OpinionSchools & Higher Education

UPenn, fire your antisemitic professors!

You have a legal obligation to protect your Jewish students from hate speech and violence.

A Benjamin Franklin statue in front of College Hall on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Credit: Jay Yuan/Shutterstock.
A Benjamin Franklin statue in front of College Hall on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Credit: Jay Yuan/Shutterstock.
Sam Koffler
Sam Koffler is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a proud graduate of Ramaz ('22) and Yeshivat Orayta ('23).

This column was adapted from a petition that can be found on Change.org at: chng.it/J7mB5TjWk6.

To the administration of the University of Pennsylvania,

Free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, our culture and our education in the United States. While diversity of thought is one of the elements that makes university life colorful and enriching, the line must be drawn at speech that crosses into violence and incitement to violence. It is precisely for this reason that hate speech cannot be tolerated.

This boundary must be emphasized when dealing with educators, who are entrusted with the curious, malleable minds of vulnerable, impressionable students. Speech that promotes, advocates for or supports terrorism and the murder of Jewish civilians cannot and should never be excused.

As clearly stated in UPenn’s Code of Conduct section II.C, the university has a binding, legal obligation to act against hate speech. Accordingly, in recent years, UPenn has removed and sanctioned both professors and students who have condoned or engaged in such speech. Anything less than a full application of this clear precedent is discrimination.

It should be clear that advocating for a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, anti-Jewish racism, historical revisionism and blatant lies constitutes hate speech and thus runs contrary to the professed values of UPenn and its legal obligations.

Accordingly, this petition calls for UPenn to uphold its formal commitments, exercise its authority and remove the following three professors from campus for antisemitic hate speech.

Professor Huda Fakhreddine:

Fakhreddine recently asserted that “Israel is the epitome of antisemitism.” This exploitation of the term “antisemitism” undermines the legitimate threats that the Jewish people face and mocks the horrific history they have endured. Such language cannot be tolerated.

Perhaps most egregiously, on the morning of Oct. 7, when Hamas went on its barbaric rampage of the rape and slaughter of Israel civilians, Fakhreddine tweeted, “كنّا نائمين وكانت فلسطين تخترع الحياة من جديد”—roughly translating to “While we were asleep, Palestine invented a new way of life.”

Though this tweet has since been deleted—without retraction or apology—it remained up for at least 10 days, long enough to dispel any confusion or lack of knowledge on Fakhreddine’s part.

Praising the world’s most deadly terrorist attack on a per capita basis as “inventing a new way of life” is simply monstrous and unacceptable. UPenn faculty should not be empowered to promote Hamas, which has been listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department for over 26 years.

Professor Fatameh Shams:

Shams stated at a rally on Monday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “government is giving [Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hamas] every reason to exist.”

After the rally, which was riven with antisemitic rhetoric and at which Jewish students were intimidated and one assaulted, Shams tweeted, “These kinds of statements that ‘Hamas’ is responsible for the lives of the people of Gaza are pure nonsense.”

This was a lie. Per the U.S. government, Hamas is directly responsible for the lives of the people of Gaza and was democratically elected in 2007. Shams redoubled her lies in another tweet that claimed, “There is no Hamas in the West Bank.” This is also false. The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence has stated clearly that Hamas “maintains a presence in the West Bank.” Moreover, 52% of Palestinians in the West Bank have expressed a positive view of the terrorist group.

On Oct. 20, Shams engaged in outright incitement by promoting a blood libel, reposting the false claim that Israel had bombed the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza. Shams likely knew this was a lie, as it had already been publicly debunked by all Western governments and major media outlets. Even the openly antisemitic Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) had walked back her initial statements on the incident on Oct. 19, the day before Shams repeated the blood libel.

Shams is also a blatant antisemite. She has tweeted, “If you’re a Jewish college student who feels this way [i.e., supports Israel], please DM me. You’ve been brainwashed, as I was.” This blithely assumes that all Jews, by nature of their being Jewish, have an association with Israel. Moreover, Shams explicitly singled out Jewish students and only Jewish students for their potential support for Israel.

This antisemitism cannot be tolerated. It is also illegal. To treat Jewish students as different from their peers solely because of their religion is a direct violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Professor Ahmad Almallah:

On Wednesday, Almallah spoke at an on-campus rally and concluded his speech with an explicit call for violence and terrorism against Jews. He shouted, “Intifada, intifada, intifada.” This has long been a call to murder Jews and Jewish Israelis. To engage in such incitement to antisemitic terrorism the day before the genocidal terrorist organization Hezbollah called for a global day of rage against Jews is beyond inexcusable.

Almallah’s call for antisemitic violence and murder was clearly illegal and in violation of UPenn’s Code of Conduct section II.A. Academic Freedom and Responsibility.

Moreover, Almallah did not stop at such genocidal rhetoric. He has stated that “there is only one solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rhetoric that is monstrously reminiscent of the term “Final Solution,” the Nazi code word for the Holocaust.

Even worse, these speeches were punctuated by the antisemitic chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” an explicit call for the genocide of Israeli Jews. This slogan also clearly denies that Jews have a right to self-determination in their homeland, which the U.S. State Department defines as antisemitism.

UPenn President Mary Elizabeth Magill, you have created a campus environment inhospitable to Jews and intolerant of truth. You have abandoned your Jewish students and abdicated your responsibility to create a safe learning environment at UPenn. Under your tenure, we have seen despicable events hosted by the university and experienced the consequences of UPenn’s tolerance of antisemitism.

For example, a UPenn employee tore down posters of kidnapped Israelis and verbally harassed two Jewish students by shouting “f*** you.” This past weekend, AEPI, a Jewish fraternity on campus, was vandalized and spray painted with the words “The Jews R Nazis.” By your inaction, you are personally responsible for these expressions of racism.

Even worse, you have directly enabled campus speakers to incite students to verbally abuse and slander Jewish students on campus and in the classroom. Multiple UPenn students have been identified as accosting Jewish students without repercussion.

This is a long snake, but the above-mentioned professors are the head of it. UPenn should not provide these professors with a platform to preach hate speech targeted at students. UPenn has a legal obligation to protect its students. Accordingly, these antisemitic, racist and genocidal academics should be fired immediately.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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