New venue found for Palestinian rights speaker after divinity school rescinds invite
Rev. Graylan Hagler is coming to Rochester and he is speaking at two venues!
On Monday, September 21, I started getting emails that Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School had rescinded an invitation to have Rev. Hagler give a talk pertaining to the Black Lives Matter movement and the oppression of the Palestinians. The talk, "Connecting the dots: Ferguson to Palestine" was to be a kick-off event for Witness Palestine Rochester's film series at the Little Theatre. I started working with the group this past winter and helped produce a trailer for the film series.
In explaining the divinity school's position, Colgate Rochester President Marvin McMickle issued a statement to students at the divinity school on Tuesday, saying that many of them were aware of the lecture by Hagler sponsored by Witnessing for Palestine.
But, McMickle went on to say,"after certain concerning facts came to light and after consultation with other members" of the divinity school's administration, he notified Witnessing for Palestine that "we are no longer prepared to allow this lecture to take place" on campus.
Death threats made to Hagler also became an issue.
"When we heard about the threats, we stated the need for additional security and we would not provide it," said Thomas McDade Clay, vice president for institutional advancement at Colgate Rochester. And he said the decision to cancel was made on Friday, after it appeared that Witnessing for Palestine would not provide funds for security.
McMickle's statement notes that the divinity school "has been supportive of Palestinian people and publicly critical of the ways by which the State of Israel suppresses the legitimate rights of Palestine,"
But in the case of other speakers, the divinity school either knew the invited speakers or was familiar with their messages,
"Sadly, in this case neither we nor Christians Witnessing for Palestine did an adequate job of vetting and reviewing the particular speaker's message and recent history," said McMickle's statement.
He also said the fact that Hagler's lecture "coincides with Yom Kippur further convinced us of the appropriateness of our decision."
Yom Kippur, which is the Jewish Day of Atonement, begins at sundown on Tuesday and ends at nightfall Wednesday.
Hagler told Mondoweiss that pro-Israel groups pressured the divinity school to cancel his speaking engagement.
This past week, Rev. Hagler also says he received numerous death threats via phone and email. In some of the phone calls, Hagler said those threatening him identified themselves as members of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a hard-line right-wing Evangelical Christian Zionist organization. Hagler said they warned him “We are going to kill you in the name of Christ if you come to Rochester” and “I hope you come here so I can spit in your face.”
“I want to thank all of those who have worked to secure a venue, have notified allies, and sent words of encouragement and blessings,” he said.Rev. Hagler spoke highly of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in particular. They have “been tremendous allies as JVP nationally and locally in Rochester put an eye to the matter and effectively put feet on the ground to make a difference,” the reverend explained.“There are so many emails, and calls of support that I have received and I am thankful for each one,” Hagler added. “It is clear that with all of the people working together bigotry and hatred will continue to be diminished, truth will continue to be increased and the evils of racism here at home and in places like Israel will be challenged until the evils of racism and hatred are no more.”Hagler maintained “we have not been intimidated, but are determined to bring truth to light.”
The Witness Palestine Film Series begins shortly after Rev. Hagler's speaking engagement. See the films coming up at the end of September and the beginning of October as well as the cultural event scheduled for Friday, October 9, 2015, below.
photo credit: Daniel Ruthenberg-Marshall