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UNC SJP responds to ongoing debate over cancellation of Rania Khalek event


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.

UNC Students for Justice in Palestine

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39 Responses

  1. StanleyHeller on March 22, 2017, 9:44 am

    You did the right thing in cancelling. She and Norton and Blumenthal spend all their time searching for Islamists and slandering all opposition to Assad as “al-Qaeda” linked. On Russia Today she said the White Helmets were a “PR firm”. Revolutionary democratic forces in Syria have all kinds of enemies from Assad to ISIS to Al-Qaeda to Salafi groups, not to speak of the Russian, Iran, the Saudis and the U.S. Instead of trying to help them she gives a slightly more sophisticated version of the Assadist line.

    • just on March 22, 2017, 7:19 pm

      I think it’s a shame that Rania Khalek was disinvited. I wish that UNC SJP could have risen above the usual hasbara whataboutery and the anti- Assad and anti- Syrian population campaign.

      btw, you forgot to mention Israel, StanleyHeller.

      “‘Israel in de facto coalition with Al-Qaeda & ISIS’ …

      Published on Mar 21, 2017
      Tensions are escalating between Israel and Syria, after an incident on Thursday when Syrian forces, claiming that their military positions were under attack, retaliated by shooting down an Israeli jet. Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes in Syria, reportedly to prevent weapons from falling into terrorist hands. Author and journalist Max Blumenthal joins RT America’s Simone Del Rosario to offer his insights.”

      • talknic on March 23, 2017, 7:26 am

        Interesting. I’ve reached a similar conclusion.

        Israel has failed again to have “respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;”

        The purposeful destruction of Syria per the Project for a New American Century of 1998 is obvious

        Also worthy of note: In 2006 the State of Lebanon’s armed forces didn’t engage with Israel

        UNSC Res 1701 SC/8808 11 August 2006 – At the top


        “1. Calls for a full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;

        “2. Upon full cessation of hostilities, calls upon the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL as authorized by paragraph 11 to deploy their forces together throughout the South and calls upon the Government of Israel, as that deployment begins, to withdraw all of its forces from southern Lebanon in parallel;

        “3. Emphasizes the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1559 (2004) and resolution 1680 (2006), and of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon;”

        MORE @

        The State of Lebanon was required to control the elements within it’s territories. It was also free to be the final arbiter as to who within its territories, could be armed.

    • Atlantaiconoclast on March 27, 2017, 1:33 pm

      I am a no apologies supporter of Assad. If you truly cared about human rights, then your focus would not be on Syria, but on Saudi Arabia and other hellholes. No one seemed to think Assad was a murderer, till he had to fight back against vicious Islamic terrorists bankrolled or directly or indirectly supported by Western intelligence, the Israel Lobby, and Gulf state kingdoms. The White Helmets are well known to be a cover for Al Qaeda. Get a clue. If Assad loses, your “revolutionary democratic” (whatever that means) forces will have their heads chopped off by ISIS and Al Qaeda.

  2. HarryLaw on March 22, 2017, 10:52 am

    Idrees Ahmad one of the opposition to Rania Khalek, is a supporter of regime change in Syria, of course the replacement for Assad would be the Wahhabi head choppers who want all religeous minorities driven out of Syria, including the majority Sunni community who disagree with their barbaric rule. Here is an excellent Counterpunch article from Rick Sterling about this phoney revolutionary “Ahmad outdoes himself in the charge for war by claiming “Russian actions in Syria are an act of aggression against the country’s beleaguered people.” In contrast with his fantasy, virtually the entire Syrian population are hugely relieved and happy that Russia has started providing air support, modern laser guided weapons and satellite information to help reverse the tide.

    Those seeking direct US/NATO intervention in Syria describe the conflict as “weak Obama vs strong Putin”. They are unhappy and critical because the proxy army has failed to overthrow the Syrian government. They want direct invasion even if it risks world war. It’s a very dangerous and deluded mindset. Above all it profoundly ignores or distorts the wishes of the Syrian people who have consistently and increasingly made clear they do not support the violent opposition. Two years ago a poll commissioned by NATO revealed that 70% of the population supports the government”.

  3. HarryLaw on March 22, 2017, 12:05 pm

    The people who decided to cancel the speech by Rania Khalek should be ashamed of themselves, by listening to voices mainly in support of regime change in Syria and who support some of the most sectarian elements in the Middle East, they have stifled a valuable contribution to the debate.
    Another Phoney Oz Katerji of the Turkish State Broadcaster TRT World is one of “A tightly-knit network of Syrian regime change activists has composed a de facto blacklist of those who have refused to toe their ruthlessly enforced, hyper-sectarian ideological line,” journalist Max Blumenthal wrote. “Their goal is to deny the message by destroying the messenger.”

    According to Blumenthal, who has also had his professional career targeted by Katerji, he has “worked enthusiastically with Israeli aid organizations and demonized leading Palestine solidarity activists as anti-Semites, including the founder of Electronic Intifada. He freely admits that a Canary Mission-style campaign is being organized to silence ideological foes like Rania”.”

    • W.Jones on March 22, 2017, 11:19 pm

      Do you have an explanation for the major faction of Solidarity and Left activists who support FSA and want to see the rebels overthrow Assad?
      Where are they coming from? Do they believe FSA is for freedom and democracy, and that Assad is no better than ISIS?

      • HarryLaw on March 23, 2017, 4:27 pm

        W.Jones, Good question, When “the West” and the whole of the MSM want regime change and call Assad a monster, it is difficult to argue against this group think. It is a fact that when newspapers like the Guardian have pro regime change opinion pieces , there has been tremendous pushback from the comments section. As for the left Chomsky said it best in 1915
        During a talk at Harvard in September 2015, and as he has repeated during other interviews, Chomsky believes the idea of conducting a humanitarian intervention in Syria is a red herring. Just about “every use of force is called humanitarian intervention” and almost always intervention is not humanitarian at all and is, in fact, “in the interest of those carrying out the force,” Chomsky said. From his point of view, in intervening in Syria, the United States has done little other than support the forces that are creating and sustaining the country’s “jihadist” movement.

      • W.Jones on March 27, 2017, 6:12 pm

        Thank you for your reply.
        You answered my question by saying:

        When “the West” and the whole of the MSM want regime change and call Assad a monster, it is difficult to argue against this group think. It is a fact that when newspapers like the Guardian have pro regime change opinion pieces , there has been tremendous pushback from the comments section.

        However, it seems that in the case of Yugoslavia, when the West and MSM was saying Serbia was genocidal, and in the case of Palestine, when the West and MSM were calling the PLO terrorist, the Left and Solidarity forces understood that the West and MSM was wrong in its campaign and that Serbia shouldn’t get attacked and that Palestinians were abused under occupation. L.Proyect for example had at least partial sympathy for Yugoslavia.

        So this raises the question of why a significant faction of the radical/strong Left and Solidarity movement would be taking such opposite sides on this issue.

        It looked like Max Blumenthal was super-anti-Assad and supported the rebels, but then he seemed to later have a very different attitude about the war like in his reporting on the White Helmets. So it looks like there are some major conflicts within the Left on this issue.

        So I am trying to understand better what is going on inside the Left. I can understand that Assad was authoritarian and so Leftists would support a change there, but then in that case I need to ask realistically how Leftist or even simply democratic the rebels are before supporting them.

      • echinococcus on March 27, 2017, 10:31 pm


        “Left” is totally meaningless nowadays. It may include, say, the Zionist genocidaires, Franco-British colonials and US Imperialists. Self-appointed Leftists seem to be doing a much better job of salvaging monopoly capitalism than the self-dubbed Right.

    • ritzl on March 28, 2017, 6:16 pm

      Yeah. More than ashamed.

      UNC-CH SJP “doesn’t want Khalek banned” unless they do it themselves. What a cartoon. Syria is more important to Palestinian “advocates” than Palestine is. Hoodathunkit.

      This really bookends the article on better Palestinian advocacy, doesn’t it.

      Palestinians have so very few advocates in the US. What they do have is a bunch of people who have Palestine in their org names but who defer to every OTHER cause/priority/sensitivity they are exposed to. It’s really hard to watch anymore, let alone commit actual effort to a veritable Nile delta of articulated concerns at the top. It’s all just so self-diffusing.

      Palestinian advocates have to advocate for Palestine first or no one is going to care. If your own cause is your third priority who’s going to listen.

      Two specific suggestions:

      A) Reinvite Khalek; and,

      B) Rehabilitate Allison Weir.

      Put Palestine first. Let the others fall in behind the Palestinian cause. Lead ffs!

      Sorry Harry. I digressed.

  4. W.Jones on March 22, 2017, 12:59 pm

    Rania was born in Lebanon I think. Were her parents Palestinian refugees?

    • JeffB on March 22, 2017, 7:23 pm

      @W Jones

      Rania identifies as Druze not Palestinian.

      • gamal on March 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

        “Rania identifies as Druze not Palestinian.” ?

        Samih al Qasim?

      • W.Jones on March 22, 2017, 11:16 pm


      • talknic on March 23, 2017, 12:10 am

        You’re spouting ZioNonsense JeffB

        Druze are a faith. Palestinians are of many faiths

      • zaid on March 23, 2017, 10:05 am

        She is a pro-Palestinian Lebanese Arab, and she identifies like that.

        Druze are a religion and not an ethnicity.

  5. lproyect on March 23, 2017, 9:29 am

    All this garbage linking opposition to Assad as “hasbara”. Aren’t you aware that Hamas supported the rebels in East Aleppo?

    Hamas, a Sunni fundamentalist movement, has always differed from Iran on the Syrian civil war. Hamas sympathizes with the Syrian rebels in their revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad — who is Iran’s main ally in the region. Yet Iran has supported Hamas financially in the Palestinian struggle against Israel.

    The balance was already precarious and the tipping point came in mid-December with the deaths and displacement of thousands of Aleppo inhabitants due to Syrian and Russian shelling and operations by Iran and Hezbollah. On Dec. 14, Hamas issued a scathing statement condemning the “genocide” of Syrian citizens, but without naming the Syrian government. Hamas called for immediate action to halt the massacres in Aleppo and rescue those civilians still alive.

    Iran’s response to Hamas’ statement was equally strong.

    Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of the Iranian parliament’s Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, told the conservative Ghanoun newspaper Dec. 22 that Hamas has long been estranged from Iran over the Syrian situation. Falahatpisheh accused Hamas leaders of unspecified aggression against Iran and threatened to halt any dealings with Hamas and to engage in new relations with other Palestinian movements.

    Read more:

    • echinococcus on March 23, 2017, 9:56 am


      Why is it that every ooh-so-Marxist position and reasoning by you guys, after having made a big fuss about values and principles and what not, always ends up supporting precisely the US + Zionist aggression? I have been trying to find one single exception in my limited lifetime, of Trotskyists effectively opposing the imperials and colonials. Couldn’t recall a single instance. Help me find one.

      • W.Jones on March 23, 2017, 3:44 pm

        Most recent was 2003 Iraq invasion. They had large antiwar marches. Most effective was probably Vietnam era in ending the war.

      • echinococcus on March 23, 2017, 10:29 pm

        2003 invasion and Vietnam? Seriously? Why then did they appear on the other side? All in the eyes of the beholder?

      • W.Jones on March 27, 2017, 6:04 pm

        Hard to say that Trotskyists collectively “were on the other side” on the Syria issue. It looks like those identifying as Trotskyists were rather divided on this issue.

        L.Proyect has said why he chose “the other side” this time, although I don’t think he would agree with that characterization.

      • echinococcus on March 27, 2017, 10:10 pm


        Not interested in what characterization they agree with, or their internal dissensions. I’d just be happy with at least one of them clearly and consistently opposing the US imperialist line and international aggression. Instead, we get what we used to get all those years back: a lot of intricate and inconsistent argument and, when it comes to the yes/no answer, a final result that is in line with Uncle Sam’s. No need to continue haggling here anyway, it’s not so relevant to the Palestinian resistance.

      • W.Jones on March 29, 2017, 11:12 pm

        Don’t worry, there is “at least one of them clearly and consistently opposing the US imperialist line and international aggression. ”


    • gamal on March 23, 2017, 6:38 pm

      “All this garbage linking opposition to Assad as “hasbara”.”

      oh ok no longer opening comments with extensive descriptions of your ideological nausea, but still wtf are you talking about?

      you are lecturing a straw Arab and “Leftist”

      “Aren’t you aware that Hamas supported the rebels in East Aleppo?”

      fuck the firmament has split

      Louis baby ever heard of Qatar, ever heard of what has been done to Palestine, ever heard they still have to eat, remember how they are viciously punished for the slightest show of independence, as they managed under Arafat? Jordan and Qatar have a lot to answer for, your snotty know it all shit makes me want to puke.

      well done Louis I believe you plumbed greater depths of depravity than any other being in the whole history of everything, like a free dive to the bottom Dude, that, Louis, where you are standing is the very bottom of the barrel.

      “My city collapsed
      the wall clock remained….

      My home collapsed
      The wall clock remained
      The wall collapsed
      On went
      The clock”

      you a hollow thing Louis just still making noise.

      • lproyect on March 23, 2017, 7:39 pm

        “Jordan and Qatar have a lot to answer for, your snotty know it all shit makes me want to puke.”


  6. rensanceman on March 23, 2017, 12:58 pm

    The SJP chapter at Chapel Hill is not demonstrating much courage in disinviting Ms. Khalid, one of their strongest voices. Especially when we often see and hear of Palestinians showing brave resistance to the pure evil of Israel’s military occupation of their land and lives. Best for leadership of this chapter to do a post-analysis of what was gained, and lost, by this capitulation. Who did you appease.? Will they reciprocate your kind hearted gesture?

    SJP- Chapel Hill: you are dealing with ruthless ideologues and purveyors ofa movement whose goal is to rid Palestine of its native inhabitants and to recreate the biblical Eretz Israel. It means the destruction of nation states which are a threat to Israel’s hegemony with the assistance of the U.S. Time not to be naive but an existentialist whose civilization, culture and land are at risk.

    • MHughes976 on March 23, 2017, 2:32 pm

      The distress of members, supporters, donors to an organisation can’t be justification for a disinvitation, surely. If it were to be the scope for disruption by factions and subgroups and for feed-on-itself bad feeling would be endless.

  7. Edward Q on March 23, 2017, 10:55 pm

    If this isn’t a blacklist, I don’t know what is. The same logic has been used by Zionists in the past to try to prevent speakers from making presentations about Palestine. A better response by UNC SJP would be to sponsor a discussion about Syria between the different viewpoints. The reporting in the U.S. on Syria is as biased as it is on Palestine. Censorship in the United States is a real problem and UNC SJP is making the problem worse with this cancelation.

    It is very disappointing that this group does not seem to understand the most elementary principles of scholarship and academic freedom. In academia, the existence of a variety of viewpoints is supposed to be the normal state of affairs. This diversity is dealt with by allowing the various schools of thought to defend their positions in public forums.

  8. kma on March 25, 2017, 2:46 pm

    I don’t understand the explanation from UNC SJP as to WHY they canceled Khalek. Because some other SJP’s told them to? They got scared of something? and that something boils down to merely unrelated opinions about which country the imperialist pig USA gets to knock the head off and destroy?

    Now what is UNC SJP going to do? Not only did they allow some “friends” to wreck the potential for some UNC students to catch the fire that Khalek ignites in you when you hear her speak on Palestine (and so much else), but they have also said they are happy about it and will do stupid things again.

    btw, everyone should listen to Khalek’s podcast, “Unauthorized Disclosure”, it’s SUPERB.

  9. kma on March 25, 2017, 8:14 pm

    hmmm… from UNC SJP’s previous statement on this topic:

    “SJP supports liberation movements for all oppressed people and recognizes their right to self-determination”

    and as they point out in this article, they have “limited opportunities to foreground issues related directly to the Palestinian struggle…”

    Leaving aside the fact that all oppressed peoples getting rights to self-determination through ‘liberation movements’ sounds like a wet dream for the weapons industry (and includes ISIS which really isn’t entirely our biz), these statements suggest that ‘SJP’ is really just ‘SJ’, and also you have to read the manual to know exactly what ‘J’ means. Can they invite speakers who sympathize with the Bundy Brothers and condemn the cops for ambushing them and murdering one? I know they probably think there is one Right Way on every issue, but some liberals oppose abortion for gender determination. Some don’t. Whatever SJP is, at least BDS limits its objectives to really basic human rights – not necessarily ‘self-determination’ of a separate group and more likely inclusive of the oppressor as well as the oppressed…

    The late-notice canceling of Khalek could have been addressed simply by letting the other sponsors go ahead with the event and dropping SJP from the sponsorship. Not doing that speaks volumes about the real motives.

  10. lproyect on March 25, 2017, 9:52 pm

    “Because some other SJP’s told them to?”

    No, it was because some high-profile Arab leftists posted comments on their FB page about why it was wrong to provide a platform for her. An article on Shadowproof that is sympathetic to her can’t help but mention the sort of people who objected—not exactly the Israel lobby:

    Amr Kawji said to the SJP chapter, “Save yourselves the embarrassment and cancel your event with Rania Khalek—an Islamophobic pro-Assad propagandist. So ashamed.”

    “As a Syrian American (and former SJP member),” he wrote on their Facebook event page, “I am asking you kindly to either cancel this event with Rania Khalek or replace her with a coherent speaker. Rania’s comments on Syria and Islam have been extremely hurtful to many people, and she should not be allowed to continue to spew her propaganda. Save yourselves the embarrassment and please cancel the event or find someone else.”

    Adam Sabra, a professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara, also wrote on the Facebook event page, “I share other people’s concerns about inviting Rania Khalek to campus. In particular, her support for the Syrian regime undermines her credibility to speak on behalf of the Palestinian cause. I ask you to reconsider.”

    (Sabra has a lot more credibility with Palestinian solidarity activists than you Assadist trolls.)

    • Edward Q on March 26, 2017, 3:22 pm

      My understanding is that Syrians are divided about supporting the government. Sabra does not speak for all Syrians. Supporters of the Syrian government/Assad may or may not be “trolls”, depending on their reasons behind their support. Personally, I agree with Khalek that ISIS is a U.S. creation and do not consider her a “troll”. I consider her both honorable and with views worth hearing.

    • kma on March 26, 2017, 11:15 pm


      “No, it was because some high-profile Arab leftists posted comments on their facebook…”

      Yeah, and some high -profile Arab “leftists” that own a lot of oil and weapons contracts are why all we get here in the US to vote for are Republocrats that agree with you and your stupid crap.

      Rania Khalek is the most brilliant journalist that is goes to the places that she reports on, whether that is the Mexican wall or the Israeli Apartheid wall, or inside Syria.

      You should read her journalism. Or not.

      As I said before, EVERYONE should listen to Unauthorized Disclosure Podcast. It is the BEST podcast!!!!!

    • kma on March 26, 2017, 11:51 pm

      oh, btw, lproyect,
      I’ve been to conferences at UC Santa Barbara, and Adam Sabra is kinda zero. I know he’s only an ancient history prof, but Rania Khalek is superior in journalistic skills and reports directly from the source. No comparison.

  11. Atlantaiconoclast on March 27, 2017, 1:44 pm

    I have asked this question before, but no one who wants Assad ousted has ever answered it. Here I go again:

    If Obama’s or any other president’s regime had been under siege from violent head chopping Islamic terrorists, bankrolled by Gulf state money and Turkey, and supported by Western intelligence, Israel and The Lobby, do you really think Obama or any other president would NOT have inflicted massive collateral damage to “root out terrorists” using humans as shields? Don’t be naive!

  12. Sibiriak on April 1, 2017, 10:37 am

    I highly recommend this recent interview with Rania Khalek:

    “The much-maligned views of Rania Khalek on Syria”

    March 31, 2017

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