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After Oberlin Professor fired for antisemitism, Jewish academic targeted with “Gas Jews” graffiti

After a lengthy nine month investigation, Joy Karega, a non-tenured assistant professor at Oberlin College, has been fired over antisemitic Facebook posts.

Karega was hired in 2014 to teach rhetoric and compositon classes at the prestigious private Ohio liberal arts college that comes with a $200,000 four year price tag, In November, 2015,  Karega wrote on her now deleted Facebook page: “I promise you, ISIS is not a jihadist, Islamic terrorist organization. It’s a CIA and Mossad operation.” Karega blamed the Paris magazine, Charlie Hebdo, terrorist attack on the CIA and Mossad, Israeli intelligence.

In January 2015 she accused Israel, the “same people behind the massacre in Gaza”, of shooting down Malaysian Airline flight No.17 over Ukraine. A 2015 inquiry came to the conclusion that a Russian-made missile probably caused the tragic crash.

An article in The Tower also revealed that in January, 2015, Karega shared an antisemitic image of an ISIS terrorist disguised as the Israeli president, Benjamin Netanyahu. The acronym, JSIL, a slur that compares Israel to ISIS, was drawn on Netanyahu’s arm along with a picture of the Star of David.

The text on the graphic implied that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were murdered in order to erode French support of the Palestinians. Karaga posted on Facebook: “This ain’t hard. They unleashed Mossad on France and it’s clear why”.

Karega also posted an unflattering photo of banker Jacob Rothschild and accused him of “controlling your news, the media, your oil, and your government”. Besides being a ridiculous comment, this antisemitic remark plays into the age old stereotype of the greedy, evil Jew, who wants to control the world in order to reap all of the advantages, while leaving everyone else to suffer.

On her Facebook page in March 2015, Karega  provided a link to a video of Louis Farrakhan, the controversial Nation of Islam leader. In the video, Farrakhan states:”It is now becoming apparent that there were many Israeli and Zionist Jews in key roles in the 9/11 attack.” In a post accompanying the link, Karega wrote, “Farrakhan is truth-telling in this video”.

Oberlin’s president, Martin Krislov, who is Jewish, ignited a national firestorm when he refused to condemn Karega’s posts. In a statement released to the press, Krislov said: “Oberlin College respects the rights of its faculty, students, staff and alumni to express their personal views.”

In sharp contrast to Krislov’s response, the Oberlin Board of Trustees in March called Karega’s statements “abhorrent” and “antisemitic”. The Board asked the school to “challenge the assertion that there is any justification for these repugnant postings.” 

 In a seeming nod of approval, a member of Stormfront, the white supremacist neo-Nazi website, was pleasantly surprised that the school protected Karega :”I am amazed that she posted the same stuff we do and [that] she wasn’t fired on the spot.”

Melissa Landa, president of the Oberlin chapter of Alums For Campus Fairness (ACF), a national college network that fights antisemitsm, would not disagree. It was their chapter, in fact, that was responsible for bringing Karega’s Facebook posts to the administration’s attention.

Landa issued a statement in April that Jewish students experience a “persistent hostile campus atmosphere”. Reporter Emily Shire of The Daily Beast spoke to a group of Jewish Oberlin students who said that they feel “increasingly threatened’ and were “dismissive of complaints of antisemitism.”

Ultimately, public pressure lead to Karega being put on paid leave in August. She was barred from campus while the school investigated her case. Karega refused to apologize and accused Oberlin of “pandering to the dictates of a handful of vocal and wealthy religious zealots.” On her Facebook page, Karega thanked writer, Kevin Barrett, a contributor to Veterans Today, which the Southern Poverty Law Center believes is “squarely in neo-Nazi terroritory”.

As a result of the controversy generated by the Karega scandal, President Marvin Krislov announced in September that he would be leaving Oberlin effective June 30, 2017.

On November 15, after bitter debate, Professor Joy Karega was fired by the Board of Trustees for “failing to meet the academic standards that Oberlin requires of its faculty” and for “failing to demonstrate intellectual honesty.”

Karega responded to her dismissal by accusing Oberlin of having a “discriminatory and biased approach”. She plans to file a lawsuit against Oberlin, as well as file a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Board.

Two days after Karega’s firing, Benjamin Kuperman, the chairman of Oberlin’s computer science department, called police at 3:40 a.m. when he discovered, after hearing noise, that his front porch had been vandalized. Decorative seashells had been smashed, and placed behind a mezuzah that was on the door frame, was a note made from a piece of ripped white paper, with glued on cut letters, that said “GAS JEWS DIE”

Kuperman told police that he had no conflicts with friends, neighbors, Oberlin students or faculty members. The police, who are investigating, have classified the incident as a hate crime. Whether or not there is a link between the vandalism and Karega’s firing is unknown.