Three members of the group behind the highbrow “TED Talks” lecture series resigned, claiming that the group took an anti-Palestinian stance for naming Bill Ackman as a 2024 main stage speaker.
Astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz, filmmaker Saeed Taji Farouky and entrepreneur Ayah Bdeir co-signed a resignation letter on Wednesday, saying they are “no longer willing to be associated with an organization that platform and honors vocal supporters of Israel’s genocide of Palestinians.”
Walkowicz, Taji Farouky and Bdeir pointed to Ackman specifically, saying he “has defended Israel’s genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people,” citing X posts from Ackman, including one where he asked why people were criticizing Israel for dropping leaflets in Gaza suggesting Palestinians evacuate.
The notices, which displayed warnings in Arabic of Israel’s forthcoming attacks, were likened to those dropped amid the invasion in the north during the first phase of the war.
“What is wrong with this warning? Israel is trying to encourage civilians to evacuate from a war zone. What am I missing?” Ackman asked at the time.
The trio of senior fellows added that the billionaire “has cynically weaponized antisemitism in his program to purge American universities of pro-Palestinian freedom of speech,” linking to an X post from Ackman that said: “Anti-Israel has become antisemitism.”
Ackman said he stands “unapologetically with Israel and against antisemitism and terrorism, while strongly supporting the Palestinian people.”
“Attempts to cancel speech and eliminate the free and respectful exchange of ideas among people with differing views are driving much of the divisiveness that plagues our nation,” he told The Post on Wednesday.
“Truth, wisdom, and ultimately peace are the result of the free exchange of ideas and debate, precisely what TED is all about. It is sad that this is not more widely understood.”
Walkowicz, Taji Farouky and Bdeir also bashed TED for not including any Palestinian speakers in the its 2024 lineup, which also includes drag icon RuPaul Charles, war journalist Anjan Sundaram and Zeynep Ton — a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the prestigious schools Ackman has been outspoken against since reporters of mounting on-campus antisemitism emerged.
“Even if there were [Palestinians in the lineup], this false sense of balance could not hide the fact that TED has chosen not only to align itself with enablers and supporters of genocide, but to amplify their racist propaganda,” the ex-fellows added.
“This is a shameful position to take, and one that we refuse to accept.”
The letter — which was addressed to Chris Anderson, the head of TED, and TED Fellows’ director, Lily James Olds — concludes with: “Regards, and with unwavering support for a free Palestine.”
Other TED Fellows, as well as former members of the prestigious program and a TED speaker also added their names to the resignation letter “in solidarity” with Walkowicz, Taji Farouky and Bdeir.
A Google form was also created for anyone who read and agrees with the notice “to endorse the content of the letter,” Taji Farouky said in an X post shared Wednesday.
“Showing solidarity is open to all who agree with the critiques in this letter, regardless of whether you have a formal relationship to TED,” the form said, which notes that it’s “accepting signatures on a rolling basis.”
The form thanks endorsers with a watermelon emoji. Images of the fruit have come to signal solidarity with Palestine as it bears the colors of the nations flag — red, black, white and green.
TED’s Fellows Program, per its website, gives individuals a TED Talk, plus access to “expert coaches on how to hone, express and communicate your work and ideas,” per the media organization’s website.
Fellows also receive “career coaching and mentorship,” as well as “public relations guidance and media training.”
Representatives for TED did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.
Taji Farouky, a UK-based filmmaker, declined to comment beyond the resignation letter
The Post has also sought comment from Walkowicz, a Chicago-based astronomer at Adler Planetarium and Bdeir, the NY-based founder of electronics startup LittleBits.