During a November 28 event at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) titled “No Peace Without Justice: A Round-Table Talk about Social Justice in Palestine,” Dr. Rania Masri, one of the speakers, made controversial statements, calling Zionism a “cancer” and expressing admiration for violent acts by Hamas.
Who is Dr. Rania Masri?
Dr. Rania Masri, a Co-Director of Organizing and Policy at the NC Environmental Justice Network, has a history of activism and teaching. During the event, Masri made a statement linking a date to what she described as men breaking out of a concentration camp. She praised the resilience of those involved in violent acts and openly called for the eradication of Zionism, referring to President Biden as a “racist Zionist.”
The event, organized by UNC Assistant Professor Danielle Purifoy and sponsored by UNC’s Department of Geography and Environment, the Center for Middle East & Islamic Studies, and Student Life & Leadership, featured seven panelists, two moderators, and UNC professors. Notably, no one challenged or expressed concern over Masri’s inflammatory remarks.
The event commenced with a short film titled “Gaza Concentration Camp,” chosen by panelist Dr. Frances Hasso from Duke’s Department of Sociology. The film, portraying Hamas actions, was followed by discussions centered around demonizing Israel. Questions prepared by organizer Danielle Purifoy framed discussions around the U.S. government’s response to Palestinian issues, connecting Palestine to colonial and imperial violence.
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UNC professor Sara Smith, standing in for Danielle Purifoy, acknowledged Purifoy’s credit for organizing the event. The absence of a question and answer session limited any challenges from the audience. This event, reminiscent of a 2019 UNC conference that gained attention for featuring an antisemitic rap performance, has raised concerns about the university’s commitment to protecting Jewish students.