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StandWithUs to Oberlin College: Protect Your Students and Investigate Allegations Against Professor

March 19, 2021


VIA EMAIL: (cambar@oberlin.edu)


Carmen Twillie Ambar

President

Oberlin College

Cox Administration Building, 201

Oberlin, Ohio 44074


Dear President Ambar,


We write on behalf of the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department and the StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism, divisions of StandWithUs, an international, non-profit education organization supporting Israel and combating antisemitism. We are deeply concerned by recent reports about Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, Professor of Religion and the Nancy Schrom Dye Chair in the Middle East and North African Studies at Oberlin College, in which he is alleged to be associated with antisemitism and gross human rights violations.


First, we are alarmed to learn of antisemitic sentiments attributed to Mr. Mahallati repeatedly calling for the destruction of Israel, supporting the first Palestinian intifada against Israel, and advocating for a global jihad against Israel. We note here the disturbing irony that an Oberlin professor known as the “professor of peace” is calling for the destruction of the majority of world Jewry through a religious-inspired violent war against the world’s only Jewish nation.


Furthermore, we are horrified to learn that Mr. Mahallati potentially covered up mass executions of an estimated 5000 Iranian political prisoners during a five month period in 1988 when Mahallati served as the ambassador to the United Nations for the Islamic Republic of Iran. If the allegations surrounding Mr. Mahallati are true, he may be guilty of crimes against humanity and other violations of international law.[1]


Therefore, to safeguard your students from a professor who 1) appears simultaneously to teach and grade Jewish and Israeli students while harboring longstanding antisemitic beliefs against these students, and 2) may be in violation of international law for covering up a 1988 massacre against civilians, we urge you to investigate this matter fully. If any violations of university values or policy are found—not to mention violations of federal or international law—we urge you to impose immediate consequences, including suspension of all duties and possible termination.


Fortunately, Oberlin College already has an established precedent for a similar situation. In 2016, your administration removed Professor Joy Karega from her position as a Rhetoric and Composition professor after she spread antisemitic conspiracy theories on her personal Facebook page. Karega’s termination followed a nine-month investigation and included paid administrative leave that allowed for a fair and adequate inquiry into Karega’s conduct. Ultimately, the administration stated that they were firing Karega for failing to meet the academic standards that Oberlin requires of its faculty and failing to demonstrate intellectual honesty.


Similarly, there is precedent at other universities to discipline professors for professional misconduct relating to antisemitism. For instance, at Rutgers University, the administration disciplined tenured professor Michael Chikindas after he posted antisemitic rants on his Facebook page. Among other disciplinary measures, Chikindas, who, like Mahallati, held a leadership position within the university, was barred from teaching required classes, was removed from his role as director of a university institute, and was required to take remedial courses. Likewise, after antisemitic Twitter posts recently surfaced from UC Merced professor Abbas Ghassemi, the university opened an investigation, updated its policies, and instituted mandatory faculty training on antisemitism. Professor Ghassemi is not teaching this semester.


While these above examples involve faculty who were disciplined for their antisemitism, Mahallati’s circumstance also involves possible affiliation with grave crimes against humanity. At a minimum, these accusations against Mahallati warrant an immediate investigation to safeguard the integrity of your campus community. Doing so will send a clear message that Oberlin College does not provide sanctuary to—and helps hold accountable—those who traffic in discrimination, hatred, and violence.


Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing from you by March 31, 2021.


Sincerely,


Roz Rothstein

CEO & Co-Founder

StandWithUs


Yael Lerman

Director

StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department


Carly Gammill

Director

StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism

[1] We question the due diligence of your administration in hiring Mr. Mahallati, considering that these alleged and likely publicly known incidents date back to 1988, nearly twenty years before Mr. Mahallati was hired to teach at Oberlin.

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