(JTA) – Earlier this month, a pro-Israel group of North Carolinians told the federal government that their state’s flagship public university should be investigated for allowing anti-Israel rhetoric on campus.
Now the government has taken them up on it.
The U.S. Department of Education announced today that it has opened a new Title VI investigation into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with two others into George Mason University and Newark Public Schools, related to complaints of mistreatment based on “shared ancestry.” The investigations round out a busy year for the department’s civil rights office, which has doubled down on antisemitism- and Islamophobia-related complaints at universities and K-12 schools since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.
Although the department does not publicly reveal the reasons for any of its open Title VI investigations, a staffer confirmed in a letter viewed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that its UNC investigation is related to a complaint filed earlier in the month by a lawyer affiliated with a pro-Israel nonprofit in the state.
David E. Weisberg filed the complaint Dec. 7, alleging that a member of the university faculty and a guest speaker on campus both made anti-Israel comments in the weeks after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. Reached for comment, Weisberg said that the information in the complaint came from Peter Reitzes, a board member of Voice4Israel of North Carolina, a registered 501(c)3 that posted the complaint in full online.
“UNC-Chapel Hill has fostered a hostile campus environment towards Jewish and pro-Israel students for years,” Reitzes told JTA in an emailed statement. “I hope OCR’s investigation leads to UNC providing Jewish and pro-Israel students and faculty with a safe and productive campus environment that is institutionally neutral on Israel and the Palestinians.”
Weisberg’s complaint details two incidents of alleged anti-Israel or pro-Hamas rhetoric at UNC to which he believes the administration should have responded more strongly. In the first, a Communications professor, E. Chebrolu, allegedly stated during two different classes that “Israel and the United States do not give a shit about international law or war crimes” and that Israel is “a clearly fascist state committing a genocide under the guise of it supposedly being the only democracy in the Middle East.”
In the second incident, a guest speaker at an event endorsed by two UNC departments and hosted on UNC’s campus was recorded stating that “October 7, for many of us from the region, was a beautiful day.” The speaker, Rania Masri, co-director of a North Carolina environmental group, said she would “not be in the least bit apologetic of the violence of the oppressed or the occupied,” adding, “Let us demand the eradication of Zionism.”
Hamas gunmen killed some 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, on Oct. 7, and kidnapped more than 200.
In a Dec. 22 letter to Weisberg, Dan Greenspahn, a staffer at the Department of Education’s civil rights office, confirmed that its investigation was related to his complaint. Greenspahn wrote that the department will investigate “whether the University responded to alleged harassment of students based on national origin (shared Jewish ancestry) in a manner consistent with the requirements of Title VI,” while noting that opening an investigation does not mean the department believes the complaint has merit.
Questions sent to representatives at the Department of Education and UNC were returned with automatic messages indicating their offices are closed until the new year.
In his complaint, Weisberg claims that for UNC to allow such incidents is in violation of a shared agreement the university struck with the Department of Education in response to a 2019 Title VI complaint. In that agreement, administrators agreed to respond to and investigate incidents of antisemitic harassment on campus and hold antisemitism training for staff. The case stemmed from a complaint filed by the Zionist Organization of America over a conference related to the Gaza Strip the university held jointly with Duke University. The conference featured a satirical performance by a rapper that critics said was antisemitic.
Weisberg’s complaint also alleges that UNC has a responsibility to follow the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s controversial definition of antisemitism, which includes some forms of criticism of Israel. While the definition has been widely adopted, including by new Department of Education guidelines refined under the Trump administration, it has also been criticized by some scholars who say the definition could punish speakers for legitimate criticism of Israel. A bill introduced in North Carolina’s general assembly in April, pushing the state to adopt the IHRA definition, has not yet been signed.
Congress has taken a particular interest in UNC in its efforts to address campus antisemitism. A resolution in the U.S. Senate condemning antisemitic rhetoric on campus specifically references a statement posted on social media by the school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine reading, “it is our moral obligation to be in solidarity with the dispossessed, no matter the pathway to liberation they choose to take. This includes violence.” (The statement was later deleted.)
JTA requests for comment to George Mason University and Newark Public Schools regarding their own Title VI investigations were not returned; an automated message from GMU’s representative also stated they were closed for the holidays.
GMU has made some headlines since Oct. 7 for antisemitism- and Islamophobia-related activities on its Fairfax, Virginia campus. The public university issued an Oct. 31 statement condemning video of someone ripping down an Israeli hostage poster on campus, as well as efforts to dox the perpetrator; the school also banned a 28-year-old man from campus for four years for allegedly passing out antisemitic flyers and deleted several student emails that were sent on a reply-all listserv criticizing the university’s perceived failure to address Muslim students’ concerns.
With these latest schools, the Department of Education looks set to round out the year with 38 Title VI shared ancestry investigations opened into colleges and K-12 schools since Oct. 7. Of those, JTA has confirmed that at least 11, and likely more, are related to antisemitism, with some of those cases referencing incidents that predate Oct. 7. Several other schools have said they were not told why they were being investigated.
The post Feds to probe University of North Carolina’s response to harsh anti-Israel speech appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The detailed plans for a Canadian law that regulates hate speech online are seen as a ‘good start’ by Jewish groups
Jewish groups and others concerned about the rise of hate speech online welcomed the introduction of a new government bill on Feb. 26. And while the parliamentary process for it to become law is only beginning, it’s a good start according to advocacy groups who have called for the government to regulate certain types of […]
‘You Jew!’: UC Berkeley Mob Attacks Jews During Event With IDF Soldier, University Pledges Investigation
A mob of hundreds pro-Palestinian students and non-students shut down an event Monday evening at University of California-Berkeley featuring an Israeli soldier, forcing Jewish students to flee to a secret safe room as the protestors overwhelmed campus police
Footage of the incident shared by the outlet shows a serried mass of anti-Zionist agitators banging on the doors of the Zellerbach Library while an event featuring Israeli reservist Ran Bar-Yoshafat —who visited the university to discuss his military service during Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7 — took place inside. The mob then stormed the building — breaking glass windows in the process, according reports in the Daily Wire — and forced school officials to evacuate Jewish students to a secret safe-room.
“What happened last night was deeply concerning and a violation of some of our most important rules and values as a university, including freedom of speech, respect for diversity, and the ties that bind us together as a community,” UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor for communications and public affairs Dan Mogulof told The Algemeiner on Tuesday during a phone interview. “What we saw last night has no recent precedent. More than an estimated 200 protesters showed up at the venue and gained unauthorized entry into the building. There has never been anything like what occurred last night.”
Mogulof pledged that the university will launch an investigation into the incident.
“We do not and will not ignore violations of our rules and values,” he said. “When we have events like this, we always have two priorities. One, to do everything in our power so the event goes forward and the other is to do everything in our power to protect the safety and well being of our students and members of the public, and given the size of the crowd, and the violence of the crowd, we were unable to do both, even with 20 police officers. The event had to be cancelled, so that we could evacuate the building and support the safety of the students.”
During the infiltration of Zellerbach, one of the mob — which was assembled by Bears for Palestine, which had earlier proclaimed its intention to cancel the event — spit on a Jewish student and called him a “Jew,” pejoratively.
“You know what I was screamed at? ‘Jew, you Jew, you Jew,’ literally right to my face,” the student who was attacked said to a friend. “Some woman — then she spit at me.”
Shaya Keyvanfar, a student, told The Algemeiner that her sister was spit and that the incident was unlike any she had ever witnessed.
“Once the doors were closed, the protesters somehow found a side door and pushed it open, and a few of them managed to get in, and once they did, they tried to open the door for the rest of them,” Keyvanfar said. “It was really scary. They were pounding on the windows outside — they broke one — they spit at my sister and others. They called someone a dirty Jew. It was eerie.”
Keyvanfar added that it may be difficult to identify the culprits because anti-Zionists activists wear masks to conceal their identities.
Security concerns plagued the event all week, according to the Daily Wire, and after arriving on campus Bar-Yoshafat was required to conceal his identity. Prior to that, the location of the event was changed to various locations to prevent violence.
“I just felt really bad for these kids because they were scared,” Bar-Yoshafat told Daily Wire. “Girls were crying from being attacked, and I think the kid that was spat on was just so shocked. I don’t think the students anticipated so many people being violent, they thought they would just chant outside.”
During Tuesday’s interview with The Algemeiner Mogulof stressed that the university “understands now that we are in new territory” and called the incident a “black mark” on its reputation. He also explained that UC Berkeley launched an antisemitism awareness program in 2019, which included panels and talks with esteemed scholars of Jewish history such as Deborah Lipstadt, because it takes the issue of campus antisemitism seriously.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
Prominent Pro-Hamas Activist in Australia Arrested on Kidnapping and Torture Charges
Australian police on Monday announced the arrest of a prominent pro-Hamas advocate accused of orchestrating the kidnapping and torture of a man whose perceived offense was to work for a Jewish employer.
Melbourne resident Laura Allam was charged with kidnapping, armed robbery, illegal detention, assault and battery against the 31-year-old man, who has not been named by authorities. Working with an accomplice who has also been arrested and charged with kidnapping, false imprisonment, armed robbery, threats to kill, intention to cause injury, recklessly causing injury, unlawful assault and assault with weapon, the 28-year-old Allam is understood to have targeted the man solely because his employer is Jewish.
According to a statement from police in the State of Victoria, the brutal assault occurred on the night of Feb. 16 in the Melbourne suburb of St. Albans. “It’s alleged a man was pulled from a car near the intersection of Gladstone and Cleveland streets about 9.30pm,” the statement noted. “He was then allegedly placed in another car and assaulted and robbed before being released in Braybrook.” The victim required extensive treatment in hospital for injuries sustained in the “horrific kidnapping and torture.”
Allam is a prominent member of Australia’s large Lebanese community and the CEO of the Al Jannah Foundation, which bills itself as an Islamic humanitarian organization. While Allam’s social media profiles specify that she is still running the organization, an entry on the Australian register of companies notes that the foundation ceased operations in July 2023, less than three years after it was formally incorporated. The foundation’s website additionally lists a number of projects that it is raising money for — including addressing food shortages in Lebanon and child health challenges — that apparently remain unfunded.
In the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom in southern Israel, Allam dedicated most of her time to attacking Israel on social media as well as spreading false information on her TikTok account, which had 20,000 followers before being closed down, as well as X/Twitter and Instagram. One post on Feb. 5 promoted the fabricated claim that a British Royal Navy warship dispatched to the Gulf to combat attacks on shipping by Houthi terrorists in Yemen had “broken down off the coasts of England.”
Her barbs against Israel on social media included a post that declared “good riddance” over an image of four Israeli soldiers killed while serving in Gaza. On Oct. 8 — the day after the Hamas pogrom which resulted in the murder of more than 1,200 people and the kidnapping of over 200 amid atrocities that included mass rape and bodily mutilation — Allam told her followers that she had “woken up to some great news from our beloved Palestine.” Other posts spoke of “a jihad of martyrdom or victory” and lauded attempts to “avenge the martyrs in Jenin and Gaza.”
Allam discussed her arrest in her final post on her Instagram account before it was closed down. Reproduced on the pro-Israel blog Israellycool, Allam’s post boasted of her “selflessness” and her commitment to “remaining quiet — for now,” going on to declare that “[T]here are words that burn the wildest flames in the deepest pits of my heart and will only ever be extinguished when Allah takes the ‘haqq’ (truth) from every single oppressor to walk this earth.”
“This seems to be an admission as to her involvement, yet amazingly no apology for her actions,” Israellycool observed in an accompanying commentary. “In fact, she speaks as if the incident somehow passively ‘occurred’ – as opposed to her actively doing something terrible.”
In its coverage of Allam’s arrest on Monday, Melbourne’s Herald Sun news outlet reported on “an extraordinary suppression order relating to her case prevents the Herald Sun from running Ms Allam’s image, referencing some ethnic groups or providing certain detail about her advocacy activities.” However, several posts on X/Twitter shared her photograph, her name and her other affiliations.
Allam made the news earlier this month after she spoke at a pro-Hamas protest at the Australian parliament in Canberra alongside three senators from the left-wing Green Party. Responding to the event, Sky News Australia host Andrew Bolt highlighted Allam’s Islamist loyalties, saying, “[T]hat’s one of the people now sharing a stage with the Greens. The Greens may not have known of Allam’s past, but this is who they find next to them in their gutter.”
The post Prominent Pro-Hamas Activist in Australia Arrested on Kidnapping and Torture Charges first appeared on Algemeiner.com.