December 6, 2019
Via Email (DTH@CSCC.EDU)
David T. Harrison, Ph.D.
President Columbus State Community College
550 East Spring St.
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Dear President Harrison,
We write on behalf of StandWithUs, an international, non-profit education organization supporting Israel and combating antisemitism. We are deeply concerned about antisemitism at Columbus State Community College (CSCC), where one of your students engaged in an act of criminal vandalism and hate. On a video posted online, the alleged perpetrator, identified by various media outlets as Malek Mustafa, forcibly cut an Israeli flag from an international flag display on campus property. Immediately after doing so, Mr. Mustafa can be heard on video saying “[inaudible] I give a shit, Palestinian [inaudible] here.” Video later shows that the destroyed Israeli flag was thrown into a trash can, presumably by Mr. Mustafa.
We are deeply concerned by this hateful act. The Israeli flag is not just the flag of Israel but represents a deeply engrained symbol of Jewish identity for many Jews. The blue stripes on the Israeli flag represent the traditional Jewish religious prayer shawl; the star of David in the middle of the flag is the universally acknowledged symbol of the Jewish people and of Judaism. To wantonly, destructively and purposely destroy this flag is not just an act of political speech but likely a criminal misdemeanor with hateful intent against the Jewish people’s symbol of self-identity.
We acknowledge and thank your administration for announcing that you are promptly investigating this incident with the seriousness it deserves. Likewise, we commend your administration’s commitment to providing a safe and inclusive environment for the Jewish campus community. Your administration has the First Amendment right to condemn hate on campus and we applaud you for recognizing the gravity of the situation.
Additionally, we urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that CSCC students, including Israeli and Jewish students, are treated as valuable members of the campus community, free from bigotry and discrimination and with the full support of the administration. This includes, at a minimum, imposing appropriate institutional sanctions against Mr. Mustafa for violation of campus policy, as well as referring the matter to police to pursue any and all criminal charges stemming from his hateful and likely illegal actions.
Violation of CSCC Policy
CSCC’s Student Code of Conduct, Procedure 7-10(G), governs conduct for which students are subject to disciplinary action. Subsection (y)(i) expressly prohibits property damage which is defined as “[d]amage or destruction of College property, including but not limited to littering, driving on lawn or premises without permission, and vandalism.” By forcefully removing the Israeli flag, Mr. Mustafa vandalized the international flag display in direct violation of the Student Code of Conduct and this provision.
Violations of Ohio Law
Crimes and Criminal Procedure in Ohio are governed by Ohio Revised Code (ORC), Title 29. ORC 2909.07(A)(1)(a), Criminal Mischief, states “[n]o person shall…[w]ithout privilege to do so, knowingly move, deface, damage, destroy, or otherwise improperly tamper with…[t]he property of another.” Furthermore, ORC 2927.12(A), Ethnic Intimidation, states [n]o person shall violate section…2909.07…by reason of the race, color, religion, or national origin of another person or group of persons.”
To our knowledge, Mr. Mustafa had no authority to remove the Israeli flag from the international flag display. To do so likely was in violation of state criminal law. Neither the flag nor the flag display belonged to him. Removing the flag, defacing Israel’s spot on the display, and damaging the display appears to be in violation of Ohio’s Criminal Mischief law. Additionally, as evidenced by Mr. Mustafa’s accompanying statements immediately after damaging the property, his conduct is fueled by hate in both effect and intent. It targets Israelis on the basis of their national origin and is directed against Jews in general, in violation of Ohio’s Ethnic Intimidation provision.
The International Holocaust Reembrace Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism provides that “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” This definition has been adopted and applied by numerous countries and government bodies across the world, including the European Union, the Government of Canada, the U.S. Department of State, and most recently the U.S. Department of Education. Mr. Mustafa’s hateful vandalism of the Israeli flag, and the deep symbolism of Jewish identity represented by the Israeli flag strikes at the essence of the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
We thank your administration for investigating this matter. If violations of student conduct rules or applicable laws are found, we hope you will discipline Mr. Mustafa accordingly and refer the matter to the appropriate police department. Mr. Mustafa should be punished for his specific conduct and should serve as a warning to others that your administration has a zero-tolerance policy toward hate and criminal acts on campus.
We welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter further and look forward to hearing from you upon the conclusion of your investigation.
Roz Rothstein CEO and Co-Founder
StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department