June 18, 2024
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Rutgers 9/11 Event Causes Controversy, Condemnation

If the group planning a recent event, brimming with disdain for U.S. foreign and domestic policies and open contempt for Israel, was trying to ‘fly under the radar’ and not attract much unwanted attention, they probably shouldn’t have tied it to one of America’s most sacred days and held it under the auspices of The State University of New Jersey.

The event, “Whose Narrative? 20 Years Since 9/11/2001,” which was livestreamed on September 11, was organized by The People’s
Forum and cosponsored by the Rutgers’ Center for Security, Race, and Rights, based on the Rutgers-Newark campus; and the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies department at San Francisco State University.

Held under the banner of “Teaching Palestine: Pedagogical Praxis and the Indivisibility of Justice,” the event was also cosponsored by a slew of anti-Israel groups such as the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, the Palestinian Youth Movement and the Jewish Voice for Peace chapters in the Bay Area and New York City.

The event billed itself as a one that would start “a semester-long intergenerational conversation that challenges the exceptionalization of 9/11/01, legitimization of the ‘war on terror’ and other imperialistic wars and interventions, justification of the ‘Security’ state, and promotion of hyper masculinity and a colonial gender and sexualized order of modernization and ‘civilization’.”

If the framing of the event and the narrative weren’t enough to set off any observer who took exception to the way it characterized the events of 9/11 and its aftermath, the roster of speakers made sure to raise further alarm.

As Jason Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, noted in a letter to Rutgers President Dr. Jonathan Holloway on September 15, “Several of the panelists featured have direct links to organizations designated by the United States as foreign terrorist organizations.” Shames decried Rutgers’ sponsorship of the forum and urged Holloway to “vociferously condemn this program and take affirmative action to rectify this oversight.”

Amplifying the concern about the roster of speakers, one media outlet quoted Rutgers professor Deepa Kumar as stating at the event that 9/11 “strengthened and consolidated US imperialism” and “strengthened the domestic national security state.” She asserted that following the fall of the USSR, the United States sought a new adversary and found it in Islam.

AMED (Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas) Studies Director Rabab Abdulhadi spoke first at the event and stated that it would “depart from the US-centric approach by remembering and thinking of all those who have fallen around the world as a direct result of US interventionist and imperialist wars.” She called out Israel for particular disdain in this opening address, expressing concern for the six Arab prison escapees who were recently recaptured and recalling the Arab losses suffered years earlier in the Israeli defensive action in the city of Jenin.

Shames told The Jewish Link: “There’s no middle ground here—[this event] is offensive and very inappropriate. And it’s deeply disrespectful to the memory of 9/11. Rutgers has a moral, ethical and communal obligation to respond to this.” He added that he shared the matter with the Federation’s board of directors and they all agreed and were very disturbed by this activity.

Holloway wrote back to Shames the next day and noted that “individual faculty positions or sponsored events do not necessarily represent the views of others at the university or those of the broader university. Sponsorship or cosponsorship by an area of the institution does not constitute an institutional endorsement.”

He added: “As I explained to Rep. Josh Gottheimer when he contacted me about this matter, such cosponsorship is standard practice at universities and has been throughout my career. … This is simply standard practice in academia. … Quite often—especially these days—these inquiries are pushing into areas that cause offense or anxiety. My job, in those instances, is to defend the right of the faculty to pursue their line of inquiry, even when I might find it personally troubling.”

Shames disputed Holloway’s characterization of the event and said that “there should be greater accountability at Rutgers,” suggesting that it would be helpful if the governor and New Jersey State legislative leaders “exert influence on this situation.” He recommended that community members write to Holloway on this matter and copy the governor. They should also share their concerns on social media.

The Rutgers 9/11 event also drew the condemnation of two campus Jewish leaders with considerable experience in tracking anti-Israel activity at The State University of New Jersey.

“I am very concerned that Rutgers Newark’s Center for Security, Race, and Rights utilized university funds and resources to provide a platform for speakers with connections to terrorist organizations,” said Rabbi Esther Reed, interim executive director of Rutgers Hillel, based on the New Brunswick campus.

“To do so on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, in which so many people in our community were impacted by terrorist violence, is further insulting. We are actively working with Rutgers administrators to help them better understand the impact these actions have on the campus’ Jewish community. Rutgers University has just joined into a partnership with Rutgers Hillel and Hillel International to be part of the Campus Climate Initiative, where administrators are taught how to identify antisemitism, call it out, and respond to it appropriately. We hope this will help foster an environment in which Rutgers remains a great place to be Jewish.”

“I am very troubled by the moral ambiguity that exists today and is being aided by certain elected officials and members of academia,” said Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, director of Rutgers Chabad House. “There is a concerted effort to paint American society in ways that most regular Americans wouldn’t recognize. These academics are trying to bring a radical left wing view into the mainstream. It is up to normal decent people to resist this, to speak up, and to support efforts to defeat this campaign that defames America.”

A recording of the “Whose Narrative? 20 Years Since September 11, 2001” event may be viewed online, at:

https://radiofree.asia/2021/09/11/whose-narrative-20-years-since-september-11-2001/

Readers can contact Rutgers President Dr. Jonathan Holloway by sending an email to [email protected] or mailing a letter to him at Rutgers University, 7 College Ave, Winants Hall, New Brunswick, NJ 08901.

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