighed in on the issue, we decided to cancel.
As for the allegations of “blacklisting,” UNC SJP would not stop Rania from speaking if she were invited by another organization/department on campus, and we believe that she should be allowed to speak freely. We did not seek to revoke that right, but rather to avoid involving UNC SJP in an issue in which it has no authority.
Editor’s Note: For background see this previous post here.