Many university administrators have long failed to recognize and address the problem of Jew-hatred, often spread under the auspices of criticism of Israel or supposed solidarity with Palestinians.
Today, some student groups and their off-campus affiliates have colluded with openly antisemitic figures. In some cases, these also happen to be members of internationally recognized terrorist organizations.
An August 2023 report published by the Jewish Chronicle (UK) revealed that between 2020-2021, the Islamic Student Association of Britain (ISAB) held several talks with members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The report also notes that several speakers are on Britain’s official sanctions list for human rights abuses. The speakers were brought in over video conference to an in-person audience of UK students at ISAB headquarters in London and broadcasted online.
Saeed Ghasemi and Hossein Yekta, operatives in the Lebas Shahksi, a plainclothes division of the IRGC, were speakers for two of the discussions, during which they justified acts of terrorism, espoused virulent antisemitism and incited violence against Jews. It is also worth noting that the Lebas Shahski division plays a prominent role in the repression of the Iranian people, especially during recent protests against the Iranian regime.
At a January 2021 talk that gathered over 25,000 views, Ghasemi claimed, “The one (Holocaust) that the Jews say happened is fake. The ‘real’ Holocaust happened in my country in the First World War, 1917-19, when the UK occupied Iran.”
Ghasemi’s claims of holocaust denialism match the contemporary examples in the most widely accepted definition of antisemitism, the IHRA definition. The flagrant denial and trivialization of the holocaust have become common within anti-Zionist circles.
On May 8th, 2021, CUNY Law student (and who was later nominated by staff and peers to be the 2023 commencement speaker) Fatima Mohammed egregiously compared Jews to Nazis in a tweet.
In February 2022, Sheffield Hallam University in England reinstated Shahd Abusalama as an associate lecturer after an investigation revealed that she publicly defended a student’s poster with the phrase “Stop the Palestinian Holocaust.”
On Twitter, Abusalama claimed that she “understood” why the student used the term Holocaust about Israel’s strikes in Gaza.
On May 19, 2023, Oren Scheiwtzer, a student at Yale University and member of the Yale Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter, published an article titled “‘Never Again’ in Right Now in Palestine,” which falsely compares the Arab-Israeli conflict, namely Israel’s response to Palestinian terrorism to the Holocaust.
During his January 2021 talk, Ghasemi praised the “martyrdom” of prominent IRGC officer Qasem Soleimani and once-internationally wanted terrorist Imad Mughniyeh.
“Soleimani’s blood gives us a positive energy…This energy became radiant, and millions of Qasem Soleimani’s — and millions of Imad Mughniyeh’s — followers were nurtured. This will bring an end to the life of the oppressors and occupiers, Zionists and Jews across the world.” said Ghasemi.
Both individuals he references held the same vitriolic hatred of Jews and acted upon it with terrorist attacks against civilians that spanned the Middle East. And both met violent ends in targeted killings by the United States and Israel.
Ghasemi ended his talk by inviting the students present to participate in an “apocalyptic war” against the West, something that Yekta also parallels in his speech, saying that the world has entered the “preface to the apocalypse” and the “era of the Jews” will soon be at an end.
Similarly, heinous claims have been propagated on campus by UK academic David Miller, who lectured at the University of Bristol from 2018 to 2021. Miller’s employment was later after a disciplinary hearing found him to “not meet the standards of behavior” of the university.
Throughout his tenure at Bristol, Miller has antagonized Jews by equating Zionism with “racism,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “Islamophobia.” Miller also targeted Jewish campus groups at Bristol, calling for “every single Zionist organization” to be “dismantled,” “ended,” or “de-Zionized.”
Nerdeen Kiswani, CUNY alumna and chair of Within Our Lifetime, an extremist group that often partners with local Students for Justice in Palestine chapters in the New York area, has also called for the death of Jews.
At a Within Our Life rally to “honor the martyrs of Palestine” hosted in July of 2021, Nerdeen shouted that “I hope that a pop-pop is the last noise that some Zionists hear in their lifetime! The similarities regarding martyrdom with the talks from the IRGC members hosted by ISAB are also striking.
Fatima Mohammed, referenced earlier in this article, has echoed the IRGC rhetoric by calling for the destruction of Israel in an Instagram caption that read, “quick make dua [pray] for the fall of Zionism and the destruction of Israel.” Mohammed also echoed the extremist religious rhetoric of the IRGC with tweets like, “May Allah destroy Israel.” and for Zionists to “burn in the hottest pit of hell.”
Moreover, not only do we find parallels between the rhetoric of campus groups and internationally recognized terror groups like IRGC, but outright collaboration between them.
In December 2021, the University of British Columbia invited Charlotte Kates and Khaled Barakat, members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S designated terrorist organization, to speak on a publicly funded panel discussion.
In 2017, Northwestern University hosted a talk by Rasmea Odeh, a convicted terrorist responsible for the bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969 that killed two Israeli civilians.
The discussion was held by that university’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter. Odeh is seen here at a Jewish Voice for Peace conference, continuing to vehemently support the killing of civilians when she calls for an end to Israel, saying that they must “…stop them (Zionists) with our resistance…” and continuing to call for an end to not just the state of Israel, but the Jewish United Fund, once again grouping Zionists and Jews.
And in 2021, San Francisco State University attempted to host Leila Khaled, a convicted PFLP plane hijacker, who also continues to spout violent anti-Jewish speech and remains unrepentant of her actions, saying in one webinar that “We are determined to continue using all means of struggle, including armed struggle,” armed struggle implying the same sorts of violent attacks against civilians that she was convicted of.
In response to the IRGC’s talks, Alicia Kearns, a member of parliament in Britain, said that “In organising such despicable talks, the Islamic Students Association of Britain acts at best as a willing propaganda arm of the Iranian regime, and at worst as an agitator for state-sponsored terrorism.”
Jewish students on campus are witnessing crude and vile forms of antisemitism. Now more than ever, university administrators, student governments, and officials must thoroughly investigate and address the spread of antisemitic extremism on campus and the link between anti-Zionism, antisemitism, and in some cases, terror groups.
This article was originally published in the Algemeiner.