Linda Sarsour speaks at UNC for...minority health conference?

The University of North Carolina will host liberal activist Linda Sarsour as a keynote speaker for a Minority Health Conference but failed to explain why Sarsour was qualified to speak on the issue.

Student organizers of the conference claimed via Twitter that Sarsour was “everything,” from community organizer to activist, but did not specify what unique insight she could provide to the Feb. 22 conference. Apart from attending John Jay High School in Brooklyn, New York, Sarsour’s only formal education consisted of taking courses Kingsborough Community College and Brooklyn College,  the New York Times reported.

By contrast, the conference’s other speaker, Dr. Tyrone B. Hayes, serves as an integrative biology professor at UC-Berkeley, a position he obtained after graduating from the school, as well as Harvard University. Hayes researches pesticides and the potential detrimental impacts they may have on public health, according to Harvard.

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The UNC Minority Health Conference declared that it selected Sarsour, who serves on the board of the Women’s March, as speaker “due to her background and ability to speak about grass-roots advocacy” and another page defended the choice, saying Sarsour is “most known for her intersectional coalition work and building bridges across issues, racial, ethnic and faith communities.” 

They did not list any qualifications related to public health, citing only her success as an activist and advocate.

On Jan. 29, UNC Hillel, a pro-Israel organization that supports Jewish student life on UNC’s campus, released a statement saying that it was “disappointed” in the conference for inviting Sarsour to speak, as The Tower, a publication run by The Israel Project, also reported.

“Her track record of supporting efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israel run counter to the goals and spirit of the conference. Ms. Sarsour has frequently suggested that supporters of Israel are unwelcome in spaces that promote democracy and equality,” Hillel stated.

Sarsour has previously said “nothing is creepier than Zionism” and “if you are...actually trying to humanize the oppressor [Israel], then that’s a problem.”

“Ms. Sarsour’s presence has already made some Jewish students reconsider their participation in the conference,” UNC Hillel claimed.

Many, including Teresa Shook, the co-founder of the Women’s March, have called for her resignation as co-chair of the Women’s March. Shook claimed that Sarsour and other Women’s March leaders have allowed anti-Semitism to creep into the movement’s platform.

One Chapel Hill resident said Sarsour is “a master manipulator” who seeks to “foment hate against Israel,” according to The Tower.

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“As a Jewish student, I would be hesitant to attend any conference in which the keynote speaker has used platforms unrelated to Israel to denounce the Jewish State,” UNC Junior Ariel Freedman told The Tower.

Campus Reform also spoke about the incident with Magdalene Horzempa, chairwoman for the UNC branch of College Republicans. 

”Ms. Sarsour has no background nor education having to do with public health, but more having to do with public hate,” Horzempa said. “She’s openly and proudly anti-Semitic and for the UNC Minor Heath Conference to host her is absolutely disgraceful.”

The UNC Gillings School of Public Health has since released a statement saying “the views and remarks of speakers do not necessarily reflect those of the Gillings School...or the University.” The statement went on to condemn all forms of bias and discrimination and noted that, as a public speaker, Sarsour could not be uninvited due to her First Amendment rights. 

When asked to comment, the conference co-chairs declined, stating that any questions could be answered by the FAQ page of their website

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JohnPHasson