(JTA) – Two days after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, the president of San Diego State University did what many other college leaders were doing: She sent a campus-wide email supporting her students.
In the email, Adela de la Torre noted “the horrific reports of killings and kidnappings following the Hamas attacks on Israel during Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, a major Jewish holy day,” and said the university was “grieving for all those who are suffering in the wake of this outburst of violence.”
The president included tips on how students could seek support and counseling, and added a note of concern for all of the conflict’s victims: “We are deeply struck by the sheer scale of the loss of life – of innocent Israelis, Palestinians, and countless others. We also recognize that this follows a long history of loss of life of civilians in this region.”
Now that email, according to a university spokesperson, is at the center of a federal civil rights investigation into SDSU — tied to a complaint that the school “promoted hate and racism against Arabs and Muslims.”
It’s a reversal of the complaints behind many of the 42 other civil rights investigations that the Department of Education has opened against universities and K-12 schools nationwide since Oct. 7. Instead of Jewish groups alleging that the school failed to protect Jewish students, as has been the case in at least a dozen open investigations, the probe into SDSU will determine if the university, 48 hours after the Hamas attacks, should have done more for its Muslim students.
While it’s unclear who sent the complaint that triggered the investigation, the school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine had harshly criticized the email in question on its Instagram page in the days after it was sent.
The Department of Education, which opened the investigation Tuesday, declined a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request for comment. Its Office for Civil Rights has said that the opening of such investigations does not mean the department believes they have merit, only that the complaint falls under its purview. Investigations focus on whether administrators responded appropriately to allegations of student discrimination. The department does not usually announce the causes of its investigations publicly.
The SDSU case is not the first Islamophobia-related investigation the department has opened since Oct. 7; it previously announced that at least two other schools have been investigated for perceived discrimination against Muslim students, alongside many more confirmed to involve allegations of anti-Jewish discrimination. But SDSU officials gave the clearest picture yet of how a renewed interest in discrimination based on shared ancestry on campus — a prime tool of Jewish and pro-Israel legal groups since before Oct. 7 — can also be used to advocate for Muslim students.
In an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a university spokesperson revealed the reason for the investigation and stringently disputed the allegation that the president’s email was Islamophobic.
“The email, which you can read in full online, does not promote hate or racism,” the school’s statement reads. It listed steps the university has taken to help Muslim, Arab and Palestinian students since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, including through a task force designed to combat Islamophobia. The university also has one devoted to antisemitism.
“Student Affairs and Campus Diversity team members have and continue to reach out to individual students, advisors and student organizations who have been impacted by the violence in Israel and Gaza,” the school’s statement said.
On Oct. 13, days after the university president’s email went out, the campus SJP chapter said in a statement that the school “has failed to acknowledge the emotions and well-being of its Palestinian and Muslim students.”
That statement has been co-signed by more than a dozen groups, including SJP chapters at other universities. The group added that it is “DEMANDING” that de la Torre “reassess this hateful and divisive rhetoric being spewed all over campus.”
Among the group’s issues with the email: “The lack of acknowledgment and condemnation of the settler-colonial state of Israel that has inflicted apartheid, genocide, and ethnic cleansing upon the Palestinian people.” The group also pushed SDSU to divest from “corporations that are complicit in Israeli human rights violations.”
Nationwide, several colleges including Rutgers, Brandeis, Columbia and the Florida state university system have suspended their campus SJP chapters.
The Department of Education’s civil rights office announced four other new investigations Wednesday: one at the University of Virginia, and three at different K-12 school districts in Georgia, Missouri and California. The investigations fall under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination at federally-funded institutions
A spokesperson for the Georgia district, City Schools of Decatur in suburban Atlanta, told JTA it “will cooperate fully” with the investigation but did not offer further details on its origins. The district recently came under fire after an equity commissioner sent an Oct. 25 unauthorized email to staff that called Israel’s actions in Gaza “genocide” and urged teachers to “support Gaza” and “facilitate conversations on this topic.” The email included links to articles by the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace and the progressive magazine Jewish Currents.
In the Decatur case, an internal investigation at the district recommended the employee be terminated, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that he was still employed as of last month and his LinkedIn profile still lists him as a district employee.
Eytan Davidson, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League and a parent of a child in the district, wrote in a letter to a local blog that the email was objectionable because “that employee shared unvetted, unauthorized, and misleading political resources under the guise of education that frightened and outraged Jewish families who were reeling from the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.”
Reached for comment, neither the ADL’s office nor the local Jewish federation said they knew about the Title VI investigation.
Little has been reported publicly about the likely roots of the discrimination cases at the other institutions. At the Lammersville Unified School District in California, a spokesperson told JTA that the district is “surprised to learn of an investigation as no complaints about shared ancestry concerns have been raised with the District’s administration. As a result, the District cannot comment on the origins or existence of any concerns.”
Representatives of other institutions did not return JTA requests for comment; some were still on holiday break. The Jefferson Council, a conservative alumni group promoting “intellectual diversity” at the University of Virginia, posted a detailed allegation of what it said was “a hostile environment for Jews” on campus days after the school’s own investigation was opened.
Newly released documents from the Deschênes Commission show Canada’s reluctance to prosecute Nazi war criminals
The release of formerly classified documents from the 1986 Deschênes Commission—which investigated how Nazi war criminals entered Canada after the Second World War—reveals greater details about why the government was reluctant to prosecute them once they were in the country, says David Matas, the lawyer who represented B’nai Brith Canada at the inquiry. Canada released […]
South African Immigrants to Israel Protest Against Former Country Government
Dozens of South African immigrants to Israel protested against their former country’s government on Friday, standing with their new home against political and legal attacks from South Africa’s ruling ANC party, highlighted by accusing Israel of “genocide,” last Thursday in the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
“The demonstration is not against South Africa or its people, but against its disgraceful government. I am proud to stand here as an Israeli, but I am ashamed of the government of my homeland, for stooping so low. It is a danger to Judaism,” said David Kaplan, an attendant of the event.
Former Knesset member Ruth Wasserman Lande, who was raised in Cape Town, South Africa before moving to Israel for military service, living in Israel since, added “Justice is with us, the ruling party of South Africa has sold its soul to Iran.”
The protest in Ra’anana in central Israel comes a few weeks after Israel was forced to stand trial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague against charges of “genocide” in its current defensive war against Hamas in Gaza. The charges were filed by South Africa’s government, a noted friend of Hamas leadership and outspoken critic of Israel and the Israeli government.
In South Africa’s case against Israel, the country alleges that the IDF is acting “genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”
The suit came as both countries are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, passed after the Holocaust and with the goal of creating proceedings to ensure no genocide like what happened to the Jews of Europe occurs in the future.
Israel said South Africa was acting as “the legal arm of Hamas,” and called the charges “baseless,” especially as the country has been noted to take unprecedented steps to protect civilians in the war. Furthermore, the war began after Israel was attacked by Hamas terrorists on October 7, when they invaded southern Israel, murdering more than 1,200 and taking hostage over 240.
The ICJ refused to grant South Africa’s wish of calling for an immediate ceasefire, but nevertheless ruled to investigate the genocide charges and called on Israel to “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of [genocide].”
Even this past week South Africa continued its attacks, calling for the defunding of Israel, with Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor saying “This necessarily imposes an obligation on all states to cease funding and facilitating Israel’s military actions.”
The post South African Immigrants to Israel Protest Against Former Country Government first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Robert Kraft Antisemitism Nonprofit to Air Super Bowl Ad Featuring Associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Foundation to Combat Antisemitism (FCAS), a group created by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, will air its first Super Bowl commercial when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Feb. 11.
An estimated 100 million television viewers will see the commercial, which features Dr. Clarence B. Jones, a former legal adviser of civil rights hero Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jones, according to FCAS, helped King draft the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on Aug. 28, 1963.
“I know I can speak for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when I say without a doubt that the Civil Rights movement (including the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Acts) would not have occurred without the unwavering and largely unsung efforts of the Jewish people,” Jones said in a press release issued by FCAS. “With hate on the rise, it is as important as ever that all of us stand together and speak out. Silence is not an option. I’m glad that I’ve lived long enough to partner with Robert Kraft and FCAS to continue to spread the message to the widest possible audience — the Super Bowl.”
This year’s Super Bowl commercial mark’s FCAS’ biggest push to promote awareness of antisemitism since its founding in 2019. Last year, the nonprofit launched a $25 million multimedia campaign, which asked supporters to use the “Blue Square” emoji available on iOS devices in their social media posts.
FCAS has undertaken numerous other initiatives to address rising antisemitism.
In March 2023, it announced a partnership with Brandeis University, which will include a student fellowship program for undergraduates, conferences featuring leading experts on antisemitism, and collaborations with K-12 administrators. Additionally, Brandeis University’s Hornstein Jewish Professional Jewish Leadership Program will expand to include “Kraft Scholars,” who will participate in new online degree and certificate programs that will train them to respond to crises caused by antisemitic incidents.
Kraft, who led the remarkable transformation of the New England Patriots from a second tier club to an annual Super Bowl contender and winner of six such titles in under twenty years, founded FCAS after being awarded $1 million through Genesis Prize, an honor given to successful members of the Jewish community. FCAS focuses most of its resources on social media, aiming, it says, “to stand up against racist and violent rhetoric aimed at the Jewish people through the most accessible and most powerful avenue of information in the world.”
In a statement, Kraft, expressed hope for this latest campaign and praised Dr. Clarence Jones as an emblem of his FCAS’ highest aspirations.
“The work Dr. Jones has done over the course of his entire life and career is the embodiment of FCAS’ mission to build bridges and stand up to Jewish hate and all forms of hate. In the time we have spent together and through his work, I have become a huge fan of Dr. Jones, and I am proud to spotlight all that he has done for our nation,” he said. “With this ad, we hope to continue to spread Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of unity and equality at a time in which the country needs it mist most, and our goal is to reach a wide audience of people and inspire all Americans to stand up together, arm in arm, and fight this horrific rising hate.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.