A professor at the prestigious Oberlin college in Ohio, Joy Karega, has kept her job as a “rhetoric and composition” professor at the university despite a series of anti-Semitic statements which included blaming Jews for 9/11 and the Charlie Hebdo massacre. However, after the posts were brought to the attention of school officials, Oberlin made a public acknowledgement of Karega’s statements but noted that the professor “had a right” to express her personal views and that Oberlin will not suppress the freedom of speech of its faculty. However, others point out that had Karega expressed similar views about Muslims, African Americans, or homosexuals she would have been disciplined or removed from the campus. Now some are calling for the non-tenured professor’s removal from campus for the “hate speech.”
The Daily Mail reports that associate professor of rhetoric and composition Joy Karega has posted numerous anti-Semitic rants to her social media accounts. The statements include placing blame on “Israeli and Zionist Jews” for the Charlie Hebdo attack as well as 9/11. The professor noted that Mossad plotted alongside the CIA to stage the 9/11 attacks. In one rant she indicates that Mossad, the Jewish state’s national intelligence agency, was actually behind the creation of the Islamic state.
Professor Karega is also part of the Students for a Free Palestine organization on campus and her name was included in the infamous 14-page demand letter written by the Black Student’s Union to Oberlin administrators. In the demand letter, the Black Student’s Union demanded that Joy Karega be given tenure and wanted the school to openly boycott Israel.
— Michael Baskin (@michael300e) March 1, 2016
The revelations of the associate professor’s alleged anti-Semitic posts come on the heels of increased concern at the university of an atmosphere that is anti-Jew. In fact, in recent months the school’s newspaper published a piece about the Jewish community on campus and quoted students claiming they did not feel welcome on campus as a Jew. In fact, one student said that it was quickly learned on campus that expressing a love of Israel was unwelcome.
“I quickly learned that, at Oberlin, love for my own nation (Israel) was not something I could express.”
Things got so bad at Oberlin in the eyes of some students regarding the Jewish population that an open letter was written to the Oberlin President Krislov and all faculty and staff. The letter noted that Oberlin has become the “mouthpiece” for the Boycott, Divest from and Sanction Israel (BDS) movement and that Jewish students were being intimidated, threatened, and coerced by BDS movement supporters on campus.
“Throughout the past few years, the movement to Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction Israel (BDS) has become increasingly active on American college campuses, and Oberlin has become the site of highly visible BDS activism. Several student organizations at Oberlin have assumed the role as the mouthpiece of the BDS movement, which claims to be a defender of Palestinian rights, but whose inflammatory language falsely portraying Israel as an illegitimate, colonialist and murderous regime demonstrates that its primary goal is to demonize the Jewish state. Because participation in these groups requires denouncing Israel, the message to Jewish students can be summed up as follows: Either forfeit your allegiance to Israel and join us, or we will brand you as an enemy of justice and complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. As Oberlin students and alumni representing a diversity of views on Israel, we accept criticism of its leadership and policies. However, we do not believe Israel should be singled out for condemnation and we object to questioning its right to exist. We also abhor the tactics of Oberlin’s pro-BDS student organizations that intimidate, threaten, and coerce Jewish students, which we have seen and heard in numerous written and spoken reports.”
The school’s response to Joy Karega’s anti-Semitic social media posts seems to confirm that at Oberlin, hate speech is acceptable, so long as the Jewish population is the one being hated. Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz points out that if Karega had posted similar posts about Muslims, the African American population, or homosexuals, the school would have immediately distanced themselves from the statements, noting that those views are condemned by the university.
“If Karega had expressed comparably bigoted views about Blacks, Muslims or gays, the President of Oberlin would not have posted the boilerplate he posted. He would have condemned those views, even if he defended her right to express them.”
However, in this case the school did no such thing. Instead, they posted a short response to the claims indicating the professor has a freedom to express her personal beliefs but those beliefs are not necessarily a reflection of the university’s stance on the matter.
“Oberlin College respects the rights of its faculty, students, staff, and alumni to express their personal views. Acknowledgement of this right does not signal institutional support for, or endorsement of, any specific position. The statements posted on social media by Dr. Joy Karega, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, are hers alone and do not represent the views of Oberlin College.”
Though the school responded to the allegations, their response was nowhere near as structured and straightforward as the response to alleged racist incidents against African American students on campus. In fact, when racist graffiti was discovered on the Oberlin campus, classes were cancelled so that the school could hold a “Day of Solidarity” and all-campus meetings regarding the issue. However, it appears that Oberlin has no plans of standing in solidarity with the Jewish community as they uphold Joy Karega’s right to freely speak in an anti-Semitic manner.
Meanwhile, Karega is standing by her statements and says she was only attacked by the media due to the fact she is a black woman speaking out against Zionism. She claims that “anti-Blackness rhetorics show up in antisemitic call-out culture.”
What do you think about Oberlin’s response to Joy Karega’s allegedly anti-Semitic rants on social media? As a professor should she be held to a higher standard of conduct when speaking about a specific subset of individuals? What do you think about the way the school is handling the reported anti-Semitic statements in comparison to the way they handled the alleged racial issues at the university?
[Image by Tony Dejak/ AP Photo]