DURHAM -- A spokesman for the planners of a pro-Palestinian student conference at Duke University said his group will not sign a statement condemning terrorism, as campus Jewish groups have requested.
Condemning Palestinian organizations' methods would violate the guidelines of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement, said Rann Bar-On, a member of the affiliated Duke group Hiwar.
"We don't see it as very useful for us as a solidarity movement to condemn violence," he said. "That will not achieve any particular goal."
Despite protestations from conference organizers that the PSM supports only nonviolence, conference opponents have said the group tacitly supports suicide bombings and other violent acts by leaving its position on them deliberately vague.
Earlier this month, Jewish groups placed an advertisement in the Duke student newspaper, The Chronicle, that said conference organizers must condemn the killing of civilians and endorse a "two-state" solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conference in order for students from the opposing camps to have a useful dialogue.
The request that the PSM condemn the killing of civilians by Palestinian groups conflicts with one of the group's guiding principles as stated on its Web site.
"As a solidarity movement, it is not our place to dictate the strategies or tactics adopted by the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation," the statement reads.
Bar-On, a graduate student, also said the group is unwilling to come out in favor of a two-state solution to the conflict. Such a solution would have to come as a result of negotiations between the parties, and PSM is not going to dictate terms from the outside, he said.
"We're not Palestinian, so we don't have the right to endorse a solution," said Bar-On, who said he is Israeli.
The conference, scheduled for Oct. 15-17, will be the PSM's fourth annual national gathering. Duke President Richard Brodhead agreed last month to allow the conference to be held on campus despite pressure from pro-Israeli advocates both in North Carolina and around the world to reject the group's application. An online petition urging Brodhead to disallow the conference now contains more than 50,000 names.
Brodhead said the issue came down to a simple belief in the importance of free speech and the free exchange of ideas on university campuses.