Stanford University has relieved an instructor of his teaching duties for reportedly targeting Jewish students during a class discussion about the Israel-Hamas war.
According to a statement issued by the University’s administration, the non-faculty teacher singled out certain students based on their identities and backgrounds and used them to illustrate the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“We have received a report of a class in which a non-faculty instructor … addressed the Middle East conflict in a manner that called out individual students based on their backgrounds and identities,” the University stated on Wednesday, October 11.
“Without prejudging the matter, this report is a cause for serious concern,” it continued.
While teachers can discuss historical and current events and explain certain concepts in class, the university asserted that “academic freedom does not permit the identity-based targeting of students.”
How the Controversy Started
The incident occurred on Tuesday, October 10, when the now-suspended university teacher reportedly justified Hamas’s terrorist actions against Israel and blamed Israelis for being ‘colonizers.’
Executive director of Stamford’s Jewish Community Center, called Rohr Chabad House, Rabbi Dov Greenberg, told CNN that the incident shook the students because Jewish people have been facing global threats of violence.
Greenberg, who reportedly spoke with the traumatized students, said they struggled to overcome the fear and humiliation they experienced during the lesson. The students also feared facing a backlash or bullying due to the incident.
The Rabbi explained that the teacher asked the students about the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. After one of them said “6 million,” the teacher said that colonizers had killed significantly more people than that, calling Israel a colonizer.
The teacher attempted to justify Hamas’s massacre in Israel by downplaying the Holocaust and portraying the Jewish state as the oppressor while painting Hamas-led Palestine as the victim fighting for freedom.
Demonstrating the Worst
After making the controversial comments, the teacher asked the Jewish students to go to the back of the classroom and simulate what Israel was doing to Palestinians.
Although the students did not resist the teacher’s instructions, they told Greenberg they felt isolated, marginalized, and attacked.
“The students told me clearly they were traumatized, frightened. They could not believe this was happening to them,” said Greenberg. It was their first time feeling so distressed away from home.
During the two classes, the instructor announced to the class of 18 students that the day’s lesson would focus on “Colonialism,” San Francisco Chronicles reported, citing Jewish student leaders who spoke to the victims.
Nourya Cohen and Andrei Mandelshtam, co-presidents of the Stanford Israel Association, met the first-year students in College 101, a compulsory course for all first-years. It was during that time that they relayed their ordeal to the two student leaders.
‘Colonizer or Colonized’
Other students from both classes also narrated to Cohen and Mandelshtam how the teacher categorized the students as either a “colonizer” or “colonized” based on their ancestry.
According to the students, the teacher talked about the colonization of Congo in the 19th century by Belgium’s King Leopold II, emphasizing that more people were killed during that period than during the Holocaust. He added that, in his opinion, Israel had colonized Palestine.
Notably, this was another attempt to downplay the Holocaust—the world’s largest massacre of a single tribe.
“I feel absolutely dehumanized that someone in charge of students and developing minds could possibly try and justify the massacre of my people,” Cohen told the news outlet. “It’s like I’m reliving the justification of Nazis 80 years ago on today’s college campus.”
Antisemitism on the Rise
The instructor’s comments follow another reported incidence of Antisemitism on the campus. According to the Chronicle, the Stamford police department had opened a hate-crime investigation into an incident where an antisemitic drawing was discovered pinned on a Jewish dormitory room door.
In February, many swastikas, the N-word, and the letters “KKK” were found inscribed into a metal panel in the university’s bathroom, as reported by university officials.
The University also stated that they were concerned about students’ safety, with both Israelis and Palestinians receiving threatening messages.
However, it underscored its unequivocal stand against hatred on the campus.
“We want to make clear that Stanford stands unequivocally against hatred based on religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, and other categories.”
The decision to suspend the teacher came when tensions between Israel and Hamas supporters were high following the ongoing war in the Middle East, triggered by Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel.
The terrorist attack on the morning of October 7 left more than 1,400 people dead and thousands injured, prompting Israel to launch an ongoing retaliatory attack on targets in the Gaza Strip. To date, over 9,000 civilians have been reported dead and over 32,000 injured.
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This article has been produced by TPR Teaching.
Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.