(photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR)
Jewish students at the University of California, Berkeley, have called for action over a professor’s “promotion of hatred and intolerance.”
Ethnic Studies lecturer Hatem Bazian sparked outrage last month after antisemitic cartoons he had retweeted earlier this year came to light. One cartoon depicted a smiling Orthodox Jew with the caption: “I can now kill, rape, smuggle organs & steal the land of Palestinians. #Ashke-Nazi.”
Another shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un wearing a kippa and saying he has just converted his country to Judaism. “Donald Tlump: Now my nukes are legal & I can annex South Korea & you need to start paying me 34 billion a year in welfare,” the caption reads.
Hatem Bazian - In His Own Words (YouTube/Canary Mission)
The university’s administration promptly condemned the imagery shared by Bazian, stating that the posts “clearly crossed the line.”
Bazian deleted the tweets, claiming that he had not realized what the full content of the images were when viewing them on his phone.
He also issued an apology in which he said: “A retweet was brought to my attention today and I went over my account from the past and do sincerely apologize for re-sending it, the image is offensive and does not represent my views or the anti-racist work that I do including fighting antisemitism in partnership with progressive Jewish groups that express solidarity with Palestine’s rights to self-determination and have a strong track record on countering Islamophobia.”
But a coalition of Jewish student groups have said that this was not an isolated incident and called for further action in a letter sent late last week to the university’s administration. The letter was co-signed by Chabad Jewish Student Group at UC Berkeley, Bears for Israel, Berkeley Hillel, and Tikvah: Students for Israel.
“We write to you as a coalition of Jewish student organizations at UC Berkeley, to express our outrage regarding Ethnic Studies lecturer Hatem Bazian’s promotion of hatred and intolerance against our community and others,” read the letter.
While expressing appreciation for the administration’s swift condemnation of the memes, the students said that “in light of Bazian’s long and sustained record of promoting hate, we demand his resignation as an employee of UC Berkeley.”
With their letter, the groups included five screenshots to support their charge that “Bazian’s record both recently and in years past demonstrates a consistent pattern of spreading or justifying antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.”
The examples included a shared article and comment that the “Israel lobby manufactured [the] UK Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis,” an image equating Israelis with Nazis, and a couple of tweets claiming that Israel harvests organs.
“While we fully support academic freedom and free speech, we believe Bazian’s record is severe enough to warrant more than just condemnation,” the students argued. “We also know that there is a precedent for the removal of non-tenured faculty who promote hate on social media and elsewhere. Oberlin College fired professor Joy Karega, following an investigation into antisemitic statements she made on social media, a University of Tampa professor was fired for suggesting that Hurricane Harvey was ‘karma’ for the state of Texas, and a John Jay College professor was suspended for tweeting about ‘dead cops.’
“Last month, in response to a different antisemitic incident, Chancellor Christ wrote that, ‘We cannot build a campus community where everyone feels safe, respected and welcome if hatred and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes become an acceptable part of our discourse.’ We couldn’t agree more, and believe that building a safe campus community starts in the classrooms with our faculty. We strongly urge you to take decisive action to uphold these values.”