Reject Hate Speech and Rescind Sponsorship of Professor Mordechai Kedar
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On January 28, 2015, the Melton Center for Jewish Studies at Ohio State University will host an event featuring Professor Mordechai Kedar, a Middle East scholar from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. As an academic, Professor Kedar has used his prominent position to make racist and sexist statements about Palestinians and Arabs in general during Israel’s recent Operation Protective Edge. We find it unacceptable that our university should sponsor his program, given this recent hate speech.
During an interview on the Hakol Diburim ("It’s All Talk") radio program on July 1, Professor Kedar openly discussed the effectiveness of rape as a tactic for deterring what he considered to be potential “terrorists.” He stated, “The only thing that deters [suspected terrorists] is if they know that their sister of their mother will be raped in the event that they are caught. What can you do? That’s the culture in which we live.”
While Professor Kedar said that he was not suggesting “what we should or shouldn’t do,” his irresponsible and sexist statements endanger both Palestinian and Israeli women by discussing sexual violence as a potential military tactic. As a coalition of feminists stated in their letter to Bar-Ilan University President Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, Professor Kedar’s words “grant legitimacy to Israel Defense Forces soldiers and Israeli civilians to commit rape, and endanger both Israeli and Palestinian women. Kedar’s words echo expressions that treat rape as a remedial practice, although it is a war crime.”
Furthermore, his statement that he was simply describing the “culture” of “the Middle East” reveals outrageous anti-Arab racism. Suggesting that the diverse cultures of Palestinians and other Arabs are characterized by “violence” and “death,” responsive only to systematic rape, violently dehumanizes all Arabs.
Although Professor Goldish, the director of the Melton Center, has reportedly stated that Center was aware of the controversy regarding Professer Kedar’s remarks and that they were “a little bit concerned,” the Center was “not concerned enough that we would cancel him.”
The decision of Ohio State University to sponsor a talk by Professor Kedar sends a clear signal to us students, faculty, alumni, and community members that our university will tolerate anti-Arab racism and sexism. If our campus is to be a safe space for Arab students and women collectively, our university must take seriously and reject all forms of anti-Arab racism and sexism.
We call on the Melton Center and Ohio State University to take a stand for justice and rescind its sponsorship of Professor Kedar.
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