The University of Pennsylvania is slated to host a Palestinian literature festival this week that will feature speakers who have praised terrorism against Israel and maintain links to designated terror groups, such as Hamas.
The Ivy League school located in downtown Philadelphia will play host this year to the Palestine Writes Literature Festival, a three-day event that purports to “explore the richness and diversity of Palestinian culture.”
But the event’s featured speakers have ties to Palestinian terror organizations, routinely endorse violence against Israel, and malign the Jewish state’s supporters as “scum” and “filth.” Some of the speakers include anti-Israel Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, former Palestinian political prisoner Wisam Rafeedie who writes favorably about terror attacks on Israel, and Salman Abu Sitta, who sits on the advisory board of an Israeli-designated terror group.
The event, scheduled to take place Friday through Sunday on Penn’s campus—during Yom Kippur, one of the Jewish religion’s most sacred holidays—has drawn outrage from Jewish and pro-Israel advocacy groups who say the Ivy League school is fostering an unsafe environment for its Jewish students and allowing its institutions to be used as a vehicle to drive hatred of Israel.
“The Palestine Writes festival features multiple speakers with disturbing histories of antisemitism,” said Liora Rez, executive director of StopAntisemitism.org. “We urge Penn to remove those speakers or move the event off campus; neither public money nor alumni donations should be used to provide a platform for Jew-hatred.”
Rez’s organization is calling on its supporters to boycott the event and deluge Penn president Liz Magill with phone calls condemning it. Penn’s Hillel, a Jewish space on campus, is reportedly hosting a counter-event for Jewish students and Israel supporters on Friday.
A spokesman for UPenn acknowledged in comments to the Washington Free Beacon that “several speakers” attending the event “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,” the spokesman said.
However, the event will go on because the university’s leaders “fiercely support the free exchange of ideas as central to our educational mission,” the spokesman said. “This includes the expression of views that are controversial and even those that are incompatible with our institutional values.”
Several of Israel’s most prolific detractors are slated to attend the festival, including Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, a vocal anti-Semite who claims Jews are nefariously manipulating foreign policy. Waters was officially labeled an anti-Semite by the U.S. State Department earlier this year after he dressed up like a Nazi during a concert in Germany.
Waters, the State Department said in January, “has a long track record of using antisemitic tropes to denigrate Jewish people.”
Marc Lamont Hill will also conduct a panel during the event. Hill, who was fired from a gig at CNN for advocating Israel’s destruction, has praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as “my brother,” and refused to distance himself from the prolific anti-Semite.
Also slated to attend is Refatt Alareer, a professor at the Islamic University of Gaza. Alareer often shares anti-Semitic materials on social media and lashes at out Zionists, who he has dubbed “the ugliest, unfunniest, and most untalented people on the globe,” according to Camera, a pro-Israel watchdog group.
“To be a Zionist is to be a heartless twat and a piece of shit,” Alareer claimed in social media postings exposed by Camera. “Zionists are scum.”
Alareer’s rhetoric is so extreme that the New York Times effectively retracted a glowing profile of the professor published in 2021, posting a lengthy editor’s note that apologized for glossing over his anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Another speaker, Wisam Rafeedie, is a former Palestinian political prisoner who has written favorably about terror attacks on Israel and publishes his writings on a website affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization.
Sessions at the festival will also feature Salman Abu Sitta, who sits on the advisory board for the Palestinian Return Center, a U.K.-based group that is designated as a terror outfit by Israel for allegedly maintaining ties to Hamas.
In addition to national groups like StopAntisemitism.org, 15 students representing various Jewish groups at Penn recently published an open letter condemning the event’s speakers.
“We are concerned that the students will be exposed to anti-Jewish propaganda,” they wrote, “harm Jewish students who take Arabic, and open the Jewish community at Penn to discrimination.”