(JTA) – A series of Jewish professors across the country have faced lawsuits, termination and suspension after making pro-Israel remarks that administrators say crossed the line into threatening speech.
Faculty members at New York University, the University of Southern California and Johns Hopkins University are among those who have been recently caught up in such controversies, as the campus climate around Israel continues to ferment in the weeks following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and Israel’s war against the terror group in the Gaza Strip.
“This current situation has really been time for me to put my money where my mouth is as a free-speech attorney,” Samantha Harris, an attorney representing one of the professors, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Cases of universities disciplining pro-Israel rhetoric since Oct. 7 have been relatively rare, as some of the most prominent campus controversies have involved the reverse. Some schools, under pressure from pro-Israel donors, politicians and legal aid groups, have taken a series of actions against pro-Palestinian students, faculty and events.
Leaders of Cornell University condemned a professor who praised the Hamas attacks as “exhilarating”; he later took a leave of absence. The University of Arizona recently suspended two professors who praised Hamas as a “resistance group” and questioned whether it is antisemitic, according to a recording posted by a pro-Israel social media account.
And the heads of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, George Washington University, Columbia University and other schools have suspended pro-Palestinian student groups or disciplined students who participated in disruptive protests. The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office recently opened a series of investigations into universities over their handling of campus antisemitism cases, including some that took clear action against anti-Israel activities. The presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania are testifying before Congress next week as lawmakers seek to question whether they have responded forcefully enough to antisemitism.
But the cases of these three men — all at private colleges, and two of whom work in life sciences — show that strident pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian rhetoric has also occasionally been subject to consequences on campus. The offenses range from stray harsh words about Hamas to a professor tweeting multiple times that all Palestinians are “animals.”
An NYU director, fired over retweets, sues the hospital
The former director of NYU’s cancer research center is suing the hospital for firing him over a series of online posts he shared about Hamas and its supporters in the West.
Dr. Benjamin Neel was booted from that position earlier this month over his posting of political cartoons depicting Hamas calling for “death to all Jews,” and for caricatures showing Westerners, including climate activist Greta Thunberg, supporting the atrocities Hamas committed. He remains a tenured professor and the head of a laboratory at NYU, according to The New York Times. Neel’s attorney did not respond to questions sent via email.
NYU Langone Health fired Neel at the same time as it also fired another doctor for social media activity praising Hamas’ attack. Neel’s lawsuit, filed Nov. 16, claims that this made his own termination “a casualty” of the university’s “ill-considered plan to feign the appearance of even-handedness.”
In a statement to JTA, NYU maintained that it had proper standing to fire Neel from the cancer research center over what it said was a clear violation of the university’s code of conduct, social media policy and commitment “to providing a safe and inclusive environment, free of discrimination, for all of our employees and patients.”
“Dr. Ben Neel, as a leader at our institution, disregarded these standards in a series of public social media posts and later locked his Twitter/X account,” NYU spokesperson Steve Ritea said. “NYU Langone stands by our decision and looks forward to defending it in court.”
One of the arguments put forth by Neel’s attorneys is that his own pro-Israel speech pales in comparison to that of some of his more senior Jewish colleagues in private emails to him, who described other universities in insulting terms for failing to discipline anti-Israel speech. But NYU said Neel was acting “hypocritically” by including these emails in his lawsuit.
“Some of those emails were critical of specific decisions by university leaders for not taking a stronger stance on the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks and for not holding accountable those who engaged in discriminatory speech,” Ritea wrote. “Hypocritically, Dr. Neel is now lashing out for being held accountable for such conduct.”
At Johns Hopkins, a doctor is placed on leave over “disturbing” tweets
Another university hospital has also taken disciplinary measures against a Jewish program director and professor for his incendiary social media posts.
Johns Hopkins Medicine placed the director of its pediatric cardiac critical care program, Dr. Darren Klugman, on leave over a series of posts he wrote shortly after Oct. 7 that advocated violence against all Palestinians. Klugman is also a medical school professor.
Klugman’s posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, painted all Palestinians as “morally depraved” and “savage animals,” and called for them to be murdered or displaced. “Time to reclaim every inch of Israel for Jews,” he wrote on Oct. 8, according to screenshots published by the university’s newsletter and other outlets.
In one reply to a user who had suggested that Israel was calling for a “large-scale slaughter” and to “spread out massacres over a year to displace Palestinians,” Klugman wrote, “G-d willing.”
Klugman has since apologized for his posts, writing in a letter to colleagues, “These messages in no way reflect my beliefs, me as a person, a physician, a friend, or colleague.” His X account is no longer active.
Kim Hoppe, a spokesperson for Johns Hopkins Medicine, told JTA that Klugman will remain on leave while the university conducts “a thorough investigation” and called his posts “deeply disturbing.”
“Statements that explicitly threaten or extol violence against groups or individuals on the basis of national origin, race or religion violate our policies and do not represent our values,” Hoppe’s statement continued.
An online petition calling on Johns Hopkins to “remove” Klugman has garnered more than 8,000 signatures. In the Jewish conservative magazine Commentary last week, Washington Free Beacon writer Daniel Halper implored Johns Hopkins to “forgive Dr. Darren Klugman,” Klugman helped treat his daughter, who was born with congenital heart defects.
“His apology should be accepted,” Halper wrote. “As the father of a Klugman patient, I know he means it. Why? Because I witnessed with my own eyes how he delivered medical care.”
A USC professor is barred from campus over filmed anti-Hamas remarks
While Klugman was placed on leave over explicitly anti-Palestinian posts, a USC economics professor, John Strauss, was asked to stay off campus after students filmed him calling for the death of Hamas.
Strauss was also informed by USC’s provost that he is under investigation following several student complaints filed against him through the university’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Title IX office. Harris, his attorney, says it’s wrong for USC to be investigating him.
“I do not think the investigation is appropriate,” said Harris, a former attorney with the campus free-speech legal group Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. “University administrations perform absolutely no gatekeeping function when it comes to student complaints. They simply are categorically unwilling to say to a student, ‘No, I’m sorry, we have policies that protect the right to free speech.’”
Harris wouldn’t comment on Strauss’ legal strategy.
Strauss was filmed telling students, “Hamas are murderers. That’s all they are. Every one should be killed, and I hope they all are killed.” He made his remarks at a campus pro-Palestinian protest.
Some students and pro-Palestinian groups later claimed online that Strauss had been referring to all Palestinians, rather than just Hamas, and that he had stepped on their memorials to Gazans killed by the Israeli military. But Strauss told the Los Angeles Times that he wasn’t referring to all Palestinians and did not step on the memorial deliberately.
“I am Jewish and very pro-Israel, so I shouted, ‘Israel forever. Hamas are murderers,’” he said.
Harris told JTA that Strauss’ speech should be protected: “Saying ‘I hope people die’ is not a threat.”
Strauss will still be permitted to teach students virtually through the current semester, which ends this week. A USC spokesperson told JTA that Strauss “has in no way been disciplined for engaging in protective speech,” describing his removal from campus as “a precautionary measure” that’s “designed to minimize disruption in the classroom and to ensure a safe environment for both him and students.”
Harris disputed USC’s characterization of its actions toward Strauss. “It clearly is being considered a disciplinary measure,” she said. She also pointed to what she said was a “perceived double standard” in which universities are more willing to discipline inflammatory pro-Israel speech than pro-Palestinian comments, pointing to recent USC protests in which students chanted, “There is only one solution: intifada, revolution.”
“As far as I know, the people who chanted that are not under investigation,” she said.
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British Columbia’s Jewish community is outraged after MLA Selina Robinson is removed from cabinet over remarks about Israel
Leaders of the British Columbia Jewish community have reacted with dismay to the decision by David Eby, the province’s premier, to remove Selina Robinson from her position as minister of post-secondary education and future skills on Feb. 5 due to remarks she made the previous week during an online discussion. While speaking on a panel […]
Gaza Border Residents Demand A Return Home, Four Months Into War
Israelis from the Gaza Envelope are calling on the government to approve their return home, roughly four months since the war’s outbreak on October 7.
The head of the Scot Negev Regional Council, Tamir Idan, said outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, “We demand a clear statement from the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister that it is safe to return to the area. Until then we are not moving from here.”
The heads of the other regional councils in the Gaza area joined Idan outside the Prime Minister’s office, where they slept last night in protest.
The regional leaders say that members of the Gaza border towns should be allowed to return to the areas if they wish, rather than being forced to live in hotels. An internal plan is set to be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in the near future.
The heads claim it is safe to return home, and are demanding that the government sign off on such a statement so residents can do so. Their protest comes as the government extended the funds allocated for their stay at hotels until July.
Following the October 7 massacre by Hamas terrorists, when they stormed southern Israel, murdering over 1,200 and taking hostage more than 240, tens of thousands of Israelis from the area were uprooted from their homes and placed in hotels in the Jerusalem area, Eilat, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea region. Since then, they have been living there full time, with makeshift schools set up for children and activities to keep everyone occupied. The move has also led local businesses to be completely shuttered.
Some Israelis have already moved back to their towns, which is technically allowed but under their own risk — rockets still fly near daily from Gaza and the IDF is operating within the Gaza Strip, which is minutes away from certain border towns.
The plan presented by the regional heads, they say, would mean that the towns are technically safe to return to, and therefore the risk falls under the government and the military.
This is as tens of thousands of Israelis from northern towns also remain out of their homes, with no current timeline for return due to the constant threat of Hezbollah missiles and the potential the war extends to the north.
The post Gaza Border Residents Demand A Return Home, Four Months Into War first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Australian Politician Says ‘Jewish Lobby’ Uses ‘Tentacles’ to ‘Influence Power’
Video of a left-wing Australian politician discussing how “the Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby” are using their “tentacles” to “influence power” went viral on Tuesday, sparking backlash from the Australian Jewish community.
Jenny Leong, an Australia Greens member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, spoke on a panel for the Palestine Justice Movement in December to promote boycotting Israel.
“The Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby are infiltrating into every single aspect of what is ethnic community groups,” Leong said during the panel. “They rock up and they’re part of the campaign,” and “they offer solidarity.”
She continued: “They [the Jewish and Zionist lobby] rock up to every community meeting and event to offer that connection because their tentacles reach into the areas that try and influence power and I think that we need to call that out and expose that.”
Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes… pic.twitter.com/P9LokLFQwU
— NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (@NSWJBD) February 6, 2024
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, which is the representative of Jews who live in New South Wales, called the remarks “despicable,” adding that “Leong has plumbed new and dangerous depths by using one of the oldest and darkest antisemitic tropes to accuse Jews of covertly manipulating civic life. She has outrageously suggested that there is a sinister or evil purpose associated with Jews undertaking the most normal of activities – interacting with other Australians.”
Josh Burns, a Labor member of the Australian House of Representatives, said her comments were “a direct attack on Jewish people in Australia” and that “she should unreservedly apologize.” He also called on the Australian Greens to “take responsibility and demonstrate that Jewish people in Australia are safe and respected by their Party.”
The right-leaning Australian Jewish Association wrote on X that “Every credible political party must put the Greens last. Every non-racist fair minded person must put the Greens last.”
In response to the criticism, Leong apologized for specifically using the word “tentacles,” but not for her message. She said: “Speaking on a panel during a two-hour-long event last year, I acknowledge that I used a word at one point that was an inappropriate descriptor for the influence of groups backing Netanyahu’s genocidal attacks in Gaza and the ongoing occupation – I apologise that this has caused offence.”
She continued: “It is incredibly telling that after a conversation where myself and other speakers made countless mentions of the genocidal attacks and occupation occurring in Gaza right now, that two months later more focus isn’t being put on the deaths of over 26,000 people, many of them children.”
Her comments and apology come amid increasing concern over antisemitism on the far-left, which has celebrated violent resistance against Israel since October 7, when Hamas invaded the country, killed 1,200 people, and kidnapped more than 240 more.
The post Australian Politician Says ‘Jewish Lobby’ Uses ‘Tentacles’ to ‘Influence Power’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.