After outcry, Duke University student government recognizes campus Zionist group

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JTA — The Duke University student government has granted recognition to a group of Zionist students, reversing an earlier decision that drew the ire of some national Jewish organizations and a legal threat to the university’s administration.

In 2021, Duke’s student body president vetoed a request for recognition by the Duke chapter of Students Supporting Israel, fearing that an Instagram comment from the group, which implored a student to “please educate you,” had been “potentially hostile or harmful.

The move has not gone down well with outside advocacy groups like the Brandeis Center for Human Rights, the Israel on Campus Coalition and the Zionist Organization of America. All issued statements condemning the university and prompted Duke’s Offices of Institutional Equity and Conduct and Community Standards to investigate whether the SSI veto had been discriminatory. The pro-Israel watchdog group Canary Mission accused the student body president of “anti-Semitic hypocrisy.”

In December, the Brandeis Center attempted to legally pressure the Duke administration to reverse the student government decision.

But in the end, the students fixed it themselves. On February 23, according to available meeting minutes, the student government voted to approve a resubmitted proposal by SSI to become an officially recognized student organization on the school’s Student Organization Finance Committee.

The group’s vote of approval was unanimous, with some students abstaining.

Duke SSI’s submission for recognition describes the group’s mission as “a clear and confident pro-Israel voice on college campuses, and to support students in grassroots pro-Israel advocacy.”

In a statement, the Brandeis Center welcomed the decision, but said the SSI group’s initial recognition had been revoked “all because they support Israel.”

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