Stanford professor suspended for calling Jewish students 'colonisers'

The lecturer at the prestigious American university was accused of 'identity-based targeting'


STANFORD, CA - MARCH 12: Cyclists ride by Hoover Tower on the Stanford University campus on March 12, 2019 in Stanford, California. More than 40 people, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, have been charged in a widespread elite college admission bribery scheme. Parents, ACT and SAT administrators and coaches at universities including Stanford, Georgetown, Yale, and the University of Southern California have been charged. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A Stanford University lecturer is under investigation for reports of targeting Jewish and Israeli students in connection with Hamas’s attack on Israel during two compulsory undergraduate course lessons on Tuesday. 

According to details shared by Jewish student leaders at the California university, a popular lecturer called out “individual students in class based on their backgrounds and identities,” asking Jewish and Israeli students to identify themselves during a class entitled “civil, liberal, and global education”.  

Rabbi Dov Greenberg, director of the Chabad Stanford Jewish Center, said he was told by three of the 18 students who were in the room that the lecturer separated them from their belongings and instructed them to stand in a corner. The non-faculty lecturer, whose name has not been publicised while the investigation is ongoing, is then alleged to have said: “This is what Israel does to Palestinians,” according to the student reports relayed to Greenberg.  

The instructor went on to ask how many people died in the Holocaust, to which a student replied “six million.” 

The instructor is alleged by students to have replied: “Yes. Only six million,” and: “Colonisers killed more than six million. Israel is a coloniser.” 

Leaders of Stanford’s Israeli Student Association spoke to some of the students who were in the classroom, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, and gathered further details on the incident. According to their reports, the lecturer began by blaming the war on Zionists and justifying Hamas’s attack as part of a legitimate resistance movement.

He then undermined the magnitude of the loss of Jewish life during the Shoah by telling students that more people were killed through colonisation than in the Holocaust. 

The group said that students from both classes in which the incident occurred reported the lecturer asked everyone in the room to share where their ancestors were from. The lecturer then labelled each one a “coloniser” or “colonised” depending on students’ answers.  

According to these reports, when one student reported being from Israel, the lecturer responded: “Oh, definitely a coloniser.”  

The students’ stories were corroborated by another leader of a Jewish organisation on Stanford’s campus. 

Greenberg said the students were afraid to speak up in class in case their grades were penalised.

“He’s saying Israel is worse than the Nazis and Hamas is innocent,” Greenberg said. “This is what Jewish students face at Stanford and other places. They’re feeling isolated, under attack and threatened.” 

A statement released by Stanford president, Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez called the reports “cause for serious concern” and indicated that the lecturer had been removed from teaching duties while the matter is investigated. “Academic freedom does not permit the identity-based targeting of students,” the statement said. 

Tensions on college campuses have been rampant since the conflict in Israel began, and Stanford is among several prominent US universities to spark controversy for its cavalier attitude towards pro-Palestine demonstrations on campus. The Stanford Daily reported Tuesday that Pro-Palestine banners had been hung up around campus over the weekend, one of which read, “The Illusion of Israel is Burning” and another “The Land Remembers Her People”. The banners were reportedly taken down on Monday.  

As Stanford President and Provost said in an updated version of the statement released Wednesday, “it is important to remember that controversial and even offensive speech is allowed except when it crosses the line into certain illegal categories such as threats or harassment for which the threshold is quite high.”  

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