The New York City-based Columbia University Middle East Institute in early March deleted an entry listing former Iranian regime UN ambassador Mohammad Jafar Mahallati as a visiting fellow.
After The Jerusalem Post reported that Amnesty International implicated Mahallati in crimes against humanity for the massacre of at least 5,000 political prisoners in 1988 and that Mahallati repeatedly called to eliminate the Jewish state at the UN, a source said a New York Post reporter contacted Columbia University.
The source told the Post that Jon Levine, a prominent reporter for the New York Post, the fourth largest paper in the US, contacted Columbia’s management, prompting the university to remove Mahallati’s webpage entry on March 8. Levine declined to comment.
A Columbia University spokesperson told the Post that "Professor Mahallati is on the faculty of Oberlin College. He is not employed or paid by Columbia, and there are no arrangements in place for him to come to the university as an instructor or visiting research fellow."
The university spokesperson said that “Mahallati was an adjunct at Columbia 24 years ago.”
Caroline Adelman, director of media relations for Colubmia, sent a text message to Lawdan Bazargan, an Iranian-American, whose brother Bijan was murdered by the Islamic Republic during the 1988 massacre, stating “Any reference to Prof. Mahallati you may have seen on a Columbia website was posted in error and has been deleted.”
The Post sent a list of detailed questions asking why Columbia posted Mahallati to Adeleman and the Middle East Institute. The Post has a screenshot of the now deleted listing of Mahallati at Columbia University for the Spring semester 2021.
Both the Middle East Institute and Adelman declined to answer the Post’s list of questions about how the alleged error unfolded.
Bazargan told the Post “For Columbia University and Oberlin College to hire Mr. Mahallati and highlight his work as an ambassador to the United Nations is a mockery of justice and adding salt to the wounds of the victims’ families of the Islamic Regime of Iran atrocities.”
She added that “Columbia University is responsible for giving a cover to a man accused of crimes against humanity to have access to young American students in higher education and influence them under the cover of peace and friendship.”
Mahallati wrote the Post by email on Monday: “Greetings! I am on sabbatical leave for the spring of 2021. I will respond back whenever I can.” Post emails to the Oberlin College communication office and the college’s spokesman Scott Wargo went unanswered.
"As an alumna who once had fond memories of Oberlin College, I am very disappointed to see yet again that the School is mired in a controversy related to antisemitism. Like previous cases, it appears the College failed to properly vet Mahallati and has been far too slow to act in light of the recent shocking revelations about his past as part of the barbaric Iranian regime, and his abhorrent comments about Israel,” Anne Herzberg told the Post.
Herzberg, who is an attorney and works for the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor as a legal adviser, added that “It is for these on-going reasons that I have withheld my donations from the School for several years now. I hope Oberlin will take steps such that I would feel I could support it again in the future."
Oberlin College’s employment of Mahallati has sparked outrage from American Persian Jews and human rights activists.
"As Jews we endured horrific antisemitism, pogroms and forced conversions for centuries in Iran. Today we Iranian Jews live in a free democratic country like the US and must loudly voice our disgust with this same Jew hatred and call for it to end. Antisemitism should have no place on US college campuses," Karmel Melamed, an Iranian Jewish journalist and activist for minority rights in Iran, told the Post.
Corey Barnes, the chairman of the Oberlin College religion department, refused to comment in response to Mahallati’s reported role in crimes against humanity, genocidal antisemitism, and demonization of the persecuted Bahai religious community in Iran.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the 400,000-member human rights organization, Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post that it is outrageous that Oberlin College hired “a diplomatic thug who openly from the podium of the United Nations called for Israel’s destruction – a member state in the UN – to be a peace professor.
"Perhaps they believe it is important to present different cultures views on the legitimacy of genocide. Appalling and downright dangerous.”
Mahallati has received the moniker “Professor of Peace” at Oberlin.
Bazargan, who has extensively researched the 1988 massacre and Mahallati’s family, told the Post "We are deeply disappointed and shocked about the connections of Mr. Mahallati, the Alavi Foundation, and the Columbia University. Mr. Mahallati’s brother, Mohammad Hossein Mahallati was the head director of Alavi Foundation for years, and Columbia University received hundreds of thousands of dollars donations from this foundation. The former ambassador, Mr. Mahallati, soon after leaving the United Nations started teaching at Columbia University.”
The Post sent a query to Adelson about the alleged connections between Mohammad Hossein Mahallati and the university and whether the donation played a role in the employment of Mohammad Jafar Mahallati.
Columbia University’s president Lee Carroll Bollinger declined to comment on Mahallati’s calls to obliterate Israel at the UN. Bollinger has faced criticism over the years for permitting the Iranian regime’s ex-president and Holocaust denier, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to speak at the university in 2007.
In 2019, the prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, defended his trivialization of the Holocaust and past antisemitic statements during his talk at Columbia University.