Scenic Ohio-based Oberlin College has been rocked again by a major anti-Semitism scandal, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating the college for failing to stop harassment of Jewish students.
The new federal investigation is just the latest setback for the liberal arts college, which has been reeling from a 2021 News21USA News Digital report that its «Peace Professor,» Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, called for the eradication of the Jewish state when he served as Islamic president. Ambassador of the Republic of Iran to the UN in the late 1980s.
According to a late September letter from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), «OCR will investigate whether the university failed to respond to harassment of students based on their national origin (shared Jewish ancestry).»
The OCR letter was sent to Oberlin College alumna Dr. Melissa Landa, who filed the formal complaint in 2019. Landa told News21USA News Digital: «Before Professor Mahallati deleted his students’ blogs, the I read along with other former students and saw that «It reflected his violent anti-Semitic teachings. Through his lectures and readings, Mahallati taught his students that Israel is an apartheid, settler colonial regime and that Hamas is a benevolent organization that represents the will of the Palestinian people.»
Landa spoke to News21USA Business’ «The Big Money Show» in early November about alleged outbreaks of anti-Semitism at Oberlin College.
The OCR investigation into the management of Oberlin College and Mahallati coincides with the mass murder of 1,400 people by Hamas in southern Israel on October 7. The massacre has catapulted the deadly anti-Semitism and violent jihadist ideology of Hamas into the spotlight. Landa said: «Mahallati supported the terrorist group responsible for the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust. For this reason alone, Oberlin should terminate his employment.»
Landa, who graduated from the college in 1986, said: «Oberlin College is happy to see Jewish students attending Shabbat dinners and baking challah on Friday afternoons. But there is intolerance toward Jewish students and faculty who wish to express their Judaism supporting Israel. «It is a fundamental lack of understanding that for most Jews, a connection to Israel is central to their Jewish identity and an expectation that, to be accepted to the Oberlin campus, one must lose all expression of that Zionist expression».
Andrea Simakis, director of media relations for Oberlin College, told News21USA News Digital: «On September 29, the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) notified Oberlin of a 2019 complaint related with alleged harassment of Jewish students on campus. This complaint was filed by an Oberlin graduate in 1986. Oberlin is cooperating with OCR and working to respond to the request.
He went on to say that Professor Mahallati is taking a sabbatical this semester. Professor Mahallati has stated that he believes in the right of all peoples to exist in peace and supports a two-state solution that would allow the people of Israel and Palestine to coexist peacefully.»
Landa submitted a file to OCR regarding alleged anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incidents from 2014 to 2017, including comments by students about Judeophobia on campus.
According to Landa’s complaint, in the fall of 2016, «Oberlin students enrolled in Religion 270 with Professor Jafar Mahallati of Islamic and Peace Studies posted anti-Israel blogs online reflecting the professor’s lectures and assigned readings.»
The complaint claims that the course taught by Mahallati included statements that «Israel is a colonialist state» and «Israel is an apartheid state.» The complaint cites him in relation to «support for Hamas and terrorism.»
Numerous press inquiries from News21USA News Digital to Mahallati were not answered.
Simakis said: «Oberlin abhors anti-Semitism and all forms of hate, discrimination and harassment. The university works every day to ensure that our campus is safe for all students, faculty and staff, including those who identify as Jewish. The «Anti-Semitism has no place on our campus.»
Landa responded that «to correct this oppression, harassment, and ostracism of Jewish students, Oberlin should adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.» Alumni made this request to President Ambar a few years ago, but she ignored our communication.»
Oberlin College’s highly controversial president, Carmen Twillie Ambar, has over the years refused to meet with the families of members of slain Iranian dissidents whose murders were allegedly covered up by Mahallati, according to two Amnesty International reports.
Critics have told News21USA News Digital that Ambar’s chief of staff, David Hertz, is said to vehemently oppose the university’s adoption of the IHRA definition. Hertz declined to respond to a press inquiry from News21USA News Digital.
In a fact sheet provided by the university, Mahallati denies being complicit in the mass murder of 5,000 Iranian political prisoners by the clerical regime in 1988.
The federal investigation into alleged Jew-hatred at Oberlin College comes as U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced Tuesday that he would suspend federal funding for colleges if they fail to combat the antisemitism. In 2023, Oberlin College received more than $5 million in federal grants.
Andrew Patinkin, Oberlin Class of 2019, told the Jewish Press that the attack on Israel is “pervasive” at the university. The Jewish Press in 2016 titled his article about pro-Israel students at Oberlin: «At ‘liberal’ Oberlin, no right of speech for those who don’t hate Israel.»
Dr. Frieda Fuchs, an Oberlin scholar who previously taught at the university, told News21USA News Digital that «Oberlin College has taken limited steps to ensure a balanced approach to the Israel issue. Currently, pro-Palestinian students dominate the discourse around to «The ongoing conflict. “While it is commendable that Jewish students receive counseling, support, and comfort foods from organizations like Chabad, there is room for more proactive involvement by all students.”
Fuchs, a longtime activist against anti-Semitism at Oberlin, said: «As long as Oberlin College maintains a culture of passivity on the issue of Israel, challenges related to anti-Israel sentiments will persist. Empower students to take a more proactive stance and address the problem «The issues surrounding Israel’s narrative are crucial. “Overcoming fear of potential social or academic repercussions, along with support from campus leaders, is essential for students to express their perspectives and contribute to constructive dialogue.”
In 2016, after a high-intensity campaign to remove an Oberlin professor, Joy Karega, who wrote a series of anti-Semitic Facebook posts blaming Israel and Jews for 9/11, the university reluctantly fired the non-tenured academic.
Prominent Iranian-American human rights activist Lawdan Bazargan has campaigned to force Oberlin to fire Mahallati from his university position since 2020.
Landa and Bazargan spoke at an anti-Mahallati protest on the Oberlin campus in November 2021. Bazarga’s brother, Bijan, was murdered by the regime for his left-wing views in 1988. Bazargan told News21USA News Digital: «Oberlin College maintains that Professor Mahallati ‘believes in the right of all people to exist in peace.’ Mahallati’s silence on the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas terrorists against Israel raises questions about his stated beliefs.»
Iranian dissidents from Bazargan’s organization have accused Mahallati of being loyal to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States government has classified the Iranian regime as the worst international state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
Bazargan said: «Mahallati has not publicly condemned the atrocities committed by Iran’s Islamic gender apartheid regime against women, children and youth. Despite the regime’s well-documented human rights abuses, there is a conspicuous absence of criticism for Mahallati’s part on these issues. Furthermore, the documents suggest that Mahallati glorifies Hamas terrorists and labels Israel an apartheid state, but has never articulated his perspective on the two-state solution or recognized human rights. of the Jewish people to a sovereign state.»
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He added: «Oberlin College’s continued support of Mahallati is a shameful endorsement of Mahallati’s views and a disregard for justice, accountability and human rights.»
Oberlin College has a long tradition of radical activism. In 2019, the owners of a local bakery were awarded $44 million after being falsely accused of racism by students and members of the school administration.