An anonymous e-mail sent to a large number of Oberlin College students on Sunday accused Israel and “Zionist Jews” of responsibility for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The emails came amid mounting controversy over the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of Joy Karega, an Oberlin professor whose Facebook posts were first exposed by The Tower two weeks ago. Karega had also accused Israel of being behind 9/11; she also alleged that Israel created ISIS and promoted the belief that the Rothschild family controls “your news, the media, your oil, and your government.”
Dean of students Eric Estes promptly denounced the emails as “anti-Semitic and deeply offensive” in a campus-wide email Sunday night. “We deeply regret that this has happened at a troubled, but crucial time for our community,” he wrote, in an apparent reference to Karega’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic Facebook posts.
In one of her posts, Karega approvingly cited a video featuring Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who has frequently been accused of anti-Semitism, blaming 9/11 on “Israeli and Zionist Jews.” Karega wrote on Facebook that though she has often disagreed with him, “Farrakhan is truth-telling in this video.”
Kevin Barrett, a writer for the Veterans Today, a website that prominently features anti-Israel conspiracy theories, offered his support for Karega and her 9/11 theories last week. Karega thanked Barrett, whose writings are often picked up by the neo-Nazi website Stormfront, for his support.
An investigation by Tablet Magazine discovered that the sender of the e-mails was Danny Vestal, a self-proclaimed “Truthseeker” and “Christian man with high morals.” Vestal provided Tablet with a justification of his beliefs, which he claimed to receive “from rabbis.”
Judaism rejects Zionism and the state of Israel. Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. Zionism is not Judaism. Many jews are not Zionists. They reject Zionism and are our brothers in this sturggle against Zionism and Israel. The jews who are not Zionist are our brothers in our struggle. I feel the best way to bring down this US-Israel-Zionist mafia is to expose the truth about 9/11.
Shlom Elkin, the Chabad rabbi at Oberlin, told Tablet that Vestal’s e-mail “was playing on the vulnerable state that the student body was already in.”
The e-mails were sent to the students two days after a meeting between college president Marvin Krislov and multiple Cleveland-area Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, the Cleveland Hillel Foundation, and local chapters of the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. They collectively issued a statement, which promised that “President Krislov and his team are committed to providing a safe environment on campus for all students, regardless of religion.”
Building on a long and positive relationship, Oberlin College and representatives of the Cleveland Jewish community are working collaboratively to recommend programming that can facilitate a positive discourse on campus to address the consequences and sources of anti-Semitism.
All parties understand and accept that the college is required to follow established academic procedures when addressing questions regarding an individual faculty member. The Jewish community members present were satisfied that Oberlin College is following those procedures and look forward to learning the outcome of that process.
Krislov had been criticized for failing to fully condemn Karega’s posts, though he issued a statement on Friday acknowledging the “pain” caused by her views. The following day, the chair of the college’s board of trustees issued a statement calling Karega’s views “abhorrent” and called on Krislov, the administration, and faculty, to deal with the matter “expeditiously” and “challenge the assertion that there is any justification for these repugnant postings and to report back to the Board.”
The controversy over Karega’s posts and the college’s response have been covered in international media, including in The New York Times, Haaretz, The Washington Post, The Jerusalem Post, The Forward and Inside Higher Ed.
[Photo: Oberlin College / YouTube ]