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Three resign amid San Diego Human Relations Commission antisemitism backlash

Commissioner Khaliq Raufi's statement that the Torah commands Jews to kill Palestinians drew condemnation from local Jewish groups.

The skyline of San Diego. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The skyline of San Diego. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Three members of the San Diego County Human Relations Commission have stepped down amid controversy stemming from a commissioner’s antisemitic remarks.

Commissioner Khaliq Raufi can be heard saying on video (52:18 mark) during a July 18 meeting that the Torah commands Jews “to ‘go kill Palestinians. Wipe them all out.’ It’s a teaching that on a daily basis they teach their followers in their synagogues.”

Raufi stepped down last week, along with District Attorney Summer Stephan and county Sheriff Kelly Martinez, the only two elected officials on the commission.

The San Diego Union-Tribune described Raufi as “an Afghan Community Islamic Center member and refugee who served alongside U.S. troops before immigrating to San Diego in 1992.” In his resignation letter, sent to county supervisor Joel Anderson on July 25, Raufi stated that his “intention was never to hurt anyone through my words.” He accused the commission of not being a “safe space for people to freely express their beliefs and engage in community building.”

In her own letter, to Andrew Strong, the commission’s executive director, Stephan said that she was indefinitely suspending attendance after becoming alerted to Raufi’s remarks, which she wrote were said “in a manner that was disparaging and dehumanizing to an entire segment of our community.”

In Martinez’s letter to Ellen Nash, commission chairwoman, she stated that “the current divisiveness and direction of the Commission has forced me to suspend my participation,” saying that she couldn’t be a part of a commission that “does not uphold the high ideals [upon] which it was enacted.”

Local Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League of San Diego and Imperial County, the American Jewish Committee and Jewish Federation of San Diego, issued a statement condemning Raufi’s remarks.

His comments are “representative of the historical and false accusation of modern blood libel/antisemitic tropes, which have led to horrific violence, destruction, persecution, and massacres of Jewish people and communities,” according to the statement.

The resignations have prompted calls for change at the commission.

“We want this HRC, we want it to succeed—but it’s failing,” Sara Brown, the regional director of the American Jewish Committee of San Diego, told the Union-Tribune. “If this commission is to succeed, they have to take a really hard, long look at themselves. … The culture of the commission needs to change.”

Several reported antisemitic incidents have taken place in the Southern California county in recent weeks, including the distribution of antisemitic flyers in San Diego’s Del Cerro neighborhood and an alleged antisemitic attack on a Jewish man blocks from the Chabad House at San Diego State University.

San Diego 7 quoted a local Jewish resources hub as saying that the “distressing incident involved a physical and verbal assault on a member of our community. The attacker ripped his tzitzit, a traditional Jewish garment, and uttered anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs.”

The nearby Chabad center the 65-year-old victim attends was the site of previous attacks, including the vandalism of a large menorah in March.

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