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UNC student newspaper retracts column critical of students studying abroad in Israel

Daily Tar Heel author said he received threats

The Daily Tar Heel recently deleted from its website an opinion piece it published that was critical of studying abroad in Israel after its author said he received threatening messages.

Carson Elm-Picard, a writer and design editor for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s student newspaper, wrote a column published Aug. 17 about students who studied abroad in Israel over the summer.

“While the UNC students who visited Israel may have not intended to make a political statement, the decision to go is a statement in and of itself,” Elm-Picard wrote in the piece, which has been preserved on Archive.com.

“They have decided the allure of studying abroad or vacationing was more important than standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people,” he wrote.

“Many people might disagree with the conclusion I came to, but it’s an important discussion to have before you make decisions on the destination you will spend considerable amounts of time. And if that choice — intentionally or not — comes at the expense of an oppressed people, then it absolutely deserves to be scrutinized.”

The column received some criticism as being anti-Israel and placing Jewish students in a negative light.

The student newspaper’s editors then removed the column at the request of Elm-Picard, who took to Twitter to respond to the criticisms.

“I have made the decision to pull my most recent DTH article because my mom has begun receiving hateful messages,” he tweeted. “…I stand with the statements I made and realize this may seem like some sort of retraction, but at the end of the day, I am going to prioritize the safety and well-being of my family.”


The Daily Tar Heel also put out a statement regarding the column’s removal.

“The Opinion Desk is meant to be a platform for individuals whose perspectives on the news can help give our audience insights into the world around them,” The Daily Tar Heel wrote. “The column in question was removed as a means to ensure the safety and well-being of its author.”

The editors of The Daily Tar Heel did not respond to requests from The College Fix seeking comment.

“To disagree with any one aspect of the work we do is not only understandable but inevitable,” Guillermo Molero, editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel, wrote. “But to personally threaten anyone that works here, regardless of their role, is an affront to this organization and a personal offense to me and the rest of us so grateful to call this organization home. It will not be tolerated.”

But the newspaper did receive some pushback online for its decision in comments posted on Facebook that took issue with publishing the column, as well as deleting it, and with some questioning the nature of the alleged threats:

• Imagine if this article was directed at those who vacation in oppressive Islamic or developing nations. . .it would never have been published.

• This Category 5 freak-out about supposed personal attacks rings very, very hollow. There are no threats that I can see on the FB pages or Twitter accounts of anyone involved in this article, nor on those of the writer’s family. The author penned a rancid piece calling for targeting his Jewish peers, but pulled it, which was the right thing to do.

• It’s unclear what constitutes “threatening messages” in this case, but the crux of the matter is that the piece was not just an opinion, it was antisemitic.

MORE: Department of Education launches probe into USC’s alleged antisemitism

IMAGE: Facebook screenshot

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About the Author
Esther Wickham -- The Kings College