E-mail Accusing Israel of Responsibility for 9/11 Sent to Oberlin College Students

The Ohio college's dean of students condemns the e-mail as 'anti-Semitic and deeply offensive.'

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A large number of students at Oberlin College in Ohio received an e-mail on Sunday accusing Israel and "Zionist Jews" of perpetrating the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The college's dean of students, Eric Estes sent to a message to the entire student body in response calling the e-mail "anti-Semitic and deeply offensive" and adding that whoever sent the message, which was not signed, did not appear to have hacked into the student e-mail system at the liberal arts college, which is just west of Cleveland.

"We deeply regret that this has happened at a troubled, but crucial time for our community," Estes wrote, in an apparent reference to controversial statements about Jews made by a member of the Oberlin faculty, Joy Karega.

Karega, an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, took down her Facebook posts and Twitter account after The Tower website published an article the week before last about them illustrated with screenshots. The posts included comments accusing Israel and “Rothschild-led bankers” of responsibility for downing a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014. She also posted a graphic of Jacob Rothschild, a member of the prominent Jewish banking family, with a caption reading: “We own your news. The media. Your oil. And your government.”

The Tower followed up with an article about other controversial ideas that Karega, who is African-American, has espoused on her Facebook page, including that certain people are deliberately engineering weather disasters, as well as an article she uncritically posted claiming that the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a scheme to “foster White American, racist solidarity in a period of permanent crisis.”

Sunday's anti-Israel e-mail stated in part: "Good Work to Oberlin College, to Professor Joy Karega & President Marvin Krislov !! The state of Israel, Zionist Jews are pure evil. They did 9/11."

In a lengthy statement that referenced his Jewish background, Oberlin College president Marvin Krislov responded to the firestorm over Karega's remarks last Tuesday, but he stopped short of condemning her. In a statement published on an official college website, Krislov said the posts by Karega “affected me on a very personal level.”

After media reports that Karega had posted conspiracy theories about Jews and claimed that Israel was behind the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in France,  Krislov had issued a brief statement that the Ohio liberal arts college he heads “respects the right of its faculty, students, staff and alumni to express their personal views.” That prompted emeritus Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz and others to criticize Oberlin for not condemning Karega or her statements.

Also following the media backlash – including in Haaretz – Oberlin College’s board of trustees demanded that the school administration launch an investigation into what it called Karega's “anti-Semitic and abhorrent” posts on social media. "These grave issues must be considered expeditiously," it said.

"We deplore anti-Semitism and all other forms of bigotry. They have no place at Oberlin," the board said. "From its founding, Oberlin College has stood for inclusion, respect, and tolerance."

JTA and Yehoshua Looks contributed to this report.