April 15, 2024
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Open Letter to the Administration of University of Pennsylvania

Author’s note: This letter is also on change.org. Please visit https://chng.it/J7mB5TjWk6 to sign the petition and help me reach my goal of 50,000 signers.

This is an open letter to the administration of University of Pennsylvania calling for the immediate removal of specific antisemitic professors from the UPenn faculty.

Free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, our culture, and our education in the United States. While diversity of thought is one of the elements that makes university life so colorful and enriching, the line must be drawn at speech which crosses into violence. It is precisely for this reason that incendiary speech, when it promotes violence and morphs into hate speech, cannot be tolerated. This boundary must be especially emphasized when dealing with educators, who are entrusted with the curious, malleable minds of vulnerable, impressionable students. Speech that promotes, advocates for, or supports terrorism and the murder of civilians cannot and should never be tolerated.

Advocating for a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, historical revisionism, and blatant lies run contrary to the values of the University of Pennsylvania. In recent years, UPenn has removed and sanctioned both professors and students condoning and sharing hate speech; anything less than a full application of this clear precedent is heinous discrimination and vicious antisemitism. As clearly stated in The Code of Conduct section II.C, the University has a binding, legal obligation to act against hate speech. This petition calls for UPenn to uphold its formal commitments, to once again exercise its authority, and remove the following three professors from campus for antisemitic hate speech.

 

Professor Huda Fakhreddine:

During her speech, Professor Huda Fakhreddine asserted that “Israel is the epitome of antisemitism.” This exploitation of the term “antisemitism” undermines the legitimate threats that the Jewish people face and mocks the horrific history they have endured. Such language cannot be tolerated. Posting while Hamas indiscriminately murders Israelis, it is not acceptable to advocate for resistance.

Perhaps most egregiously, on the morning of October 7, 2023, when the only activity that had occurred in the region was the brutal and barbaric rape, slaughter and kidnapping of Israeli civilians, Fakhreddine tweeted: “كنّا نائمين وكانت فلسطين تخترع الحياة من جديد”, roughly translating as “While we were asleep, Palestine invented a new way of life.” Though this tweet has since been deleted (without retraction or apology), it remained up for at least 10 days, a long enough period of time to claim any confusion or lack of knowledge on Fakhreddine’s part. Praising the most deadly terrorist attack on a per capita basis as “inventing a new way of life” is simply unacceptable. UPenn faculty should not be empowered to promote Hamas, which has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State for over 26 years. (https://www.state.gov/foreign-terrorist-organizations/)

 

Professor Fatameh Shams:

Professor Fatemeh Shams stated at the recent rally that “Netanyahu’s government is giving [IRGC and Hamas] every reason to exist.” After the rally, during which antisemitism tropes were publicly broadcast and Jewish students were intimidated and one even assaulted, Shams tweeted, “These kinds of statements that ‘Hamas’ is responsible for the lives of the people of Gaza are pure nonsense.” Per the United States government, Hamas is directly responsible for the lives of the people of Gaza and was democratically elected in 2007. Shams redoubled her lies in another tweet that “there is no Hamas in the West Bank,” despite the 52% of Palestinians in the West Bank expressing a positive view of the terrorist group and the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence noting that Hamas “maintains a presence in the West Bank.”

Additionally, Shams, on October 20, reposted that Israel had bombed the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza, spreading the blood libel that had clearly been debunked by all Western governments, major media outlets, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, who on October 19 (the day prior) walked back her own statements.

Independent of the blatant lies Shams has been spreading, which are in and of themselves deep violations of UPenn’s values, her antisemitism cannot be permitted. Shams tweeted, “if you’re a Jewish college student who feels this way [supporting Israel], please DM me. You’ve been brainwashed, as I was.” Shams’ tweet blithely assumes that all Jews, by nature of their being Jewish, have an association with Israel. Notably, she singles out Jewish students, and only Jewish students, for their potential support of Israel. This antisemitism cannot be tolerated. To treat Jewish students as different from their peers solely because of their religion is a direct violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

 

Professor Ahmad Almallah:

Professor Ahmad Almallah spoke at an on campus rally and concluded his speech with a powerful call to action: “Intifada, intifada, intifada.” To call for the murder of civilians (as seen in the previous two intifadas), on the very next day Hezbollah called for a global “day of rage” against Jews, is inexcusable. With this context, Almallah’s instructions were plainly directed to incite and did indeed produce imminent action which was both illegal and in violation of UPenn section II.A. Academic Freedom and Responsibility. Moreover, the general content of Almallah’s speech was deeply troubling. His calls for a “revolution” and suggesting that “there is only one solution” is reminiscent of the Final Solution implemented by the Nazis, which resulted in the Holocaust and the death of 6 million Jews. The speeches were concluded by chanting antisemitic cheers of “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free,” brusquely denying that Jews have a right to self-determination, which is antisemitic according to the U.S. Department of State’s definition.

President Magill, you have created an environment inhospitable for Jews, and intolerant of truth. You have abandoned your Jewish students and abdicated your responsibility to create a safe environment of truth-seeking and learning at UPenn. Under your tenure we have seen despicable events hosted by the university and have experienced what happens when UPenn emboldens antisemitic thought. A UPenn employee who, upon tearing down posters of kidnapped Israelis, verbally harassed two Jewish students by shouting “F*** you.” This past weekend, AEPI, a Jewish fraternity on campus, was vandalized and spray painted with “The Jews R Nazis.”

You have directly enabled campus speakers to incite students to verbally abuse and slander Jewish students on campus and in the classroom. Multiple Penn students have been identified as accosting Jewish students without repercussion. UPenn should not provide the above-mentioned professors with a platform to preach hate speech targeted at students. UPenn has a legal obligation to protect its students.


Sam Koffler is a freshman at UPenn studying cognitive science. He is a graduate of Ramaz (‘22) and Orayta (‘23).

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