Oberlin College president appears to defend controversial professor in letter

The head of a prestigious Ohio school appeared to have defended a professor whose Facebook posts blaming Israel and Jews for everything from 9/11 to the creation of ISIS created an uproar earlier this week.

Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov said in a letter to the college community Wednesday that professor Joy Karega’s posts on social media affected him on a personal level and also challenged his professional beliefs, according to The Chronicle-Telegram.

“I am a practicing Jew, grandson of an Orthodox rabbi. Members of our family were murdered in the Holocaust,” Krislov wrote. “As someone who has studied history, I cannot comprehend how any person could or would question its existence, its horrors and the evil which caused it. I feel the same way about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Regardless of the reason for spreading these materials, they cause pain for many people — members of our community and beyond.”

He didn’t mention Karega’s name in the letter, but said backing the right to freedom of speech was parallel to the college’s mission.

“Cultivating academic freedom can be difficult and at times painful for any college community. The principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech are not just principles to which we turn to face these challenges, but also the very practices that ensure we can develop meaningful responses to prejudice.

“This freedom enables Oberlin’s faculty and students to think deeply about and to engage in frank, open discussion of ideas that some may find deeply offensive. Those discussions — in classrooms, residence halls, libraries, and across our campus and town — take place every day here. They are a vital part of the important work of liberal arts education at Oberlin and in our country,” he added.

Karega is an assistant professor of “rhetoric and composition” at Oberlin College. She claimed on social media that the Jewish state secretly planned the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and that Mossad, Israel’s national security agency, former Islamic State.

Critics argued that Karega needed to be fired immediately.

“This is the worst kind of anti-Semitic rhetoric,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Shurat HaDin—Israel Law Center, an Israeli-based civil rights organization. "It is not acceptable for the dean to hide behind academic freedom and claim this is freedom of speech.

“She (Karega) is not a tenured professor," she added. "She needs to be thrown off campus immediately.”

Karega received her Ph.D. from the University of Louisville in 2014. She said in a statement on her Facebook page, that she will use the push back she’s received for material for her new book. She also criticized the “anti-Semitism call-out culture.”

“… I can generate articles for days on what I can describe as "antisemitism call-out culture" and some of its accompanying practices. I don't have to tell some of you that these recent activities in my own professional life have handed me a LARGE body of data (emails, voicemail messages, tweets, Facebook inbox messages, etc.) that will shed light on and provide insight into how and to what extent anti-Blackness rhetorics show up in “anti-Semitic call-out culture and practices,” she wrote.

Fox News’ Malia Zimmerman contributed to this report.

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