Plans for an event featuring Walid Shoebat, who identifies as "a former Palestinian Liberation Organization terrorist," and two other ex-terrorists were called off recently after disputes erupted between campus organizers and the Walid Shoebat Foundation.
The three speakers were invited to the University earlier this fall by the Princeton Israel Public Affairs Committee (PIPAC), a pro-Israel advocacy group on campus.
But PIPAC and the Student Group Projects Board, a USG panel that approves student events and funding, decided to postpone the event because it was being promoted nationally by the Shoebat foundation and had "changed in scope," University spokesperson Cass Cliatt '96 said.
Cliatt emphasized that the event had been postponed, not canceled, and that PIPAC had been asked to resubmit its application.
The Shoebat foundation is accusing the University of canceling the event out of political considerations, saying they adhered to all procedures for campus events.
The foundation will instead hold a press conference Thursday at a nearby location, where the original panel — including Shoebat — will speak, executive director Keith Davies said.
PIPAC said in a statement Monday: "Despite the enthusiasm of PIPAC and the University community to bring the Walid Shoebat event to campus, the belligerent actions of the Walid Shoebat Foundation caused this event to be postponed."
PIPAC accused the foundation of making "unsparing use of intimidation tactics, rudeness and foul language," and said that the organization's leadership "routinely cursed at and insulted the members of PIPAC, including hurling vicious anti-Semitic remarks."
Davies denied the allegations. "Mr. Shoebat speaks at Orthodox Jewish organizations all over the country," he said. "Why would he be invited if he is anti-Semitic?"
Cliatt said the event was originally promoted as a smaller event, and the national promotion would have required more substantial funding for security reasons. That was deemed by the Projects Board to be "virtually impossible to pull together" in the time remaining, Cliatt said.
But Davies said PIPAC representatives were fully aware of plans regarding the scope of the event. "I specifically asked if outside people [could attend]," he said.
"We followed all the procedures any normal [speakers] on campus would," he added.
Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne said in an email Monday night that his office had never signed a contract with the Shoebat foundation approving the event.
Because of the foundation's promotion of the event, PIPAC said, it would have "required preparations [that] would include proper security, parking arrangements, crowd control in case of protest, rooms available for simulcast and permits from the town."
Davies said they offered to cover all expenses for the event, including speaker fees and additional security personnel. "We were willing to cooperate [with the University]," he said.
He accused the University of canceling the event because of political considerations, saying, "[The University] gets millions and millions of dollars from Arab groups for their Middle Eastern studies department."
But Dunne said, "No one from the University raised any concerns to me about the content of the speech itself ... If you speak with any of the students involved in the proposed event, I am confident they will tell you that they were not discouraged at any time from holding this event due to the content of the proposed topic."
Cliatt also emphasized that the decision had nothing to do with content.
"We encourage academic freedom," she said, adding that "as far as we're concerned, it's a postponement."
PIPAC's president, Deborah Arotsky '06, is a news editor at The Daily Princetonian.
The print edition of this article did not note that Deborah Arotsky '06, PIPAC president, is a news editor at The Daily Princetonian.
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