Kashua event removed from I-Week schedule
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 14:04
Tufts Friends of Israel (FOI) was criticized last week both within and outside the Medford/Somerville community when an on-campus lecture to be given today by Sayed Kashua, a prominent Israeli-born Palestinian author and journalist, was listed as part of its I-Week schedule.
I-Week, which is hosted by FOI and Tufts Hillel, is a series of events and lectures celebrating Israel's 64th birthday and Yom Ha'atzmaut, or Israeli Independence Day, according to FOI co-President Erica Feldman, a sophomore.
Coinciding with I-Week is today's Sayed Kashua lecture, an event organized by the university in which Kashua will read from his most recent book, "Second Person Singular," Feldman said.
FOI initially publicized the Kashua talk on its I-Week Facebook event page.
"[The event organizers] asked FOI, among several others, to help promote the event," Feldman told the Daily in an email. "As the event coincidently fell during our planned I-Week, we included it in our publicity."
The inclusion of Kashua's lecture on the I-Week Facebook event page drew criticism because Kashua is a well-known critic of Israeli racism.
The lecture was taken off the I-Week schedule early last week.
"There was a misunderstanding as to what I-Week was, and as soon as we realized the sensitivity over including the event as part of I-Week, we removed it from our I-Week publicity," Feldman said. "We are really looking forward to the lecture."
The lecture is sponsored by the Tufts Diversity Fund, the Center for the Humanities at Tufts, the Department of German, Russian and Asian Languages and Literatures, the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, Tufts Hillel, the International Relations Program, the Judaic studies program, the Hebrew program and the Middle Eastern studies program, according to lecturer and Hebrew language coordinator Hedda Harari-Spencer.
"I invited Sayed Kashua on behalf of the Hebrew program last fall," Harari-Spencer told the Daily in an email. "A number of on-campus organizations were included in the outreach and advertising of the talk."
Prior to the lecture's removal from the Facebook page, FOI garnered international attention from online news sources and social media outlets, including an article on "The Electronic Intifada," an independent online news publication focusing on topics related to Palestine.
Budour Hasan, a Palestinian anarchist, wrote in his article on "The Electronic Intifada" that FOI had exploited Kashua's name and reputation to promote the event.
"Kashua was invited by Tufts University rather than pro-Israel student groups, and the event, which has been scheduled for some time, is a reading of his book and has nothing to do with Israeli ‘independence' week in any way, shape or form," Hasan wrote in the article.
"[Kashua] was asked about [the incident] for a live interview on the radio before he even knew about it," Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) member Ann Yacoubian said. "It was very embarrassing for this poor man because he was completely blindsided and deceived."
Cory Faragon, a member of SJP, said it was inappropriate for FOI to promote I-Week with the lecture.
"[FOI] included the talk without Kashua's permission in a weeklong celebration of Israeli independence that fundamentally denies his rights and personhood," Faragon, a senior, said. "For Palestinians, Israeli independence was a catastrophe. What it meant was the violent ethnic cleansing of 800,000 people native to the land who had been forced out by militias."
Faragon, who corresponded with Kashua by email about the issue, emphasized the personal and political trouble it caused the speaker.